Since Australia has technically avoided a recession I should really rename this the GFC busting lunch. For a year, Marque restaurant in Surry Hills has been offering Friday lunch diners a 3 course Prix Fixe menu for $45. As a 4 course meal can set you back $95, it's a great, inexpensive way to try Mark Best's outstanding cuisine. I'm joined for my first visit to Marque by my dining companions Teena and Gina.
Amuse Bouche: Beetroot macaron with foie gras centre
I'm excited to see the reappearance of the beetroot macarons which I first tried at the Taste of Sydney Media Launch. They're light as air alongside the pale, moussey foie gras and collapse when bitten into.
Bread and butter
The serving size of the bread is generous with 2 thick slices given to each of us. Teena and I prefer the brown bread with aromatic fennel seed whilst Gina prefers the white.
Appetiser: Chaud froid egg with salted grissini
An appetiser that has us fascinated is the Chaud Froid Egg served with salted grissini. The waitress tells us that we are to taste hot, cold, sweet and salty when we dip the grissini in and it's true, it's a delicious all over the palate sensation. There is a moussey layer on top of the egg yolk and they need to be combined or you end up spooning up egg yolk with your tiny spoon once you've finished with the grissini.
_Entree: Tiny Potato Salad _
The tiny potato salad features of course, tiny potatoes (not an extremely small potato salad as we were wondering). It's lightly dressed and sprinkled with caviar, slices of onion, dill, fish floss and a wafer. The fish floss is like a light dust similar to pork floss in texture and is made on the premises using pulverised, dried jewfish. Interestingly, the little purple potatoes are baby purple congo potatoes which taste fairly much like regular potatoes but lend visual interest.
Main: Barossa Chicken with Sea Lettuce
The Barossa chicken is very moist and the "sea lettuce" is blanched iceberg lettuce served with an oyster emulsion and seaweed.
_Pre dessert:Liquid Nitrogen Fruit salad with yogurt sorbet
If we were suffering under any delusions that this wasn't already a fabulously priced and exciting menu, the pre dessert arrives. It's a Fruit Salad with Yogurt Sorbet but the presentation would tell you otherwise. The liquid nitrogen fruit has the texture of a cold ice cream but in little multicoloured shavings. The glass itself has been given the liquid nitrogen treatment too which helps the shavings stay cool for longer. The yogurt sorbet is delicious and lightly crunchy with crystallised honey.
Dessert: Burnt milk custard with cumquats and orange granita
The dessert is a dish that I find deliciously comforting with the rich milky custard, sweet candied cumquats, toasted chestnuts and granita giving it sweetness although it's not what you would call an excessively sweet dessert. It's ideal for those non sweet tooths that want to finish with something different.
_Petit fours:Bitter bon bons and salted caramel chocolates
We order coffees and the petit fours we are presented with alongside the coffee are an interesting concept indeed. The waiter explains to us that the 3 jube like looking items are Bitter Bon Bons and are filled with liquid so he warns against biting into them due to the very liquid centres. We're intrigued. Gina kindly donates her to the cause (i.e. the blog) and I try the yellow one which is the Gentian flavour, a herb that aids in digestion, and the brown one which is the Cynar flavour, a bitter Italian aperitif made from 13 herbs and plants. Teena tries the red one which is a Campari. The outer is interesting: it's hard and like a thin coating of crystallised sugar. The salted caramel chocolates are also a big hit with the table.
Chef Mark Best
We're chatting over our coffees and by now the restaurant has emptied with people returning to work. We spy the chef Mark Best. He walks over and sits down and after introductions we have a chat about twitter, facebook and liquid nitrogen. He explains to us the process of making the bitter bonbons which involved sugar and cornflour and chemistry. He stays for a good 20 minutes chatting to us in what I would consider the 7th course of a fantastic lunch.
Tell me Dear Readers, what's your most impressive but well priced lunch venue?
355 Crown Street, Surry Hills, NSW
Tel: +61 (02) 9332 2225
Lunch: Fridays only from 12:30pm
Dinner: Monday to Saturday from 6:30pm