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May 04


We’ve been gradually whittling away at Sydney’s three-hat restaurants, and last Saturday we went to Marque, on Crown St in Surry Hills. Unfortunately, in my opinion, Marque is easily the weakest of the three hatters (and I haven’t even been to Claude’s yet). It’s a new entry into the top tier of restaurants for this year, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see it drop one hat in 2005.

Marque is a very small restaurant, but its interior is quite pleasant. Lighting wasn’t dim and the seats were comfortable although the seating area was fairly cramped. I had a seat right next to the door which was not that pleasant – it was a windy night and I caught a blast of air in the face every time someone walked through it. The bathrooms were poorly maintained, which is an issue because over the course of a five hour meal with alcohol, you’re bound to make several trips to the toilet. The toilet seats wouldn’t stay up, and they also ran out of hand drying towels which meant you either had to walk out with wet hands or resort to using toilet paper!

The service was quite formal but passable. I do prefer a bit more personality in waitstaff. A few friendly smiles would have been nice. (Rockpool was an excellent example of this, where waitstaff were all too willing to join into a conversation with a snappy joke or two, and of course I am still amazed that they took the initiative to inquire whether I wanted a group photo when I merely put the camera down on the table.) Marque, because it’s so small, is a very noisy restaurant and sometimes it was hard to get a waitstaff’s attention. Their introductions of each dish were abrupt, and often not heard by half the table over the din.

The 8-course degustation menu was $125 (plus $65 for optional matching wines). The food was a bit of a hit and miss affair. Servings were consistently miniscule (even for a fine dining restaurant!). Three consecutive fish dishes were served (a raw cut of salmon, red emperor and I think some snapper which was pretty similar to the red emperor) and we were left wondering if there was any meat on the menu. After a dish of sweetbread (I don’t regard internal organs as meat), it eventually came – some duck served with licorice, which was excellent, even though I normally don’t like licorice. They also seemed to have a peculiar fascination with froth, which just wasn’t my thing. All in all, okay, but I really didn’t think it was in the same league as the other three-hatters.

Photos here