King Henry V ruled France for a mere 7 days before being replaced by countryman Louis Phillipe as ruler of the Fleur de Lis. One may find the parallels eerie, then, that Bentley, my previous pick for "The Cookbook to Buy This Christmas", has been handed a stiff amount of competition from fellow Australian Peter Gilmore's "Quay". In what is already shaping up to be a fantastic season for cookbooks (with No. 1 Chef Rene Redzepi releasing his first book earlier this Fall, Thomas Keller printing his "Essential Thomas Keller" book set and Jamie Oliver's 30-Minute Meals flying off the bookshelves), Australia is firing on all cylinders in the cookbook department.
While it may not display the mystery and intensity of Bentley's all-black Monolith cover, Quay sports plenty of aesthetic choices that make for easy eye candy. Peter Gilmore's restaurant, upon which the book is named, specializes in what he calls "Food Inspired by Nature". Australia's bounty of gorgeous seafood is used to full potential within the kitchens of Quay, and Chef Gilmore has transferred his passion from the front pass to front pages. Recipes are generously provided for the "Pearls" that are a signature at Quay; something that the majority of restaurant chefs choose not to do.
Semi-transparent pages are littered throughout the book. While it in no way contributes to the quality of the recipes or the flavour of the food, it is refreshing to see a chef who thinks not only about the presentation of his food, but also the presentation of his book. The hazy pages definitely enhance the visual experience, as turning to the next page mimics the lifting of a fog that has shrouded Australian cuisine in obscurity until just recently.
As with the Bentley book, this review must come with a forewarning that the majority of recipes included are targeted at intermediate to advanced-level cooks. Many recipes also require pinnacle ingredients such as sashimi-grade fish, osetra caviar and truffles. As is often the case with a restaurant that prides itself upon fantastic product, many dishes in this book rely on the quality of its individual ingredients. Having said that, a considerable factor in favour of this book is the pages upon pages of inspirational material. Even though an entire dish may not be executed, individual components of each dish are fantastic recipes to keep in your mental back pocket to pull out when a situation calls for them.
Coming in at No. 27 on San Pellegrino's list of the World's 50 Best Restaurants, and beating out the likes of The French Laundry and L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Quay deserves a well kept spot on every foodie's bookshelf. Perhaps one may not find themselves cooking out of its pages on a regular basis, but it serves as a powerful reminder that there are big, and tasty things coming up From Down Under.
Hardcover, 288pp, $ 82.95
Review by Kevin Jeung