Nic and I take a seat at a table at Peter Doyle @ The Quay. The weather in Sydney the week before last has been playing silly buggers and we're not sure whether to sit outside, where really one is prone to sitting when they are dining right on the harbour waterfront but fear of impending and highly probable rain means that we sit right on the cusp of both the inside and outside dining areas. With one foot in each section figuratively speaking. I take a look around and see that the room is spacious and replete with views and when we remark on the view they tell us that it was designed so that every seat would have a water view. The menu is extensive with two pages of mostly seafood but also steak, duck and other offerings.
At the table next to us the chef Peter Doyle sits chatting to Lyndey Milan about an upcoming harbourside development and he stops by our table for a quick chat. He, along with six other chefs including Movida's Frank Camorra are part of a Hostplus "Cook For Your Career" competition where six full chef's apprenticeships at top restaurants in each state will be given away. It is open to anyone of any working age from any background and no hospitality experience is necessary with the finale to be staged at the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival in March this year.
"Apprentices have a very tough four years. We've struggled keeping people in the industry young people in particular because its long and tough for them and the pay is not so good so it is a tough life. It is hard to work in an industry where they're working and everyone is having a good time it's not sociable hours. ..on the positive side if you're successful at it you could get a job anywhere in the world. It's a great job, a great life with great satisfaction every single job and every day you finish your job. And there's big money involved. I know it's bad money at the beginning but after that good chefs earn big, big money. After about 5-6 year and you'll really see some turnaround. You can accelerate very quickly, there's no barriers. If you're good enough."
I ask him what qualities make a good apprentice and chef and he answers definitively "Caaaaalm. Calm people. At the end of the day you're only cooking the meal there's another chance to cook another two meals that day. You have another 364 days that year where you've got to make other meals. It's not a life and death situation. You've got to do the best you can do but you've got to keep it in perspective. You're serving them a meal, you want to do the best meal you can but you've got to enjoy what you're doing and keep under pressure the whole time to do this".
He leaves to go to a meeting and Nic and I attend to the task at hand. What to eat on this (sometime) sunny Sydney summer's day. After a little bit of prompting we decide share some entrees and go for the whole kingdom-the seafood platter for two.
Chef Richard Kiefer shows us the olive oil from South Australia which he is clearly enthusiastic about. It's an organic olive oil called Nolans Road and has just the right balance of flavours, green enough to have that flavour but smooth on the throat and with a finish (and it is apparently a favourite olive oil of Nigella Lawson's). There are two types of sourdough bread, a wholemeal and a white and they're both fresh and spongey soft inside and crusty on the outside.
_Jumbo Prawns (3) king prawns stuffed with our own recipe including fruit, bacon, herbs, spinach
& macadamia nuts golden fried in beer batter $21.10_
This is a dish that Alan the general manager tells us customers come back again and again for. Interestingly, for a restaurant at this location, most of the patronage comes from locals and not overseas visitors. Also despite the fact that cruise ships dock right next to the overseas passenger terminal, many cruise ship passengers don't often have the time or inclination to eat off the ship as the meals are included so local customers are what keep this restaurant busy (whereas I would have assumed tourists made up most of the patrons).
Although it does sound like a mix that doesn't work and perhaps has too many disparate ingredients it does work well together and the fruit gives it a sweetness while the bacon, herbs, spinach and macadamia gives it robustness and depth of flavour. The prawn is butterflied and spread out and stuffed with this filling and then breaded and deep fried. It is served with a relish similar to a Branston pickle which is sweet.
Oysters natural - served with lemon $21.10 plus Supreme topped with avocado, prawns, béchamel sauce & tasty cheese ½ dozen $24.20
You knew I was going to order the oysters right? It seems almost strange to not to order seafood at a Doyle's restaurant. Although we ordered the supreme as they were said to be popular I wasn't really as taken with them as I was with the natural oysters as I always feel that cooked oysters really tend to mask the oyster taste. Also I do prefer my natural oysters slightly more chilled too as the humid and hot rainy weather made these a little warmer than I would like.
Do you know the feeling when a celebrity walks through a restaurant and a ripple ensues and people turn to stare in their wake? Well the same effect occurs when they bring the seafood platter to the table. And it's a beauty. Possibly the most beauteous specimen of a seafood platter I have ever seen.
There's a whole lobster, thirteen Crystal Bay prawns, half a dozen natural oysters, four fantastically good mussels, a whole Balmain bug (for non Australian readers, this is a type of seafood similar to lobster, not an actual bug ;) ), five rolls of smoked salmon with capers and Spanish onion as well as an artful arrangement of fruit with sweet pineapple, rockmelon, watermelon, mango and strawberries as well as a dressed salad.
It is enormous and beautifully presented with the seafood fresh and served cold with a seafood sauce on the side. There is so much seafood that we find it hard to finish it try as we might and we can easily imagine a couple sharing this with the bread and perhaps a side of chips and having the fruit for dessert and being very jolly and full. The fruit is not only a colourful accompaniment but a lovely way to finish off the meal. We can't finish it all and they offer to pack it up for us to take away.
Before we know it, it's almost the end of the day. There is something about dining harbourside that makes me forget about time.
So tell me Dear Reader, what type of seafood do you like in your seafood platter?
To enter Cook For Your Career, all you need to do is create and upload a picture of your signature dish, and why you want to win and what winning will mean to you on www.cookforyourcareer.com.au! Good luck to any budding and hopeful chefs out there :)
NQN and Nic dined as guests of Peter Doyle @ The Quay
Peter Doyle @ The Quay
Lower level, Overseas Passenger Terminal, Circular Quay, NSW
Tel: +61 (02) 9252 3400