10/23 Barangaroo Avenue, Barangaroo, Sydney, 2000, Australia

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Cirrus is located in Barangaroo, with a pleasant view over Darling Harbour. It is a seafood restaurant that is sister to the more corporate Bentley, and in the same group are Monopole and Yellow. The notional head chef according to the website is Brent Savage, though I suspect he is more of an executive chef here. The restaurant is on the ground floor of an attractive modern building, and has a smart feel to the room, with music playing including some Grace Jones songs tonight; noise levels were fine. The menu was fairly compact, with some raw food plus half a dozen starters, one of these a bread roll at $3, five fish main courses, some meat alternatives and a tasting menu at $110. 

The wine list was a substantial 500 reference affair. The wine list offered labels such as Unico Zelo Sauvignon Blanc 2017 at AS$56 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for AS$27, the pleasant Grosset Polish Hill Riesling 2017 at AS$126 compared to its retail price of AS$59, and Bass Philip Premium Chardonnay 2015 at AS$200 for a wine that will set you back AS$118 in the shops. For those with the means, there were prestige wines on offer too, such as Bell Hill Chardonnay 2014 at AS$370 compared to its retail price of AS$144, and Weingut Keller G-Max Trocken 2011 at a relative bargain price of AS$1,800 for a bottle with a current market value of AS$2,963. 

To start with there was torched bonito with cucumber, macadamia nuts and saltbush, a salty Australian herb. This was prettily presented and the fish was correctly cooked. The cucumber was a slightly bland accompaniment for the inherently oily bonito, but this was a pleasant dish (13/20). Smoked ocean trout parfait came with fennel pollen and pickled onions, though the latter were very subtle to the point of invisibility, the parfait served with toasted croutons. A cream of herbs on the side was rather bitter and would have been better omitted, but the parfait was fine (12/20).

Kingfish with sorrel and smoked bone marrow was nicely cooked, the fish having good flavour, and the bone marrow adding an umami flavour element (14/20). However barramundi with zucchini and kelp butter arrived blatantly overcooked and soggy in texture (8/20). This was particularly disappointing since barramundi is one of my favourite fish, and so to mess up such a fine fish is particularly careless. We had a bite each and sent it back. I was surprised when the waitress returned saying that the fish was exactly as the kitchen intended, and if they cooked it again it would return just as the first version. This response basically says that the customer is an idiot who has no clue what a piece of fish should taste like. I have eaten quite a lot of fish over the years, including many barramundi, and have a decent idea of what it should be like: soggy and mushy is not the desired texture, so for the chef to just brazen out and pretend that it was cooked perfectly was disappointing. We decided not to debate further and just moved on. Incidentally, I ate at The Golden Century Chinese restaurant quite near Cirrus the very next day, where I ate barramundi. The fish there was so fresh that it was still flapping as they removed from its tank on the way to the kitchen, and they cooked it very well. Even the barramundi I had on my flight out of Sydney was better. When an air steward can microwave a piece of fish in an airplane galley better than a professional kitchen can cook it then something has gone awry. Anyway, back at Cirrus, chips were quite good, and cabbage was nicely cooked albeit quite salty, even to my taste.

For dessert, I just had some cheese, being by this time sceptical as to what the kitchen might be capable of. A yoghurt parfait with cherries arrived in a pie crust which had decent pastry but was resting in coconut cream that doubtless was an original creation yet tasted exactly like a tin of coconut cream that you might put into a Thai curry (12/20 if I am kind). 

Service was mixed. When I asked our waitress whether I could have a side dish of cabbage that was listed on the tasting menu I was told initially that this was impossible, which seemed pretty ridiculous. When I asked her to check then the position changed; fine, but why not just initially say that she would check with someone that could decide rather than just saying no? The Italian waitress that took over for the rest of the meal was very pleasant. However when I asked whether Mr Savage was about I was confidently told that he was, but when I then asked to speak to him it turns out that he was not present after all. Again, why just lie to the customer? Wine topping up was good, and the sommelier was friendly. The bill came to AS$170 (£97) per person with wine, even with one main dish removed from the bill, no coffee and no pre dinner drinks, so AS$341 (£195) for two with a 10% tip then added. If you ordered three courses, a side dish and coffee and shared a modest bottle of wine then a realistic cost per head would be about £80. This seems to me too much. Even if you ignore the problematic main course, the standard of food here was decent but no more than that, yet the prices here are very high. It is impossible to recommend it.

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User comments

  • Joseph Sanki

    Andy I am glad you ate at the Golden Century. The live seafood cooked immediately is amazing. Next time at the Golden Century, try the coral trout. Sadly, your Cirrus experience is not uncommon in the Sydney restaurant scene, which is plagued by chefs with inflated egos boosted by sycophantic and unreliable critics.

  • Dan

    So the overcooked barramundi was removed from the bill despite being "exactly as the kitchen intended"?! Service does indeed seem a bit bizarre...