We recently had a late dinner after a run of days at Nick & Nora’s, a rooftop bar on level 26 of the SKYE Suites building in Parramatta. Nick & Nora’s is beautifully decorated inside, with a wide bar backed by an extensive collection of liquor and beautiful amber lighting throughout. The view of the (limited) Western Sydney skyline is equally lavish, and on taking everything in we felt immediately underdressed in our scrubs. Perhaps noticing this, our waitress did her best to make us feel welcome with a couple of flirtatious comments directed at my junior colleague DTC.
A side effect of waiting ten days to write this review is that most items that didn’t stand out at the time are merely forgotten. This baller board ($100) of the chef’s selection of cheese and charcuterie was memorable mostly for the pricing. Whilst in fairness the board is quite large and extensive in its selection and it’s difficult to please everyone, nothing on this board really wowed me.
We ordered three servings of the feed me menu ($55 each) to go along with our giant cheese and charcuterie board. Whilst I normally like to go through each item in detail, most of the elements of this tasting menu were simply not that memorable, though special mentions go to the:
Moreton Bay Bug Sliders with cellariac rémoulade and rhubarb sambol in toasted brioche , which were really creamy with an excellent bug to bread ratio. These were a standout of the meal, and probably better than any other lobster or crustacean roll I’ve ever had, not the least owing to the fact that the bug was actually intact and not some minced monstrosity (cf. 101kissa)
Crispy Prawns with lime aioli and finger lime, which were large and juicy, and enjoyed so much by my prawn-averse girlfriend that she actually had 2 instead of her customary 0.
Tequila Compressed Watermelon, which was just a fun new concept that I hadn’t experienced before.
VERDICT I think that while we visited Nick & Nora’s as a restaurant, it’s more of a rooftop bar with food as an afterthought rather than a focus. The Moreton Bay Bug Sliders were great though, and at $11 I would not hesitate to get them as takeaway in the future.
My partner and I had a late post-work dinner at Clove Lane recently after a difficult and scary medical procedure. While we were tempted to order their $99 per head tasting menu, we ended up choosing more granular control and picked some of our favourites from the a la carte menu. Any savings we might have gleaned by skipping dishes we weren’t interested in were immediately negated by the Clove Lane’s expensive but delicious Clovemopolitan cocktails.
The amuse-bouche, a very small pancake with baba ghanoush and capsicum, was an unexpected treat, though not very good. It was a soft and floppy pancake with very mild flavours that didn’t amuse the mouth but rather disappoint it. Luckily this amuse-bouche was not indicative of the quality of the rest of the meal.
The warm sourdough with whipped burnt butter ($8) was a wholesome start to the meal. Whilst not in-house, the bread was good quality, soft and warm, having being sourced from Iggy’s. The whipped burnt butter had a caramel-like aftertaste which I wasn’t a fan of but my partner enjoyed.
I enjoyed the stracciatella, confit cherry truss tomato ($18), especially eaten with the aforementioned bread. The stracciatella was nice, light, milky. While I was drawn in by the concept of confit tomatoes, it was difficult, when eating them, to differentiate these tomatoes from other tomatoes cooked in more traditional methods. The stracciatella was ultimately good, but I don’t think the confit process added anything special to the dish.
The seared scallops, almond, golden raisin, cauliflower ($37) was excellent. The base dish comes with three scallops for $28 though we added an extra scallop for $9. The scallops were huge, full and plump, though I thought their flavour was a bit mild on the seafood side. The sauce of chopped almonds, golden raisin and cauliflower was salty and sweet with a lot of umami. Though $37 for just four scallops the taste and presentation excelled and ultimately justified the price. I can recommend getting this dish.
My partner – a huge potato fan as readers of this blog will know – couldn’t walk past the roast kipfler potato with capers, shallot, truffle cured egg yolk ($12). I personally didn’t really like them. I thought they were too potatoey and not flavourful enough, however she thought that the capers provided enough variety and flavour to the dish and ultimately enjoyed five out of seven potatoes.
The roast pasture fed sirloin, green beans, butternut pumpkin in red wine sauce ($45) was another star of the night. The beef was soft, juicy, and tender, rested for 45 minutes prior to serving but still warm inside. There was very generous amount of the beautifully savoury red wine sauce, enough for the steak as well as the pumpkin and greens. I would strong advise against leaving Clove Lane without having had a serve of this sirloin.
The saltwater barramundi, du puy lentil, green apple, kohlrabi ($42) was the weaker of the two mains, with its light and subtle flavours. The fish was a little dry and had a very light taste only. It was only when combined with the lentil and kohrabi cake that the meal had any real taste to it. While more suitable for pescaratians I’d definitely pick a different main over the barramundi were I to go again.
My partner enjoyed the clovemoplitan ($20) so much that she got two. It was a bit tangy and not too sweet.
One negative aspect of our meal was that we did feel a bit conned into donating $4 towards DineSmart. The $4 donation came directly onto our bill without us being asked, and it was framed in a way where we would’ve had to ask them to produce a new invoice to remove it. While I have a no problem donating to social enterprises like DineSmart it did feel like our hand was forced in this, and that wasn’t really OK.
We had a good meal with good service and good food. While a 2% donation on our bill was definitely a very small amount of money, the way it was sought left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.
When you spend $290 per head at Sydney’s most lauded restaurant I think you’re allowed to expect something truly special. Unfortunately special isn’t quite the word I would use to describe our meal at Quay, which we had just before Christmas 2020 to celebrate my partner’s brother’s med school graduation.
The amuse-bouche, a small and delicate tart filled with oyster cream and topped with seaweed, was in my opinion the best morsel of the night. The oyster cream had a very intense fresh oyster flavour, packing an almost illegal amount of umami in this tiny morsel. The pastry was extremely thin and delicate, however still able to provide a nice mouthfeel and also the structural integrity required to hold the tart together. If the entire meal had been up to the quality of this amuse-bouche then this would have been an entirely different review altogether.
The raw hand harvested seafood, virgin soy, aged vinegar was our first listed course of the eight-course degustation menu, and our first encounter with Quay’s interesting array of custom crockery. The “hand harvested” seafood alluded to in the dish’s description included raw scallop, octopus legs, and pipis. The bottom layer of very thinly sliced raw scallop was very nice, with a subtle sweetness and no bitterness. My partner remarked that this was the only time she has ever enjoyed pipi, and one of the few times she has ever enjoyed octopus (apart from as takoyaki). The flavour created by the combination of virgin soy (pre-tainted soy would be far too “common” for this kind of restaurant) and aged vinegar was unexpectedly and delightfully light. This was a good dish.
This is the poached marron, green almonds, pomelo, flowers. Our waitress described marron as a kind of crustacean “native to the shores here in Australia”, which if I’m being honest kind of offended me, as if weren’t also from the shores here in Australia. The dish itself was quite small. Marrons aren’t really that small, but I guess baby ones might be. The flavours of this dish were very mild, with very little being added in terms of taste by the almonds or flowers. I just wonder if she introduces the dish the same way to the Caucasian Australian diners.
My partner’s brother isn’t a big fan of crustaceans and is allergic to some. His plate was three different types of radishes. He did not look impressed.
The bread course was unlisted, but one of the better ones of the night. We were each served a toasted crumpet with house cultured cream and Yarra Valley salmon roe. I really liked the warm butteriness of the crumpet. It was quite crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, and obvious that no butter had been spared in the name of health. The cream was the better of the two accompaniments. I couldn’t help but feel like the Yarra Valley salmon roe was a bit of a skimp. Yarra Valley salmon roe, while fitting with the “locavore” local food trend, is well known to be heavily marinated and salty. It doesn’t really compare to salmon roe used by the better sushi restaurants which is more buttery and lighter tasting.
The smoked eel cream, seaweeds, agretti, ice plant is one of the differentiating factors between the $240 tasting menu and the $290 tasting menu. The story told to us is that the chef boils five eels in five litres of cream, and reduces the mixture until it is boiled down to just one litre. The final result is sweet and creamy, however it was difficult for any of us to really appreciate the eel flavour. At most we could appreciate a hint of smoke. I think any concept of eel flavouring was more imagined than actual, and I’m sure that if Quay’s diners were not told of the presence of eel beforehand it wouldn’t even be a consideration. The three types of seaweed atop the cream provided a nice sour tanginess which contrasted well with the richness of the cream.
The shittake and squid noodles, sour koji butter was hyped by our waitress in exquisite detail but left us feeling disappointed. We were told how the buckwheat noodles were infused with shittake mushroom, and how the koji butter was poured in to give it an additional umami kick. Though the plating and presentation were good, the flavours in this essentially mazesoba dish were too light and subtle. The umami kick which was promised didn’t really happen. Our waiter later told us that this was his favourite dish, which is an opinion that I don’t share.
The meatiest dish of the night was the slow cooked pig jowl, umami custard, black pig salami. Chef Peter Gilmore has apparently been using Berkshire pig jowl in various dishes for over a decade. Berkshire pig is breed known for high intramuscular fat content, which helps to create more tender, juicy meat. We found this dish to be quite juicy and flavourful, and enjoyed the fatty meat, as well as the salami on top. The layer of “umami custard” actually lived up to its name this time, and did provide a rich depth of flavour to the dish. Yummy. I might pick up some Berkshire pig to cook with myself.
I wasn’t a big fan of the Maremma duck, orach, gooseberries, onions, Kampot pepper. We were told that the chef breaks down an entire duck just for this little piece of meat, discarding the rest. Our waitress mentioned with glee that the skin of the duck was replaced by the orach, gooseberries and onions, which was kind of bewildering to me as someone finds the layer of crispy skin and fat over duck meat essential. Ever worse than the concept was the reality – the dish had a strong caramelised onion smell and taste, which I think unfortunately overpowered the taste of the duck as well as that of the sweet gooseberries. This dish was a great way to completely defeat the purpose of eating duck. Tetsuya’s duck course was much better than this.
The white coral dessert. made of liquid nitrogen frozen white chocolate coral atop peach and vanilla ice creams was definitely a standout of the meal.
The Moo dessert was part of the extended menu, featuring salted caramel, Dulce de Leche, prune jam with aged Madeira, jersey milk ice-cream, whipped jersey cream, dark cocoa tuile biscuits. The most striking things about this dessert was the quite extreme custom crockery (non-edible) that it came in as well as the surprisingly cheap and plastic dessert spoon given to us to eat with. The prune jam was the strongest flavour within the dessert and unfortunately the tanginess of the jam did take over a bit. This was a house specialty that, while special to the house, wasn’t great.
A petit-four, a nice little berry tart featuring the greenest strawberry I’ve ever eaten.
The Apple Island Fog ($30), served with liquid nitrogen, was not great. Don’t eat the petal.
Quay has two separate dining rooms, one lower level which is a bit more spacious and quiet, and one upper level offering 360 degree views of Sydney Harbour, which was more crowded and noisy. We were not given a choice of where to sit, and were led to the upper floor on arrival. While the views are nice, it definitely pays to either have lunch or a Summer dinner at Quay, as there’s not much to see once the sun sets.
I do want to make a special mention to the one Asian guy who was eating his $290 meal in a T-shirt and shorts all by himself. That’s real money.
I couldn’t help but feel – given the quality of the meal – that we paid as much for the view and the restaurant’s name as we did the food. Quay’s signature nine course degustation really wasn’t as special as I thought it would be, and was really comparable in quality, taste, and execution to many of the much cheaper ($100-150/head) meals we’ve had recently. If you’re looking to spend over $250 per head on food alone in Sydney I’d easily recommend Tetsuya’s instead.
My first introduction to fine dining was at Sepia after I had just finished med school, and this was the kind of experience we were trying to replicate for my partner’s brother. My meal at Sepia is an experience I’m constantly trying to recapture, but I think if my first ever fine dining experience had been at Quay I would’ve given up on the concept entirely.
I probably won’t go back to Quay unless someone has a wedding here.
Arthur is one of the few – if not the only – Sydney fine dining establishments to be named after an animated aardvark. Located within what looks to be a converted house on a street corner Surry Hills, Arthur offers an ever changing and reasonably priced tasting menu with a focus on fresh domestic produce.
We dined in mid-December 2020 and took the liberty of adding on a few of the essential options to make a full menu at around $138 per head.
Arthur’s Sydney Rock Oysters with grape granita ($5.50 supplement) are on the pricier side for the Sydney restaurant scene. They were fresh, delicate, and of good quality, but we would usually not expect to pay more than $4 per oyster of this size. The grape granita added a new sweet and sour taste that I’ve not had with oysters elsewhere.
Both the bread and butter in Arthur’s sourdough and cultured butter are made in house. The bread had a nice solid crust but was light and fluffy on the inside. The cultured butter was a bit saltier than I expected, but still nice. One of my friends in particular was very keen on this butter, though in general I am more partial to unsalted or more lightly salted butters.
This kangaroo, tendon, and bush tomato tartare was quite good. I enjoyed the strong tomato flavours, and while one of my colleagues had initial misgivings about the gaminess of the kangaroo he too grew to like it. Kangaroo, for those not familiar, is quite a lean and somewhat gamey meat that can be had at very low prices. While the produce itself is not considered gourmet in Australia, it is certainly rare to have it served as a tartare.
The zucchini flower, scallop, shallot was a delicate dish of scallop and shallot stuffed inside a steamed zucchini flower. The flavours were very subtle, so much so that one of my colleagues did not realise there was scallop within his zucchini flower, even after he had eaten it. I think this was quite wholesome and healthy, though agree that the scallop was a bit hard to find.
I didn’t really like the calamari, macadamia, and daikon radish. The calamari was raw, fresh, and creamy, and all of the flavours worked well, except for the fact that certain mouthfuls had an unexplained bitterness that I could not reconcile. I don’t know what the bitter elements of the dish were, but they really hurt its quality for me. My partner who ate from a separate serving did not taste any bitterness at all. I wonder if it was an intentionally included flavour or rather a problem with quality.
The Moreton Bay Bug in carrot and saffron ($32 supplement per bug) is one of Arthur’s house specialties – a dish that persists throughout multiple iterations of the menu. The bug was large and generous, with all non-edible arms and other bits picked off and the cavity opened for convenience of eating. Another slight complaint with Arthur’s QA again here – the quality of meat was a little inconsistent, with some bugs more meaty and others a bit too soft. The sauce had a delicious strong seafood taste, quite similar to the prawn head sauce at Moxhe. We fell into the trap of only ordering three bugs between five diners as suggested by our waiter, but I think we really could’ve gone for one each. They are a high value add-on.
This is a little deep fried dough ball which comes with the Moreton Bay Bug to help soak up the sauce. The dough ball is very tasty, a little bit sweet, and very fresh on its own. I wish we could have had more of these. They’re little donuts.
We returned to the base set menu with the Grilled kingfish, nasturtium, green tomato. The kingfish was really delicious, with a tasty crispy skin and soft flesh with a delicate internal taste and texture. The natrutium, green tomato, and green sauce I thought was a bit unnecessary but in no way offensive. My one complaint with this dish is the miniature size of the serving we got to share between two. It was around one third of the serving our other colleagues received between three. Kingfish is really not an expensive fish and I think a bit more (or even a bit more care in portioning) would’ve gone a long way.
The third “bread” of the night was a potato scroll with silverbeet and black garlic sauce. I liked this. It had a nice savoury taste. The sauce which looked like chocolate was not.
The dry aged borrowdale pork loin was really good. The pork had a little bit of crispy fattiness around the edges, and was otherwise tender throughout. The sauce it was served in was full of umami flavours.
The plum and cherry with cultured cream was a tart little side dish served with the pork. Not super memorable.
Lettuce was even less memorable.
The tart of bruny island “tom” (apparently a sheep’s milk), apricot, and cultured cream ($7 supplement per tart) was really good. The cheesiness and the sweet and sour flavours of the apricot really melded together well. The pastry of the tart was thin and light, yet held its structural rigidity well.
The dessert of mango, raspbery, yoghurt was phenomenal. The mango and raspberry, with different crumbs dried to different degrees, provided a broad spectrum of sweet and tangy tastes to the yoghurt base. This was widely enjoyed by all colleagues around the table. Really special.
The final course was this housemade wagon wheel. It was a bit darker and less sweet than the wagon wheels from the supermarket but apart from that not really something to write home about.
We shared a bottle of Ngeringa Uncultured Cider ($50) around the table. It was pretty good, quite dry without much sweetness, but refreshing.
VERDICT I think that reading through this blog post I’ve indicated a few hits and a few misses, but ultimately the dining experience at Arthur was very good and cohesive with all aspects taken into account. It’s probably been one of our top meals of the year. I would definitely recommend splurging for the Moreton Bay Bug as it is one of the shining stars of the meal.
We paid $138 per person including drinks and it was money well spent. The base price for the meal is $90 per person but doesn’t include oysters, the bug, or the cheese tart.
In what was sure to be an unexpected outcome for Sydney Dining Group, the recent mention of Ripples Milsons Point amongst Sydney’s latest COVID-19 hotspots actually helped bring the Ripples brand to prominence, one of a few reasons why we chose to dine at Ripples Chowder Bay for dinner tonight. We felt that Ripples’ ability to avoid a major catastrophe with their previous COVID-19 case meant that the restaurant was likely to have good ventilation and hygiene practices. It was, after all, our friend’s first time out since we ate at Acre in June.
Of note, street parking was $18.50 for 3 hours. We overstayed (it was difficult to predict how long we’d be) but were not ticketed.
We were initially seated in a spacious dining room inside, but moved outside to attempt to find more cross ventilated pastures on the deck. Unfortunately, because of the adverse weather, the deck was covered in a thick plastic shroud – something I had experienced at one of Sydney Dining Group’s other restaurants, Aqua. This meant that the outside dining area actually put us in far closer proximity to other patrons, without an increase in air changes per hour – something that greatly worried one of my senior colleagues.
We started with a plate of Chorizo & Mozzarella Arancini (5 for $16). I enjoyed the arancini but found it difficult to spot the chorizo. My partner, a big-time arancini fan, was not impressed. This was, believe it or not, one of the best value dishes of the meal.
These king prawns with orange, fennel & chervil ($28) were such bad value that it should have been criminal. What we got for $28 were three little cooked prawns, and a bit of citrus salad. I savoured my $9’s worth of prawn, which I found to be sweet and yummy, as well as my few allocated orange and salad bits. Our consensus opinion was that this starter was OK in taste, AWFUL in value. I think any reasonable restaurant with a sense of decency would hesitate to charge more than $15 for this tiny dish.
My gastroenterology colleague’s pick of main was the Confit Duck with cabbage, wild rice & red wine jus ($38). I thought this duck was very good, however judging from the size it must have come from a very small duck, perhaps one that had just hatched not too long ago. This is the best confit duck that my partner and I have ever had, although that’s not saying much as we have tended to avoid confit duck from Western restaurants ever since our first few attempts. I enjoyed the tender and juicy nature of the meat, as well as the delicious red wine jus.
My senior colleague’s pick of main was the Whole Market Fish, Tomato, capers & zucchini ($42). The market fish of the day was baby snapper. I enjoyed this dish and had this the most as it was closest to me. I liked the generous serving of vegetables, as well as the nicely oven roasted white flesh. Quite wholesome and good value compared to the rest of the meal.
Our next main was the Lamb Rump with peas, zucchini, mint, yoghurt & lamb sauce ($38). I had only a very small corner piece so it is a bit difficult for me to describe it. I thought it was nice, however, for them to have cut it up into bite sized slices. I thought that the meat was better, more flavourful, and more tender than that at COOH, a recent comparison.
A side of Green Beans with crispy eshallots & lemon oil ($12) was shared, however my colleagues did not seem to keen for it. I was personally grateful for this high greenery dish.
The Soy Panna Cotta with pineapple, coconut, sugar sauce & coconut gelato ($16) was my senior intensive care colleague’s first introduction to the concept of panna cotta, but otherwise not memorable.
The White Chocolate Mousse with chocolate crumb, passionfruit & mango sorbet ($16) was memorable for its strong sour passionfruit taste, small size, and large price.
The Lemon Tart with pistachio, meringue & pistachio gelato ($16) was not bad, however not as good as similar lemon tarts at around the $7 mark.
Ripples at Chowder Bay was an expensive but ultimately forgettable meal. Whilst I enjoyed the roasted baby snapper and confit duck, pretty much everything else could have been skipped. This is especially true for the desserts, which were all boring and expensive. We paid $291 between the four of us for the above listed foods and a $65 bottle of middling red wine, and a bit of condescension from our waiter when we asked for a recommendation for said wine.
Ripples Chowder Bay was fine only in terms of the price.