A full renovation of Sydney’s iconic fine-dining destination sees a new organic space inspired by Peter Gilmore’s celebrated cuisine. By Frank Leggett
Quay restaurant has been at the centre of Sydney fine dining for the past 30 years. During that time, the original George Freedman interior design has been changed considerably. When The Fink Group decided to reinvent and update the interior, the team turned to architectural firm Tonkin Zulaikha Greer (TZG).
“We started to think about the space differently,” says Tim Greer, director at TZG. “We decided it would be really interesting to orientate the restaurant more towards the harbour and less towards Circular Quay.”
The brief was informed by executive chef Peter Gilmore’s philosophy of food and cooking, specifically the natural and the organic.
“That was a good starting point for the project,” says Greer. “We utilised natural materials—stone, timber, leather—and broke down the space into pools of three or four tables. These areas are separated by organic curving forms that are very sumptuous.”
As Quay’s aspect looks north towards the harbour, TZG purposefully kept the floor and ceiling of the restaurant simple to highlight the movement of the water.
“At first glance, the carpet appears to be blue but it’s actually made up of many different colours,” says Greer. “Depending on the time of day, it can range in appearance from a greenish hue to blue-black. The timber ceiling is simple but its textured, organic form draws the eye towards the view.”
The majority of the lighting is concealed. In addition, each table has its own light with a number of different settings.
Quay’s artwork includes a four-metre-long Bronwyn Oliver piece called Tide outside the front door, and the function room has Four Seasons by Japan’s Teamlab.
“It’s an animation of world-heritage, rural rice paddies,” says Greer. “The animation receives real-time data so when it’s raining or nighttime in Japan, that is shown in the animation. It’s totally mesmerising to watch.”
The kitchen runs like a precision clock so getting the timing right is paramount—to lose a meal is disastrous.
“Not only was the kitchen completely refurbished and refitted,” says Greer, “we also ensured the waiter flow is only in one direction. The waitstaff go out through the bar, circle around the restaurant then exit behind the private dining room. It’s one-way traffic only.”
The newly refurbished Quay is sumptuous and enveloping—a peaceful haven that is completely connected to the harbour, bridge and Opera House. “It really is the perfect venue to eat Peter’s food,” says Greer.