Saturday, January 23, 2016

QT Sydney: ‘Gone to Gowings’ … for lunch and a facial

It’s the first week back at work in the city after a break in Tasmania and the contrast in the environment could not be more stark. I felt the tension creeping in my back, in my shoulders, my neck, my mind as I settle back in my office. Why are there so many impatient people in the city? 

I like immersing myself in hotels even if it’s in my own city. I don’t see them as a place to go to only if I travel. I see them as a sanctuary where I can experience a little luxury in a space of an hour that I have, to eat lunch or have a spa treatment. The hotel environment away from the hustle bustle of cafes and restaurants out in the streets in the city during workday lunch feels like I’m away on holidays, albeit for a finite period of time. Hotel environments are always so polished in service and smiles and of course, air conditioning to bring relief to your skin on a hot Sydney Summer’s day.

QT Sydney is in the heart of one of Sydney’s most busiest areas on Market Street opposite Myers which also makes it in one of the most convenient places to stay if you are visiting, a shopper and love the theatre (with the State Theatre right next door). I had a Friday lunch booking to try Gowings Bar and Grill for the first time. I remember seeing the moody and quirky interiors of the reception area a few years back and thought what a remarkable change from the old Gowings building and made a mental note that I must try this place. I remember being in the old Gowings department, when it was a department story that sold men’s clothing with a small run down café at the top where I use to meet school friends long ago for lunch in summer, with only fans and open windows to keep you cool. The dressmaker mannequins you see when you walk in the lobby area of Gowings Bar and Grill are an interesting touch, almost eerie and I thought to myself obviously someone has gone to some trouble to think about the interior décor to ensure my visit for lunch would be as much as a visual experience as it was a delectable one for my palate.

As I was shown to my table the first thing I saw was the long open kitchen, led by Executive Chef Paul Easson with the seafood station and wood fired rotisserie. I felt the energy of the people in the kitchen and knew that this was going to be a busy lunch. I wasn’t wrong. 

Many diners were men or women in suits, probably having lunch to entertain clients or colleagues. The chairs, décor and large open windows streaming in natural light lends itself to a perfect venue for corporate lunches.

The menu is the other thing you would want some time to have a look at as even the descriptions are creative and evocative that will conjure your own image in what the dishes may look like when they are served and seeing whether you were right or wrong when they are served.

We felt like seafood. For a starter we tried the Hot Spanner Crab Cakes, which were bite sizes of crumbed croquettes filled with soft stringy textured, fresh crab meat flavoured with double smoked bacon, celeriac, hot sauce, aioli and lemon. A delicious starter.

“Have you seen our tuna?” our waitstaff said to us. “No” I replied. “Do you want to see it? Come with me”, and I went with her to the kitchen to see one of the biggest tuna I’ve seen in a commercial kitchen, about a metre and half hanging vertically in the seafood station. “If you feel like seafood try The Tuna “Tonnato”. So I did. It is served raw garnished with fennel and red pepper crust, hot flashed tuna sauce, capers, celery hearts, and coriander.

We also tried the Healthy Fish Dish for our mains, admittedly caught by its name that gives us hope to better ourselves for a healthier start to the new year, this dish was a wood roasted ocean trout which was fresh, rare and soft dusted in sumac with its glistening roe garnished with garlic chives served on a bed of wild steamed black rice, and topped with a 64 degree free range egg, which I’m guessing is the temperature at which the egg is cooked at so that the yolk and the white is at the same consistency from what I can see and taste on this plate.

It was the desserts that won my heart. There are 7 different desserts to try and we chose the Gowings Classic Profiteroles and the Hot Beignets. The classic profiteroles were so fresh and spongy and the vanilla ice cream wedged between the profiterole pastries like a sandwich was a delicious cold creamy substitute to normal cream. The perfect summer profiteroles. The drizzle of chocolate sauce with little mini malteser like balls adds the mouth-watering, social media #foodporn viral touches to this dessert. 

On my instagram (, I tossed between showcasing the whole plate of Hot Beignets (which comes on a plate of 4) or to showcase what it looks like on the inside after I sunk my teeth into the golden soft sponginess of the sugar covered French doughnut. The true joy is when you touch it and put it in your mouth so I opted the latter picture for social media. It came out piping hot and fresh, straight out of the oven. 

Even if you just go to Gowings Bar and Grill only for dessert and coffee for the afternoon to catchup with friends or work colleagues, the experience is divine. Because we were in a rush and were pretty full, the waitstaff asked if we wanted to take the Beignets away. “Yes, of course!”, and happily finished them off in the evening at home.

There is a good and wide variety of Australian and International wines available at Gowings Bar and Grill too. I tried the Italian wine Accademia Dei Racemi I Monili Primativo 2013 from Puglia, Italy by the glass. I prefer wines that are lighter on the palate, which this one was. 

I found our waitstaff attentive, always keeping our eye on our table and listened to the our request that we had to finish lunch by 2pm to head off to our next meeting. I met the Director of Food and Beverage too and it was nice to see him asking the people at the table next to ours whether they enjoyed the meal and cleared their plates. This is probably a gesture that people may take for granted, or may go unnoticed but I noticed it as I see a lot of restaurant owners leave that sort of thing up to their staff.

Dress by @nextofficial (Instagram)

Gowings Bar and Grill was a lovely dining experience and I only wished I had more time during lunch to experience the dishes rather than rushing through them before I had to head back to work. Prices of the dishes are on the higher end commensurate with most Sydney hotel dining and so with that it is possible to have a higher expectation for quality food and service. You will get what you pay for. With its artistic and quirky interiors, and delicious variety on it’s menu, it is also a great place to go if you have a business lunch to impress and entertain your clients, a special night out, or just to go for desserts and coffee.

My experience at QT Sydney did not stop at dining. I subsequently went back in the early evening for a facial treatment at Spa Q, mainly because I got sunburnt during the holidays trekking in Tasmania. The quirkiness of the décor runs through to Spa Q too. One of the treatment room in Spa Q use to be a barber in the old Gowings building and when they renovated they kept the old tiles and look of this room, which became the inspiration for the entire spa. There is a masculinity to this room, clearly a reflection of its history. I was however in another room which was dark and moody and decorated with antique glassware.

I had the 60 minutes Uspa custom facial. I filled out a form beforehand to indicate what I wanted to achieve from the facial – treatment for sun damage, hydration, anti-aging , you name it I circled  it. The custom facial involved a deep cleanse, exfoliation, masks, cell therapy and a therapeutic face and scalp massage followed by an eye contour wrap to take care of the delicate eye area and hydration treatment to nourish and protect. The products used were organic and have healing powers of plants and herbs. There is a visible difference in my skin after the treatment - a lot smoother and more radiant. A lovely way to finish off a Friday evening I'd say.

Gowings Bar and Grill49 Market Street, Sydney NSW 2000
Cost: Starters from $24; Mains from $36; Desserts from $16
Opening hours:
Breakfast 6.30am – 10.30am
Lunch from 12pm
Dinner from 6pm
Bar 12pm – 12am

Gowings is closed for Lunch on Saturdays & Sundays
Book: 02 8262 0062 or online

Spa Q Sydney
49 Market Street, Sydney NSW 2000
Custom facial treatment (60mins): $150
Book: 02 8262 0088

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