Last Tuesday was my 20th birthday. To celebrate, my parents and brother made the trip down from Port Macquarie and we wined and dined all day long. I had reserved a table for five (Nathan included) at Altitude Restaurant in The Rocks to cap off celebrations.
Nestled on the 36th floor of the Shangri-La Hotel with Blu Bar, Altitude is simply an astounding restaurant. Upon stepping out of the elevators, one is met with sophistication at its finest. Even at the first point of the restaurant, we were greeted with charm as waitresses flocked to take our coats and lead us to our table.
Seated on the second tier of the restaurant--most of the window seating is reserved for tables of two--the Harbour Bridge is clearly visible as are the vibrant lights of the city and Luna Park. Further to the restaurant's east, patrons seemed delighted with the sweeping vistas of the harbour, the opera house and city skyline. Basically, Altitude provides a pristine opportunity to sit back in one's seat and relax. Indeed, perhaps at the core of the restaurant is relaxation (luxurious relaxation)--seated high above Sydney city with ever-doting waitstaff, there's not a thing to worry about bar what to eat.
The service at Altitude is refreshing, our water glasses are never empty, the meals come out at a speed that allows us to enjoy all the perks of fine dining and the waitstaff are the perfect amount of attentive.
To begin, Mum and I order cocktails, the boys opt for beer and we share a $55 half bottle of wine among the table. My vanilla passionfruit cosmo ($22 from Blu Bar) is a divine medley of vodka, vanilla liqueur, passionfruit puree, cranberry juice and fresh lime. Garnished with half a pineapple, it is deliciously sweet and yet simultaneously sour, and one of the better cocktails I've had.
My mother, a child at heart, orders the Hello Kitty ($23). I find myself for once quite jealous. Not being a fan of rum, I abstain from drinks in which it is included, but this mixture of rum, strawberries, mint and lime tastes similar to my preferred style of cocktail: the caipiroska. It's a sugary delight.
Having ordered our mains we wait. And a delicious wait it is when we find ourselves choosing between three beautiful types of complimentary bread (all forgotten bar the ciabatta now) that seem to be in endless supply. Next, we're served a scrumptious soup teaser which I recall including mulloway, leek and gruyere.
Revelling in our chance to be doted upon by genuinely friendly waitstaff at every turn, we order some beers, sip some wine from the massive wine glasses and ogle the delicious menu and view. It doesn't seem too long before our mains arrive. As it's a Tuesday night, we choose from the a la carte menu. Nathan ordered the grilled swordfish with steamed diamond shell clams, sweet corn and capers ($39). The presentation is beautiful, with salad twigs and a light foam. And while not amazing for the price, Nath found the meal favourable and enjoyable.
Again with fish, I choose a delectable main of Palmer Island mulloway, with baby globe artichokes, confit chicken wing and sauce matelote. At $38 and with past frugal fine dining experiences in mind, I was blown away. The crisp skinned fish fell off the fork, the chicken was tender and the sauce too die for. I was craving seafood and found myself more than pleased.
My brother and mother both had the roast loin of Murraylands lamb with pumpkin-fenugreek puree fresh yogurt and curry oil ($38) and my father consumed the duck. There were smiles around the table, all meals were devoured, and sauces were so good that what was left over from the mains were soaked up with that delicious complimentary bread, and devoured. Also on the table was a side of dill and butter poached kipfler potatoes ($10) which were by far the nicest potatoes I believe we've all had the pleasure of eating. The buttery crisp outside and the melt in the mouth consistency was purely scrumptious.
With a dessert menu featuring fondant, a fig tart and many other goodies, it was always going to receive more than a quick glance. But even before dessert, we found ourselves each with a palate cleanser: a mandarin jelly with star anise creme that is tart and light. Again, on the house.
Dessert, like our mains, did much more than please. The four different dishes we ordered were stunning to the eye and the care taken in planning each dish, the matrimony of ingredients, is clear as day in what is placed in front of us. There's also a lot of thought--as with everything in the restaurant. My dessert plate, for instance, was graced with a delicately written Happy Birthday message: traced twice over, in two types of chocolate. Beyond this extra attention to detail and care for its patrons, Altitude delivers delicious desserts. The caramelised banana with banoffee mousse, peanut brittle and vanilla ice creams ($18) is abounding in different soft and rough textures. Parts of it melt in the mouth, that is the tasty banoffee mousse, while others a la the brittle have that brilliant crunch. Perfection in a dessert.
We are equally pleased with the butter poached pear stuffed with hazelnut and milk chocolate also with hazelnut soup and quark ice cream ($18; pictured) and the dark chocolate fondant with milk chocolate mousse, prune and Amargnac ice cream ($18). Sure, one of the two fondants we ordered didn't actually arrive until we notified waitstaff, but the error was greeted with shock on our waitresses' face and it was very quickly solved (and wiped off the bill). The incident epitomises the service at Altitude, it's genuine, sophisticated and very pleasing.
Now, Altitude expectedly is not the cheapest of restaurants. For five, we racked up a $400+ bill for two courses ($150 roughly of this was drinks), but the experience is worth it. The food is excellent, sure it could be improved in parts, for instance Nathan was not bedazzled by his swordfish, but it's quite streamlined and luscious as is. I am certain few patrons would leave without smiles on their faces and a loosened notch on their belts.
Altitude Restaurant, Level 36 Shangri-La Hotel