Quadrant

Eating where the tourists normally do

Playing tourist in your own city generally involves guiding an interstate or overseas visitor around the sights and icons that make your city unique. I'm kind of glad that when I get visitors they're more interested in hanging out with us in our own neighbourhood and eating at restaurants off the well-trodden tourist trail. Yes the Harbour Bridge is impressive and yes the Opera House has its architectural charm but they only get my attention when I have to walk past or cross them. So what are we doing eating at Circular Quay? Well, the other half aquired a gift card through work late last year. A gift card that could be used at any Mirvac property in Sydney; a hotel room, a restaurant, a bar, whatever, providing it was under the Mirvac name. Our choice, the Quay Grand at East Circular Quay.

Arriving a little earlier than the reservation meant we could soak up the afternoon sun at the ECQ Bar, overlooking the stream of people surging between the Opera House and the ferry wharves as we sipped a couple of strong bevies. Martini (16) for me, of course, and a Gini Hendricks (Hendricks gin, cucumber & apple & dash of elderflower 20) for the guy holding the $250 Mirvac voucher. You've gotta love spending other peoples money.

Located one level below the bar is Quadrant, signature restaurant for the Quay Grand. I've occasionally wondered what the food was like at this place and after checking out the online menu the decision was confirmed. It's an interesting choice of contemporary dishes with a little bit of a European touch. Maybe even a retro touch, such as the amuse of cured ocean trout with wakame on a cucumber round. How many decades have passed since I last saw a cucumber canapé? Other than bringing back memories of prepping such morsels (sans the wakame) when I was in cooking school in '89 & '90, the flavours worked. I could have done with a slab of the trout, though. Great stuff.

A lot could be said about the bread roll, however. The simple white 'breakfast' roll comes from one of those lidded stainless steel heaters you usually find your mushrooms and soggy eggs benedict in at hotel breakfast buffets. The crust was thin and had the texture of being heated, cooled, then reheated again. That may not have been the case but trying to tear it open was a bit of a challenge. As for the olive oil that came with ... an absolute stunner. So good we got the name and tracked it down online then found it at a place in Marrickville. Lomondo extra virgin, from Mudgee. More great stuff.

Can you tell what I had from the pics above? Pork belly, right? Wrong. The pork belly (27) was already selected before I took claim of it, but at least I got a taste. Twice cooked, crackle crumble and three textures of apple. Holy pork belly Batman! Sweet, meaty and a little fatty. Soft and crunchy in all the right places, the way any good swine ought to be.

When I see food on a piece of slate I start to feel my eyes roll a little. It's the crockery equivalent of putting liquidised food into a N2O canister and foaming it out; a culinary band wagon many chefs have jumped onto as it trundles about the linen-topped tables in this town ... and world. The grating of cutlery against stone makes my nerves jolt. Each to their own I s'pose.

Aligned on the slate before me is a trio of seared tuna (27) topped with pan-fried discs of potato, black olives and preserved lemon dressing. A single soft-poached quail egg takes centre stage and spills its golden innards when I take to it with the knife. Overall the flavours are very subtle, even with the lemon and olives.

The next round turned out to be a bit of a meat-fest that involved choice cuts from a couple of humble beasts. Oven roasted rack of lamb (40) with crushed kipfler, caramelised eschallots and onion soubise (an emulsion of béchamel and sautéed onion). The Frenched bones beckoned to be picked up and chewed but seeing I wasn't in charge of eating the dish they were taken to with cutlery. I'm no caveman but when there's a bone it calls for contact with the digits. Perfectly blushed meat, I must add.

My Tasmanian wilderness beef tenderloin (44) came as two round slabs of very rare flesh slumped over sautéed black turtle beans with jamón serrano and sweetcorn purée. Had I not liked rare meat I would have requested a little more oven time but none of that happened. The weight of the knife cut through the tenderloin with little effort. Earthy beans, sweet purée, salty jamón; it was an absolute pleasure.

With more free credit to burn we forced a bit of retro dessert action upon ourselves. Something many of us have seen before - a millefeuille of passionfruit curd and raspberries (15). Barely ground-breaking, it was just as expected, just with a smear of coconut anglaise to one side. The dessert retrospect moved on to a rather large black forest bombe alaska (15) rich with kirsch and cherry compote and every spoonful went down with no resistance. Who said the bombe alaska was passé? This was one fine dessert.

ECQ Bar & Quadrant
Quay Grand Suites
61 Macquarie Street
Sydney 2000
02 9256 4044 (restaurant)
02 9256 4000 (bar)
website Quadrant on Urbanspoon