When I tried to book at table for lunch at Marque in July, I was told that there were no available tables until October! So it wasn't until October that I had the pleasure of savouring the delicious food at Marque restaurant to celebrate Charm and Dad's birthday (coincidentally, they share the same birthday)
Marque opens for lunch on Fridays only, so it's not a surprise that they are booked out far in advance. Marque offers a 8 course degustation, a la carte menu and a prix fixe menu changing weekly. Of course we went for the prix fixe menu which was great value, offering 3 courses for a mere $45.
We got a selection of either white or rye and caraway seed bread which were both served warm with butter. I preferred the white as the rye and caraway seed tasted a bit strange for me, but both were soft with a chewy crust.
The amuse bouche was Marque's signature chaud froid free range egg with salted grissini. We were instructed to dip the grissini into the egg and eat it that way. This was an amazing journey of textures and flavours, being hot, cold, salty and sour at the same time. The grissini was delicate and crispy and inside the open egg shell was egg yolk and a creamy mousse-like layer tasting slightly of vinegar.
The entree was sautéed calamari with tomatoes, goats cheese and black rice. The serving looked small because it was served on a large plate, but it was a reasonable size and every morsel was absolutely delicious.
The calamari was perfectly cooked and unbelievably tender and was definitely the focus of the dish. The tomatoes were the tiniest tomatoes I've ever seen but also the most flavoursome tomatoes I've tasted. There was just enough creamy goats cheese and black puffed rice crisps to have a lovely variation of textures in the mouth. I tried to prolong the flavours for as long as possible and savoured every bite of this.
The entree was amazing, but the main course simply blew me away. The muscovy duck was pink and tender with a lovely layer of fatty skin on the top. Hidden underneath the duck were cucumber slices dusted in charcoal which imparted a smokey flavour.
The baby leeks were peppery and along with the sprouts and sweet onion rings added textural variety to the dish. The pool of black olive purée in the centre of the plate was very strong in olive flavour, and a small amount was enough to add a bitterness to compliment the other tastes of the duck and vegetables.
You may have figured out by now that this so-called 3 course lunch actually involves all the complimentary in between courses as well, making it even better value. Case in point is the pre-dessert which is a luscious, melt-in-the-mouth custard flavoured with Sauternes, a French dessert wine. The sweet caramel topping is offset by the silky Sauternes custard which is slightly acidic compared to the caramel.
To top off a great meal, dessert is presented to us and it is an artwork of chocolate and cumquats. I've never had cumquats before but the tart and bitter flavours of the fruit are the perfect match with the rich chocolate ribbon and the sweet yoghurt sorbet. The poached cumquat halves are stuck onto the plate with a cumquat jam, and underneath the yoghurt sorbet is also some chocolate soil. The most peculiar element of the dish is the cocoa ribbon which looks like a thin sheet of melted chocolate, but instead of cracking when bitten into, it doesn't give and becomes a chewy cocoa treat. Sort of like a chocolate space food stick, but more sophisticated =P
The prix fixe lunch is probably only a small snippet of Mark Best's culinary skill, but it didn't fail to tantalise the tastebuds and explore a range of tastes and flavours in few dishes. It is definitely one of the best value fine dining lunches in Sydney, and this fact is not lost on Sydney foodies, with the waitress informing us that they have been booked out for lunch until the end of the year!
355 Crown Street
Surry Hills, NSW
Ph: +61 (02) 93322225
Lunch: Fridays from 12pm
Dinner: Monday - Saturday, from 6.30pm
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