The sad reality of working full time and away from the city is that you miss out on great lunchtime only deals. No, not the $5 takeaway boxes at the food court during closing time. I’m talking about the two and three course bargains at the city’s hatted restaurants which pain me to miss out on.
One in particular that’s always bugged me is the Friday Prix Fixe lunch at Marque. Marque’s Friday Prix Fixe menu changes regularly and is a way for the restaurant to experiment with new dishes and take advantage of seasonal produce. Priced at $45 for three courses, it is one of the best value meals in this city.
Marque is located along the Crown Street gastrostrip, within an eyeshot of Billy Kwong’s and Bills. Its shopfront is discreet and unassuming, and continues inside with a very muted, understated vibe. There’s no music, merely the buzz of conversations flowing freely around the room.
Once we place our orders, we survey the room and notice that most diners are taking up the prix fixe menu – with only one or two opting for the full seven course degustation.
Our amuse bouche arrives, teetering on a moulded plate. The chaud froid served in an empty egg shell is a dish of contrasting tastes, temperatures and textures. Mr. Taste and I take a moment of silence to decipher our creamy mouthful. Whilst only a starter, it so eloquently summarises everything that’s great about Marque: pure flavours with a hint of experimentation.
An entree of cos lettuce follows shortly after. Don’t laugh, because this was the most amazing piece of lettuce I’ve ever tasted – or ever will taste. The marriage of sour, smokey and caramel flavours is spellbinding. I also notice the detail in the carrot and celery brunoise, which is diced so finely I initially mistake it for rice grains.
Mr. Taste and I were really worked up by this stage and our mouths water a little at the thought of the dish that awaits us next.
Our main is the wagyu rib cap, which is a chewy but flavoursome cut of meat. It’s almost like beef bubblegum – the more you work at it, the more flavoursome it becomes. Accompanying the beef on the plate is a cucumber foam, which adds a touch of freshness to the dish, and browned shallots that are sweet on the tongue.
As we polish off another delicious course, the waiter reappears with our palate cleanser, which is a sauternes custard. It’s almost a pre-dessert in itself because it’s so rich and decadent. The slightly bitter caramel is addictive and leaves you hanging for more, long after you’ve finished.
Sadly, this is where the wonder ends. Our dessert course of cocoa noodles cruelly brings us back down to earth. We don’t think it was a terrible dish, it just wasn’t for us. Our main issue was with the yoghurt ‘water’, which in itself was aromatic and lovely, but when mixed with the cocoa, slowly started to resemble dirty dish water. It was an unusual dish, treading too fine a line between experimentation and reality.
Mr. Taste looks up at me, halfway through the dessert and said, “we had a good run.”
Indeed we did, five out of six dishes ain’t half bad.
4/5 355 Crown Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010
# 02 9332 2225