Marque Restaurant, Surry Hills
Alchemy. I think it’s the right word. Or maybe magician? I don’t think either of these words conveys the level of skill and artistry evident in Mark Best’s food.
But first, the back story.
I’ve met Mark Best of Marque Restaurant a couple of times. The restaurant is a stone’s throw from my place, and I walk past often. Thanks to twitter, I introduced myself, and occasionally will say hello, if I’m passing.
Recently, bloggers and PR people were bought together to discuss how best to work together. Along for the ride was Ed Charles from Melbourne. Having tweeted each other often and being heavily involved in the Aussie Foodbloggers Group we were excited to finally meet face to face, and of course, eat together!
So after this PR session, myself, Ed and Fooderati head off to Marque in search of food!
It was a Monday, it was late (9pm by the time we got there) and I had to get up and drive to Moss Vale the following morning. So we had the degustation and Fooderati and Ed had the matching wine.
I hadn’t intended to blog this meal so missed the first couple of dishes, (but you can see some pics that Ed took) but we had the most divine beetroot macarons for amuse bouche, that you might remember from the launch of the Taste of Sydney Festival!
With conversation and now the wine, flowing we got underway with some serious eating.
Presented in it’s shell the chaud-froid (literally hot & cold) free range egg reminds me of pretty little jewelled Faberge Egg. Except you can eat this one! We’re directed to dip our bread sticks into the egg and mix through to make sure we get all the flavours. It’s sweet, sour, salty, hot and cold all at once, and just delightful.
At this point I’m jealous that the others got the matched wines, only because the Sommelier is the best I’ve come across. Not only are we told what and where the wine is from, we’re given a detailed explanation as to why it was chosen to accompany that particular dish and at what point in the eating: before mouthful, during or after mouthful; we should be drinking…thoroughness beyond compare.
The next course is not only a feast on the tastebuds, but also an assault on the senses. An Oyster, but not as we know it. An oyster topped with foam. But not just ordinary wishy washy bubbly foam. But all out, thick and luscious foam, grilled no less. We’re directed to lift the oyster out of the shell and taking with it the foam, knock it back. As we discuss it, Mark indicates that he likens it to being dumped at the beach. My thoughts exactly.
I don’t really remember what came next to be honest, but it was an intriguing combination of Sea Urchin, green tea and mandarin…
It’s at this point that I sit up and start paying more attention. As the conversation ranged across Sydney v Melbourne property prices, our various degrees (Economics, Politics, History) the nature of foodblogging, journalism and of course food and sex, our next dish was presented to ooh and ahhs…a small mountain of whispy creaminess consisting of almond jelly. blue swimmer crab, almond gazpacho, sweet corn and avruga:
It’s the next serving that makes us dip down low to smell the goodies on the plate. It’s the mushrooms, with their earthy aroma that hit us with this combination of scallops, with “fish floss”, scampi anglaise, campari and turnip:
The next plate though, really tickles my fancy! The cured ocean trout with it’s lacy mantle of lemon and dill jelly is a symphony of freshness and light.
At this point we’re not even half way through the meal…
One of the most challenging tastes for me, is the crab custard and frozen foie gras. No picture adequately conveys the drama of this dish as it arrives with what appears to be steam coming off it, but which is in fact dry ice. The ice has been used to freeze the foie gras which then appears to be grated on top of the custard. The mouth feel of the frozen grated foes gras is, as Ed notes, like chocolate..creamy, rich and coats the inside of the mouth, but with the unmistakable taste of liver.
The beginning of the meat dishes is a duck ham with endive and Parmesan is a lovely change of pace from the seafood dishes. Then, pork jowl with spinach and a pacific oyster. Being a non-piggy eater, I only take a mouthful, and feel terrible when asked if there was something wrong.
I can’t deny the lusciousness of this porcine morsel, though I just can’t do piggy in this form.
My favourite dish of the night (savoury that is) is the wagyu with the most exquisite baby potatoes…
Ah, and nearing the end of this odyssey into technique and flights of fancy, the simplest of pleasures: cheese. Brunet, and italian goat’s cheese, with rhubarb and a pistachio and mancha tea macaron…
I love the texture of the dried rhubarb stuck to the top of the cheese, it reminds me, oddly, of the redskin lollies we had as kids…
Dessert, my favourite course!!!!
I will state now, that the only fault with this entire 14 course glut of goodness is that the desserts are just not big enough! But luckily, being a multi-course feast, there was more than 1 yummy to satisfy…
The dish that made Ed lick the plate? The Chocolate ganache, hazelnut croqante, yoghurt, eucalyptus and raspberry…This particular dance of flavours was unusual and created an unexpected effect of mintiness when eaten in combination, but when eaten individually, the flavour of the eucalytpus in the yoghurt comes to the fore.
Nearing satiety, and keeping in mind my early start, I look forward to the petit four, consisting of salted caramel chocolates and bitter bonbons flavoured with campari, Gentian and Cynar especially after reading Lorraine’s recent review.
What a delightful way to finish up this most engaging evening…more please!
4-5/355 Crown Street
02 9332 2225