2 May 2010
Pier @ 594 New South Head Rd, Rose Bay, NSW
Over the years, Pier has been consistently awarded three hats in the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide and is widely regarded as Australia's finest seafood restaurant. Having dined at Tetsuya's the earlier night, I must admit that we greeted Pier with far less enthusiasm than it deserved. We arrived at Pier for lunch with no preconceptions as to the quality of the dining experience, and soon realised that this would work out in both our and Pier's favour.
The restaurant occupies a slightly dilapidated building in Rose Bay at the edge of the water. However, the interior more than compensates for any external aesthetic blemishes and is dominated by the crisp white linen table cloths and an open spaciousness that is, no doubt, added to by the windows that surround the dining room; windows which provide a grand view of open water and the moored yachts of the adjacent club.
For lunch, we ordered the degustation menu of 8 dishes consisting of five savoury items and three desserts (a $169 choice).
The meal began with a salmon tartare that was served whimsically in a cone of fried pastry and which, as instructed, we each consumed "like an ice cream". The balance of flavours of the salmon tartare was impeccable and was complemented nicely by the crisp buttery pastry. A carpaccio of coral trout followed. The trout was light, delicate and superbly fresh. The accompanying tomato and lime vinaigrette and soft herbs provided a light summery tone to the dish. Still, as good as these starters were, the true highlights were the final two savoury items.
First, the cauliflower tofu and lobster 'agedashi' with poached foie gras and seared scallop. This was served in a bowl of lobster consommé. Initially, the consommé, while rich with the flavour of lobster, seemed to lack seasoning and be one dimensional. However, towards the end of the dish, the soft cauliflower tofu had disintegrated and the soup had completely transformed. It became remarkably flavoursome, rich and complex; perhaps even better than the lobster consommé at Quay that has long been this reviewer's benchmark. The scallop and poached foie gras also complemented each other perfectly. The scallop was seared to perfection, rare in the centre but caramelised on the outside, and had a delightful sweetness.
Second, the seared kingfish with textures of seasonal mushrooms. Although ordinarily adverse to mushrooms, I have to admit, the flavours of the woody mushrooms, none of which were overpowering, worked superbly. As expected, the kingfish was the star of the dish. Cooked to perfection, the flesh was succulent and delicate and had a rich buttery flavour which harmonised well with the earthy mushrooms.
The consistency continued through the desserts. The first, the "textures of Goats Cheese", was scrumptiously different from run of the mill desserts. It was dominated by the tartness of the goats cheese which was served as both a frozen soil and a rich cream. An apple sorbet and apple slither provided a complementary sweetness to the dish. The second, a carrot sponge cake was notable for being exceedingly light. The final dessert, a buttermilk chiboust with raspberry sorbet provided a refreshing finish to a varied and interesting menu.
Having eaten at Tetsuya's the night before, it is difficult not to compare the standard of service. At the absolute margin, Pier is bested by Tetsuya's in this regard. This is not due to any deficiency in Pier's standards; Pier simply delivers smart and efficient service where Tetsuya's evokes military precision in its dining room operation. Service standards at Pier are unquestionably excellent.
As mentioned earlier, our lack of expectations ensured a more memorable experience. We were surprised with each delicious dish and in the end we were stunned by Pier's consistency. Couple the food with the bay views, the pleasantly airy dining room and the very diligent service staff and it is easy to see why Pier is so highly acclaimed. I cannot comment on whether it is truly Australia's best seafood restaurant, but I can say that it is one of the very best restaurants I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. Highly recommended.