By Greedy Financier
Sitting down at The Rocks overlooking the harbour is Altitude Restaurant. Serving up modern Australian cuisine, it resides on the 36th floor of the lavish Shangri-La Hotel. I’m always a little sceptical of restaurants with a view, because all too often, you find that you’re actually paying for the view, as opposed to paying for the food. But since I love a pretty view (and I had an Entertainment Card which provided a discount!), I thought I’d give Altitude a try.
View from Altitude Restaurant
Going up the lift and walking into Altitude, I felt a sense of luxuriousness. The restaurant is beautiful, and has floor to ceiling windows providing stunning views over Sydney. We were lucky enough to be seated in the glass encased private dining room, away from the main restaurant area – which can get quite busy and noisy.
Sydney Rock and Pacific Oysters with Shallot & Red Wine Dressing
We decided to go with the Seven Course Epicurious Menu to sample everything Altitude had to offer. As a starter, we also ordered some oysters with shallot and red wine dressing. Altitude offers two types of oysters – Sydney Rock and Pacific – and until that night, I didn’t know what the difference between the two was. The waitress kindly suggested we get half and half. Immediately, one can see that the Pacific oysters are much larger, and I think, much tastier too. They didn’t have as strong a sea water aftertaste as the Sydney Rock. The shallot and red wine dressing accompanying the oysters was sweet and flavoursome, however, they didn’t give us enough dressing for the number of oysters we had.
Cured Yellow Fin Tuna with Pickled White Asparagus and Quail Egg
The evening darkened quickly, and in conjunction, the restaurant dimmed their lighting, so the first three courses did not photograph well (the second and third courses did not photograph at all, until in the fourth course, I decided to turn my flash on and distract everyone in the restaurant). First course was cured yellow fin tuna with pickled white asparagus and quail egg. The tuna was melt-in-your-mouth soft, and had a lovely hint of saltiness. The quail egg, unfortunately, was overcooked and didn’t have an oozy yolk that would have added creaminess to the dish.
The second course was an escabeche of mackerel, baby carrots and Southern Rock lobster with fennel and saffron sorbet. I’m not sure what escabeche means, but the seafood was cooked well, and paired perfectly with the fennel and saffron. The next course was a mosaic of suckling pig terrine with borlotti beans, chorizo and crispy skin salad. The terrine reminded me of eating spam, but a much more refined and fancy version. The crackling in the salad, however, was amazing – it was crispy, salty and just scrumptious.
Poached Hapuka with Pea-Quinoa “Risotto” and Cuttlefish
The fourth course was hapuka (a type of fish) with a pea-quinoa risotto, squid ink and cuttlefish. The fish had a nice meaty flesh, was perfectly seasoned and went well with the salsa like topping. I also quite liked the pea-quinoa risotto – it wasn’t gluggy, and was packed full of flavour. It was the type of dish that leaves you feeling satisfied.
Confit Thirlmere Duck with Black Pepper Spatzle, Fennel and Pedro Ximenez - Sultana Jus
For the main course, we got a choice of two dishes. The bf and I ordered one of each, so we could try both. The bf had the confit duck with sultana jus, and I, the lamb rack with cardamon jus. The sultana jus was delightful and sweet, and complemented the well-cooked duck. The only thing that was lacking was a crispy skin, and perhaps more jus on the plate. The lamb was just as appetizing – it was nice and tender, and was rightly accompanied with potato and kale. There was also another type of protein on the dish (I couldn’t really see what it was), but it was delicious and creamy – and reminiscent of eating marrow (maybe it was marrow!).
Roasted Murraylands Lamb Rack with Sauteed Cavolo Nero, Salsify and Cardamon Jus
To start off the desserts, we were presented with a shot glass of pineapple jelly and sorbet sabayon. The dish was refreshing, tangy and sweet. The pineapple flavour really shone through and the sabayon sorbet was silky smooth. It was an enjoyable little dessert, and I wouldn’t have minded another one.
Bethonga Pineapple Jelly with Sorbet Malibu Sabayon
And the grand finale was a dark chocolate fondant. It was absolutely divine. The fondant was everything it should be – rich, decadent and with a gooey centre! And it combined perfectly with the chocolate mousse and prune ice cream.
Warm Dark Chocolate Fondant with Milk Chocolate Mousse, Prune and Armagnac Ice Cream
As is the norm is fine dining establishments, we finished the meal off with some coffee and petits fours. As an extra bonus, we were treated to a fireworks display down at the Opera House (not associated with Altitude). However, as we were towering 36 floors above the rest of Sydney, the fireworks were diminished to looking like those cheap sparklers you place on your birthday cake.
Well, I have to conclude that Altitude was certainly a pleasant surprise. Although some dishes lacked finesse (and probably contributed to Altitude losing its coveted Chef’s Hat this year), the food put up was still delicious, (the servings were also pretty generous) and the views stunning – definitely a restaurant where the food is the main course, and the view is just a bonus side dish.
Monday to Saturday 6.00pm – 10.30pm
Ph: +61 2 9250 6123
Level 36, 176 Cumberland Street
The Rocks Sydney