Marque Restaurant in Surry Hills celebrated its sixteenth birthday last week with a series of “Sweet 16” dinners, a retrospective of dishes going back to 1999.
Marque #Sweet16 Menu
It’s not possible to write about Marque without getting personal. When the restaurant opened in 1999, it was word of mouth at Simon Johnson int Pyrmont, our regular Saturday morning haunt, that first took us there.
Long before Gourmantic was born and longer than it was even a twinkle in our eyes, Marque became the venue of choice for many birthdays, anniversaries and special occasions, often taking friends there who were visiting from abroad. So it only seemed fit that when Gourmantic launched in 2009, the first restaurant review was entitled Marquing the Best.
Coffin Bay Oyster with Grilled Sea Foam
The evening was a veritable trip down memory lane, reminiscing about old favourites and discovering new ones.
Dinner commenced with Coffin Bay Oyster with Grilled Sea Foam, a briny oyster topped with tangy foam accompanied by a glass of Courabyra 805 sparkling wine.
Tomato Marshmallow, Beetroot Macaroons, Potato Maxim Olive Truffle & Foie Gras
Next was a trio of amuse-bouche that primed the palate with flavours and textures while playing tricks on the mind. What looks like a coconut marshmallow was a savoury Tomato Marshmallow, light as air in texture and flavour. The crimson coloured macarons were made of Beetroot and filled with Foie Gras while the Potato Maxim, named after a dish from Maxim de Paris came with olive truffle and foie gras butter.
Chaud-Froid Free Range Egg & Grissini
If there is one dish that comes to mind when thinking of the early days of Marque, it is the Chaud-Froid Free Range Egg & Grissini, one from Chef Best’s time at the renowned L’Arpege in Paris. A light foam with a hint of clove and spice sits on top of a soft, unctuous yolk accompanied by thin grissini. Pure pleasure.
Fraser Island Spanner Crab with Almond Jelly, Gazpacho & Avruga
Another dish from the early days is the Fraser Island Spanner Crab with Almond Jelly, Gazpacho & Avruga. The subtle sweetness of the crab along with the flavour of almonds lingered beautifully on the palate. Smooth, creamy, salty and nutty, the complexity of this dish was savoured with every mouthful.
Eel with Parmesan Gnocchi & Pumpkin
The Eel with Parmesan Gnocchi & Pumpkin was another mind game. Thin shavings of eel are topped with smoky and creamy mini gnocchi that melt in contact with the mouth along with a delicate sphere of Parmesan. The pumpkin was in fact the translucent sauce and each individual component came together in harmony to create a flavour sensation.
The first courses were brilliantly matched to 1999 Mount Pleasant Lovedale Semillon from the Hunter Valley, light bodied with high acidity, good structure and showing its age well with hints of honey on the palate.
Marron with Vadouvan & Lemon Curd
Continuing with the seafood theme, the WA Marron with Vadouvan & Lemon Curd was beautifully cooked and subtly spiced with vadouvan. The accompanying sweet/sour lemon curd was simply good enough to eat with a spoon or spread on a piece of bread.
By now, one was accustomed to surprises on a plate but the next dish elevated the surprise. The Calamari Risotto consisted of a thin sheet of Yamba prawns hiding calamari that has been finely diced into “rice”, poached in a creamy leek and cauliflower puree and garnished with fried curry leaves.
A new favourite was born.
The Calamari Risotto was paired with 2012 Quealy Friulano Amphorae from the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, a funky wine at first with chalky minerality that developed in the glass with good structure and citrus notes.
Wagyu Beef with Sauerkraut & Gherkin
The Wagyu Beef with Sauerkraut & Gherkin was reminiscent of a Reuben sandwich, deconstructed and elegantly presented. The dish paired well with 1999 Cullen Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot from Margaret River in WA.
Autumn Leaves brought a hush to the table, served with an addictive Jerusalem artichoke puree.
Bar Cod with Fish Milk & Scales
The Bar Cod with Fish Milk & Scales was beautifully cooked and presented. The moist flesh carried a subtle smoky flavour topped with “scales” shares a plate with samphire. The bar cod was paired with 2013 Domenica Chardonnay from Beechworth Victoria, fresh and acidic with hints of oak.
Rabbit with Cashew & Wakame
The last of the savoury dishes was Rabbit with Cashew & Wakame, sweet and beautifully roasted, the cashew and wakame adding contrasting texture.
Kipfler Potato, Sea Urchin & Bone Marrow
The accompaniment, Kipfler Potato, Sea Urchin & Bone Marrow was delightfully rich and satisfying. The potatoes were enveloped with a blanket of bone marrow and a subtle flavour of sea urchin.
The rabbit dish was paired with 1999 Torbrek “The Steading” Grenache Shiraz Mataro from the Barossa Valley.
Holy Goat ‘La Luna’ with Pineapple & Onion
Another L’Arpege inspired classic, Holy Goat ‘La Luna’ with Pineapple & Onion paved the way for the sweeter dishes to follow with a melee of pineapple, cheese and onion. The combination of crisp, sharp onions and salty cheese with a hint of sweetness from the fruit made it another favourite of the night.
The cheese course was paired with 2012 Sinapius Riesling Pipers Brook from Northern Tasmania.
Honeycomb & Cultured Cream
Honeycomb & Cultured Cream could be entitled “when simple ingredients come together excellence”. The shard-like honeycomb crumbled in the mouth, the sweetness was offset by the richness of the cream.
The honeycomb paired well with 2012 Laughing Jack “Cane Cut” Semillon Barossa Valley.
Caramelised Tomato Stuffed with Twelve Flavours & Star Anise Ice Cream
In another sweet-meets-savoury twist, Caramelised Tomato Stuffed with Twelve Flavours & Star Anise Ice Cream was reminiscent of Christmas cake with warm spices such as cinnamon, clove, star anise with nuts. The star anise ice cream paired nicely with the caramelised tomato skin.
A glass of Seppeltsfield “DP57” Grand Tokay from Rutherglen in Victoria accompanied the dessert.
The Parsnip Cornetto was a delightful adult treat that brought smiles to the table. Parsnip ice cream was served in a parsnip “cornetto” that has been roasted and wrapped into shape.
Then came that personal moment with another Marque classic, the Sauternes Custard. When this pre-dessert made its debut in the early years, as our waiter cleared our plates, he asked if I enjoyed it, and I blurted, “This is the best thing I’ve had my mouth in a long time.” Realising what I said and blushing uncontrollably, in the blink of an eye, he returned from the kitchen and presented me with another – a sweet culinary memory that will always remain etched in my mind.
Campari Bonbon, Salted Caramel Chocolate
To finish, I will borrow a phrase from the original review, the Salted Caramel Chocolate and Campari Bonbon sealed the evening.
Chef Mark Best
With much gratitude and congratulations to Chef Mark Best and his team at Marque for his hospitality on this occasion and over the years.
Photography © by Kevin Burke for Gourmantic – Copyright: All rights reserved.
4/5 355 Crown St
Sydney NSW 2010
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