After drinks in Blu Bar on 36 (and if you’re in Sydney, you must have a cocktail or two here), my darling friend Mel and I proceed next door to another stunning location, Altitude. There’s not much to describe décor wise, as the floor to ceiling windows steal all attention with their postcard perfect capture of Sydney’s dazzling harbour at night. From Luna Park and the Harbour Bridge on our left, to the softly lit Opera House on our right, the waters are a bevy of activity. Providing hours of entertainment we find we must consciously drag our eyes from the view and give some attention to the menu.
An extensive wine list offers no less than 25 vintages by the glass, with Australian labels dominating the collection. Food can be ordered either as a seven course Epi-Curious menu or four course à la carte selection. The majority of dishes are marked with a leaf, which means the ingredients are “rooted in nature,” featuring ethically sourced local ingredients. After the cocktails we’ve luxuriated in Blu Bar on 36, there are way too many choices here, so we leave decisions to the experts by choosing to share the Epi-Curious menu with wine pairing, with a couple of chef’s specials recommendations thrown in – they’re small plates we’re assured…
View from Altitude Restaurant, Shangri-La Hotel Sydney
The Amuse Bouche leads the meal with immediate drama. Two shells hold salty fresh-from-the-sea oysters above a bed of rocks and a whirl of smoke from dried ice. The petite bites of full flavour effectuate their role, opening our appetites and minds for more.
Cured Yellow Fin Tuna with a confit of quail egg yolk, black sesame and grapefruit continues the ocean fresh theme. Two pieces of fish, the first more naked with only the black sesame acting as a coat, the second smothered in the egg yolk, produce a contrast to the bitterness in the yuzu gel that sits below two petite celery half moons. It’s a pretty plate, resembling random jigsaw pieces, but comes together with a well-thought wine pairing.
Cured Yellow Fin Tuna
A 2014 Millton “Te Arai Vineyeard” Chenin Blanc, from Gisborne New Zealand smells like spring and furnishes great texture, long viscous legs and sufficient acidity to partner with the fresh fish, but also to cut through the creamy yolk. It’s crisp in the beginning but goes down with syrupy ease.
2014 Millton “Te Arai Vineyeard” Chenin Blanc
Tasmanian Salmon comes with compressed apple, horseradish and granola. “It looks and tastes pretty good,” smiles our waiter as he lays it on our table confirming our looks of admiration. “That’s beautiful, I’m taking a photo too,” declares my dining buddy, Mel. Cucumber powder, a paintbrush stroke of squid ink, apple caviar, yuzu gel, crème fraiche and granola that has a distinctive liquorice flavour, provide a merry-go-round of vivacity that serves to both complement and contrast the buttery fish.
We move to Frankland River, Western Australia for this wine match of a 2013 Franklin Estate Isolation Ridge Riesling. A strong mineral presence on the nose is reflected in the palate with a crispness that acts as a second knife slicing cleanly through the buttery salmon. Try a toothful of granola followed by a sip of the wine to really bring out the fennel presence.
2013 Franklin Estate Isolation Ridge Riesling
We diverge from the Epi-Curious line-up with one of chef’s recommendations from the à la carte menu, the Seared Scallops. These succulent Novoscocian shellfish come with an Iberico ham crumb, braised abalone, salsify and dried persimmon. A bonita gel and foam contribute a saltiness to the dish, balanced by the oyster mushrooms and sweet paper-thin dried persimmons. The verdict: delicious.
“France, Alsace, and then I started thinking about Alsations,” Mel distracts as the next wine is poured. The Domaines Schlumberger, Pinot Gris, Les Princes Abbés of 2013 has a mild sweetness in the palate, which seesaws with the overall salty profile of the plate. Alongside a bit more texture, it also complements the golden caramelization of the scallops.
2013 Domaines Schlumberger, Pinot Gris, Les Princes Abbés
A number of people have spoken to us of the Swordfish Loin so we have an elevated expectation of this plate. Served with corn, curry and coconut it’s an unusual combination. The flesh of the sous vide fish is moist and meaty contained by the crispy seared outer edges. Charred sweet corn in white balsamic vinegar contributes juiciness to the overall profile and the puffed wild rice is a distinct variance in texture. Thai green curry foam and coconut powder impart interest and ensure all remaining corners of the mouth are filled with flavour.
A 2012 Oakdene Chardonnay from the Bellarine Peninsula in Victoria is the partner for this signature dish. The bouquet is especially pleasant, and the body high in acid but leaves the mouth with an oaky touch that does particularly well with the charred sweet corn, but also with the mildly oily fish.
2012 Oakdene Chardonnay
Redgate Farm Spatchcock is up next with the breast roasted and the leg done as a confit. Butternut pumpkin puree, braised chestnuts, hazelnuts, sheep’s milk yoghurt and feijoa supply an abundance of exotic companions. The nutty pastes are delectably morish and the poultry decadently rich. This dish has us both moaning. Even though our tummies are coming near their filling points, it’s a recipe that leaves us wanting more.
Redgate Farm Spatchcock
Macedon Ranges in Victoria bring us the wine pairing of a 2011 Curry Flat Pinot Noir. Normally in Australia pinot noir is grown closer to the sea, this one however comes from further inland so is more of a challenge to produce, but a successful one despite the obstacles.
2011 Curry Flat Pinot Noir
A fine-grained ginger and yuzu sorbet, icy, cold and fresh, and does its job well as a refresher of the palate.
We’ve chosen two mains from the Epi-Curious menu: red meat and poultry, both locally sourced. The first sees juicy forkfuls of Riverina Lamb, escorted by braised savoy cabbage, Brussels sprouts, roasted almonds, eggplant and goats’ curd. Two different cuts of lamb produce a duo of textures: soft fleshy braised lamb shoulder, and the other, a lamb fillet rolled in white onion powder. Both supply a full wallop of flavour.
A 2013 Inkwell ‘Infidel’ Primitivo from McLaren Vale, South Australia, plays nicely with the lamb. It’s glides down all too easily with a medium body and lingering finish.
2013 Inkwell ‘Infidel’ Primitivo
Glenloth Duck is our second main, and comes with burnt apple puree, cider braised endive, glazed figs and nashi pear. Mel says, “That’s good duck,” I have to agree. It’s cooked two ways – pan roasted breast and confit leg – and both prove moist and soft. The sweet fruit sauces supplement the hedonistic richness, while the faintly bitter endive cuts through the overall intensity.
Another fantastic red, both saucy and heroic, is found in the 2014 Frederick Stevenson Vine Vale Grenache from the Barossa Valley, South Australia. Pleasant aromas are followed by a bulging mouthful of juicy berries with undertones of chocolate, ending with a savoury finale.
2014 Frederick Stevenson Vine Vale Grenache
Just when we think our delicious experience is about to end, we’re presented with a “pre-dessert dessert.” Mel’s of the mind that this concept of pre-dessert dessert should be much more widely promoted – where has this pre-dessert dessert concept been all of her life? It’s served in a Bodum double glazed glass featuring a bottom pool of apple jelly, followed by passionfruit sorbet and lastly topped with apple foam. Moving from dense to lighter in a trio of layers – jelly, sorbet, foam – it’s simply yum.
Presented in a multitude of flavours and textures is the dessert dessert, Blueberry. Blueberries, blueberry sorbet, white chocolate, basil gel and sugar glass are arranged in a pretty composition that is equally delicious to the tongue as it is to the eye.
Apparently Kanye West drinks our sweet pairing dessert wine, a 2013 Saracco Moscato d’Asti from Piedmont, Italy. I’m unclear as to whether our sommelier is a West fan or possibly thinks (mistakenly) that we might be, but either way he says it’s arguably one of the best of its kind. It does smell wonderful. It’s light and sweet in the mouth without being sticky, and is ever so slightly effervescent.
2013 Saracco Moscato d’Asti
Tea and coffee come with petite fours, which we declare we can’t possibly consume, but unquestionably do.
The Epi-Curious menu is priced at $150 per person, and $215 with wine pairing. The wines have indeed been expertly matched and we figure that if you’re going to pay this price for a meal, you may as well make the most of it and go whole hog with the vintage mates as well. Spectacular views, beautiful local produce prepared by expert hands, fine service and excellent wines – it’s a special evening worth saving some time for.
Reasons to visit: stunning views; excellent wine pairings; the Epi-Curious menu; gracious service.