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Quay Restaurant

Peter Gilmore's famous fine diner on Sydney Harbour.
By Libby Curran and Gary Brun
July 01, 2023
By Libby Curran and Gary Brun
July 01, 2023

Back in 2018, Sydney's fine dining scene sported a Quay-shaped hole, as the legendary restaurant temporary closed up shop and underwent some pretty hefty renovations. But the harbourside restaurant came back with a bang, showing off a complete, head-to-toe transformation — of the design, food menu and drinks, no less.

This second incarnation saw Quay embrace a more interactive, individualised dining experience and dished up plenty of surprises along the way. So what was different? Pretty much everything.

While the dining room lost 20 seats, the whole space gained an impressive fitout by acclaimed architects Tonkin Zulaikha Greer, the team behind the design of some of the Fink Group's other establishments, Bennelong and OTTO Brisbane. The restaurant, now divided into smaller, more intimate dining spaces, was rejigged to face both the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.

a smoking dish at Quay Restaurant Sydney

Referencing Executive Chef Peter Gilmore's nature-driven cooking, the space embraces the organic, with elements including ocean-like blue carpets, tabletops crafted from sustainable solid spotted gum, and stone detailing that conjures images of cracked bark. Above, bespoke timber work complements the existing ceiling by original designer George Freedman.

Meanwhile, art-lovers will also find plenty to swoon over, including the inspiration behind Quay's logo, Bronwyn Oliver's Tide, which presides over the entrance.

The white tablecloths of yesteryear have been given the boot, in favour of showing off those tabletops — and the custom-built 'Quay Chair', by Australian designer Adam Goodrum, whose design references the pattern on the Opera House shells.

As always, the Quay experience extends beyond the food to the design beneath. This time around, Gilmore has worked closely with ceramicists Paul Davies and Jacqueline Clayton (from Red Shed Studio Jam), Malcolm Greenwood and Ben Richardson on a stunning new range of bespoke tableware. Each piece has been carefully designed to best showcase a particular dish.

Views from Quay restaurant - home to one of the best private dining rooms in Sydney

While the menu is entirely new, it's grounded in Gilmore's passion for showcasing rare and beautiful ingredients. A eight-course tasting menu best captures the journey, though an abbreviated six-course menu is also on offer.

As with the restaurant's previous menu, Gilmore has worked closely with farmers, fishermen and artisans to source ingredients — many of whom grow, forage and create items specifically for the acclaimed chef. Newcastle Greens, for example, grew red speckled peas for Gilmore, and you'll find them on the menu served alongside miso and anchovy.

Gilmore has continued to go above and beyond with his plating and creation of dishes — which is prevalent most clearly in his recreation of the humble oyster. It's an innovative dish of oyster cream, oyster frill crackling and Ossetra caviar, served in a hand-crafted ceramic shell and eaten with a mother of pearl spoon. This dish was particularly close to Gilmore's heart as he himself dislikes the texture of oyster, and wanted to recreate the mollusc with exactly the same flavours, but a significantly different bite.

A small main dish from at Quay Restaurant Sydney

As expected, the famed Snow Egg dessert has taken its final bow, though the koshihikari rice with sea urchin replacing it has the makings of yet another cult favourite. While this was on the menu at time of publication, dishes do change and evolve, so check the menu online before you head in.

The drinks list is long and you'll have to navigate the 500-strong wine collection (backed up by 20 cocktails, nonetheless). But you won't be alone — one of the wine aficionados will be on hand to (kindly and patiently) guide you through.

If you're planning an event or you're looking for a more private affair, then the private dining rooms have you covered. Overlooking the Opera House and with lush blue carpeting, the dining room is suitable for up to ten guests. With thoughtful details, such as fabric veils in the colours of Australian gum leaves, this warm and enticing room is the perfect space for any occasion.

the private dining room at Quay Restaurant, with views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge - the best private dining room in Sydney

Nikki To

Images: Nikki To

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