What makes a good restaurant? The overall 'experience'? The food? The price? The service?
Well, Sepia ticks all the right boxes.
I have been wanting to visit Sepia Restaurant for months, but bookings for Saturday night are a couple of weeks in advance. Having secured a booking for last Saturday, we braved the cold, rainy weather to experience the warmth that is Good Food Guide-'hatted' Sepia dining.
You are made welcome from the time you walk in the door. The dining room is all dark brown wooden surfaces (no tablecloths!) and cushiony banquettes along the walls. The jazz music in the background is quite loud, so the diners make up for it by talking louder - it can get quite, er, loud, at times.
There is a set 9-course degustation menu on Saturday nights in May and June ($130 per person, with $70 extra with matching wines). I'd give my kingdom (or credit card) for a good degustation any time.
I'll just give you my impressions of the food and service - it's was all perfect, in case you just want a summary.
Click on the picture above for a closeup of the menu;
warm bread roll was served with whipped truffle butter;
in addition to the menu, we ordered the 'special' for the evening: Sydney Rock oysters ($4 each) from Tathra Lake and Merimbula, served with sweet rice wine vinegar and lime dipping sauce;
the amuse bouche was a tomato liquor with chia seeds
First course: Pickled cuttlefish, bacon noodles and smoked quail egg;
Second course: tea-cured Hiramasa kingfish, popcorn dashi and corn silk (didn't eat the corn silk, as it looked like a garnish)
Third course: Queensland spanner crab and buckwheat risotto with shellfish essence (foam) - very intense shellfish flavour that almost brought out my allergy;
Fourth course: Butter-poached Murray cod with wakame, braised bone marrow, apple jelly, kohlrabi, baby radish and puffed skin - this was my (equal) favourite dish of the night, due to the beautiful presentation, perfectly-cooked fish, and the fish skin that tasted like crackling.
Fifth course: Aylesbury duck breast with braised almonds, almond milk and fennel candy (on a stick - lovely flavour). Also, notice the pretty elderflowers on the almond milk;
Sixth course: Poached Angus beef fillet on braised short rib, with buffalo milk 'tofu' and quinoa
Pre-dessert: Ginger foam with finger lime 'caviar' - tingly-hot! (and how I covet the Rosenthal cups and saucers);
1st dessert: mini 'Weiss' bar of mango on macadamia biscuit base, topped with pineapple and foam with nasturtium petals, and a streak of lemon sherbet
Second dessert: Sour cherry sorbet on 'forest floor' of biscuit millefeuille shavings, green tea 'moss' and crystallised fennel fronds. Under the floor was a chocolate disk with chocolate cream and lavender cream. Look at this plate and tell me it's not the most lovely thing ever! This was also my favourite dish, as the lavender cream was matched flawlessly with the chocolate and sour cherry. And the presentation was spot on.
Petit fours: mini Magnum ice creams, lychee Turkish delight and green tea marshmallows.
Tea and coffee: Macchiato and English breakfast tea.
I was most impressed by the waitstaff, who, when asked, knew what each component of the dishes were, even the fiddly things like elderflowers, orange powder and fennel fronds. And given the price and quality of the meal, I'd say that Sepia is as good as the meal we had at Quay. Sure, the setting is not as fancy, being located at the base of an office block, but who can compete with the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, anyway? Lots of taxis pass by the building, too. And I liked how they open the door to thank you and see you out when you're leaving.
So, all up, it was a wonderful night - with 3 1/2 hours of fabulous food, I'm not complaining. In fact, I'm planning my next visit. Just remember to book ahead.
Sepia Restaurant (http://www.sepiarestaurant.com.au) is at
201 Sussex Street, Sydney, NSW, 2000.
Ph: + 61 2 9283 1990