When you dine at Marque you are not given a menu (or order of service) at the start of the meal. They save the excitement, introducing each dish as they serve it. I wanted to preserve some of that in this review. The names of each dish -- if you want to spoil it or are not going to dine at Marque anytime soon -- are visible if you click the magnifying glass under each dish.
Scampi with tomato and tomato leaf. (The menu says scampi, but I was told marron on the night. CONTROVERSY!)
Smoked duck egg with charred cherry, pepper and leek ash
Duck liver with sea blight and quinoa (not pictured)
In case you didn't notice, Molly, it was an amazing experience. Some really innovative things. Mixing up red and white wines, and throwing beers into the mix. Taking traditional dishes and messing with the techniques and ingredients used to make them. Another thing I noticed was that the 'theme ingredient' of the dishes was not always what you'd expect. The scampi/marron was more like tomato five ways. The beef dish was all about the mustard. Thoroughly interesting if you're paying attention to the food.
Not everyone was, though. Maybe it was just end-of-year business dinner splurgers, but some tables seemed to barely look at (or taste) the food. I did wonder how Mark Best et al must feel when that happens -- whether business is business, or whether the chefs' passion should be shared by diners.
Aside from a few not-quite-there elements (the first wine not quite matching; the lemon with the NZ fish; crockery which ate your cutlery if you didn't balance it just so) my visit was sublime. I'd never had really rare beef before, and it was the best steak I've ever had. The food was interesting. Subtle when it needed to be, and never too salty or too sweet. Even the desserts managed to balance the sugar without sacrificing flavour. I was replete without being stuffed; merry without being drunk. Staff were personable and attentive (with a high ratio of staff to diners). All in all: exceeded expectations.
I won't bore you with the exact price, Molly. After all, two of us had the works (minus an aperitif): matched wines, the extra cheese course. Suffice it to say that throwing in the ~$80 cookbook only added about 15% to the total.
Ouch, but wow.