I visited Marque during lunchtime to taste their 3 course Prix Fixe menu. At $45 (+$5 for water), I thought initially that it was an absolute steal to be eating at one of the best restaurants in Sydney. Some might think that it's well worth it, regardless of what they serve (due to the intricate procedures employed for the preparation of the ingredients, etc.), but after my visit I didn't feel tempted to return.
We had booked for 2pm, so the 12pm lunch crowd was still withdrawing when we arrived. The premises are small, but I did not expect the restaurant to be so loud and busy - they were, in fact, so busy that they forgot to give us napkins. I had to attend a meeting that was scheduled for 4pm, so I was worried that I would have to cut the session short - my friend assured me that they normally finish up within an hour and a half, giving me plenty of time. Marque proved him wrong.
Anyway, first up was the amuse bouche - squid ink pillow with Buddha's hand (a citrus fruit with the appearance of a grotesque bright yellow hand) and pumpkin filling. The "pillow" was light and crisp, accompanied well by the sweetness of the pumpkin and zest of the Buddha's hand. Unfortunately, it set high expectations for the rest of the meal, which went downhill from this point.
The entree of cured salmon arrived, accompanied by (very dried up) dill, beetroot and horseradish. It was a really fresh dish and I loved the combination of dill and salmon (almost counteracting my dislike of cold entrees/mains in general). At the same time, part of me thought it was too simple for what a 3 hat would be expected to offer.
They came around with bread. I picked sourdough. It was soft and did well to mop up what little sauce there was.
The second time they offered bread, I went for the rye, which contained what I think tasted like cumin (it looked like cumin, but it could have been caraway for all I knew). Sadly, the butter was still chilled and difficult to spread.
Next we had a beef short rib dish with boudin noir, broad beans, pickled pear and hazelnut. The beef was slightly rubbery, though at least it was far from dry. The broad beans, pickled pear and hazelnut surprisingly went pretty well together, though I would have preferred the pear to be a tad less crunchy (the generous amount of hazelnuts contributed plenty of that already). The boudin noir provided a nice amount of salt to the dish - I personally have a gag reaction to anything involving blood and offals, though, so there was only so much I could swallow.
|Beef short rib with boudin noir|
Having been forced to face one of my fears, I was looking forward to a comforting chocolate dessert by the time I was done with that second course. It wasn't that comforting. If the impression they were aiming for was that of a clump of soil/ rock with bits of grain, I guess they succeeded very well. It certainly looked better than it tasted - although "Chocolate, malt and mandarin" sounds alright, the mandarin was intensely bitter and the chocolate wasn't much better.
By this time, it was nearly 4pm and I was desperate to leave. We asked for the bill and were given custard. I shovelled its entirety into my mouth and hurriedly paid. It tasted like my mum's creme caramel, except with a hit of alcohol (hence named after the dessert wine, Sauternes). Not the biggest fan of creme caramel, but it was uniquely presented and a whole lot better than the chocolate dish preceding it.
Based on my above experience, I'm not inclined to re-visit to sample their degustation menu. I might return in 6 months to give their Prix Fixe menu another go, as (according to one of the friends eating with me on the day) their food is normally a lot better.
And yes, I just managed to make the meeting.