So recently in the news, the owner of Pier, Greg Doyle, has publicly announced that he would be symbolically returning the 3 chef’s hats bestowed upon the Rose Bay restaurant in the last Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food Guide. There’s plenty of speculation as to why, although the departure of head pastry chef, Katrina Kanetani as well as the rumoured departure of head chef Grant King are the main tidbits. Along with the return of the hats, the restaurant will pare itself down somewhat as well.

Instead of the demanding pressures that having 3 hats does to a restaurant, the idea is to have a less formal, more casual approach. Our waiter for the evening put it as “hopefully, friendlier”. It sounds bad no matter how you put it but I suppose they just wanna chill and ease off the pressure. Kitchens can be pretty hellish.

Right, so in a roundabout way, I suppose you might have deduced that I’d just scored a table with some friends on Pier’s last night ever as an official 3 hat restaurant. Of course, that’s not to say that they won’t get 3 hats in the upcoming guide but that they’re not trying to aim for the hats and are just tryin’ to make some nice food.

It was a super impromptu thing. It wasn’t particularly hard to get a reservation and the restaurant wasn’t super booked out or anything. We opted for the degu, a decision cemented by my feeling lonely if I was to opt for an a la carte selection. Of the 6 in my party, I was the only one who had been before, thanks in no small sum to the charity of my parents. I was also ranting and raving about the place to my mates, so in the greater interests of culinary curiousity, our wallets would have to take the hit.

It was 8 courses. 4 of which I had before. The first 3, I was telling stories about the plating and the presentation. Removing the details I suppose and the surprises, giving away the punchlines. Which probably irritated the shit out of my mates and made me look like some pretentious ass. I simply hoped that I could enhance the experience I guess. Silly me. The other 4 were new though, which was enough justification for me. Instead of 3 substantial tastes, I’d get new unsubstantial ones. That was the basis of my menu choice reasoning.

Opening act was the king salmon tartare served in deep fried wanton skin. Less salty than the last time, a pleasurable experience and introduction to the top quality fish they have on offer at Pier. In terms of raw ingredient, this shit is the best you can get in Australia.

Second course was a variation of one I’d had before. Ceviche of coral trout with tomato and lime vin and some herbs. Little parcels of flavor, an exercise in restraint and seasoning to precision. Simple but delightful.

Three. Tian of spanner crab with scallop carpaccio, split peas and a basil/mint consomme. Just as wonderful as the last time. This one had my friends lit up in just a touch of wonder. We also picked the matching wine for this, an Italian, 2008 Fiano Bianco from Puglia. Not sure of the producer but it had a modernist white and green label. Beautiful as the last time. Sweet, succulent and so fresh. Clean as a whistle.

Four. Ah something new at last. Cauliflower tofu with a seared scallop, foie gras and lobster consomme. Smelt like prawn noodles. A really dope one. Tasted like wonder. Of course, the consomme would be a touch strong, salty even but it went so well with everything else. I’m not so sure about the crisp caramelized skin of the tofu soaking in the soup but I suppose if you put foie gras down and cooked it nicely with a good, big fat scallop, you’ll win just because.

Five. Steamed Blue Eye with textures of mushrooms, madeira jus and cauliflower puree. There was a mushroom air, mushroom soil, slippery jacks and a thin sliver of a porcini. Sure the ingredients are repeating here but flavor was on point. The major setback was the blue eye, a tough, meaty kinda fish that was a bit of a chew. It’s one of those fish that I’m not a massive fan of. It was a choice that was able to carry the deeper flavors on the rest of the plate but certainly felt like it may have been a forced decision via situation.

The sixth course, we were told rather suddenly, was unavailable. They’d run out of goat’s cheese. Which was a good thing for some of my friends. So we had the choice of subbing a cheese of our choice or we could share 3 full sized desserts. We chose the latter. Pineapple pappardelle with lemongrass cream (I think!) and some other stuff was bright and cheerily turned out to be the pick of the lot. There were some forgettable spheres and some crunchy things! I had a small amount so I couldn’t get a good whack at it. Then there was Lemon Olive Oil ice cream with fig cream gaufrettes. Ice cream was ok, fig cream was fine, gaufrette ok. Not as awesome as I think the thing read off the menu. I suppose it lacked a depth which was attempted in part with this pine nut dressing but it just lacked oomph or maybe I just needed more. The last one was textures of chocolate that came with a foamy mousse, cake, white choc soil, milk/cardamom ice cream and some lovely dark choc stuff. I think in summary, sharing the plates probably sucked.

Seven. Carrot Sponge with cream cheese frosting and ginger sherbet. Lovely zing from the sherbet. The sponge noticeably dull on my palate. Probably because I’d made so many aerated sponges in the months before. The flash had died on what was probably more interesting the first time but not lasting.

Last course though, saved the day. It was a Buttermilk Chiboust served in a stemless martini glass plonked over an ice bed inside a bigger cup. The top had a lime granita that had wonderful flavor and texture. Yea texture. It tasted like the perfect lime popsicle. There was also a peach sphere, some persimmon garnish and raspberry sorbet on the bottom. Delightful stuff. Starting out bright and turning deeper as you go. It was a nice little exit as it were.

As we left, I caught a glance of the kitchen through a small window. Some of the guys were having a friendly tussle at the end of service, what must certainly be a strange one. One that means they get to ease off a little, which is probably a lot. I haven’t eaten at all the amazing restaurants Sydney has to offer as yet. I do know that there are plenty of fine seafood restaurants that serve good fish at rape prices. I don’t know if I’d even stumble into those places. If I ever do want to be raped whilst eating fish though, I’d would gladly do it at Pier, three hats or no.

* Trivial final parting paragraph/rant. There was this table near us that asked the waiter what they could have. Their restriction being seafood. They couldn’t have any. Jesus. I mean, why go into a seafood restaurant lauded for being one and ask for meat? Or veg? Why not go to any of the other fancy places that does more variety? It’s absurd and I suppose one reason why it’s insane to try to keep a 3 hat restaurant at the level it’s at when the people eating don’t understand a flying fuck about anything to do with eating out. Sure I’m jealous that peeps can drop dosh just like so because they can, but maybe you could have gone elsewhere? You know you might be better off, not that Pier’s non seafood options might be rubbish. There just isn’t much of it. Logic fail. It’s this sort of ignorance that beggars belief. People really hate activating their frontal lobes huh.