Aria, Circular Quay

It’s not often that you hear that one of the top restaurants in Sydney is doing a seasonal spring lunch special, so when I was told about Aria’s $35 September lunch special which included a glass of wine I jumped at the opportunity to try it out.

Aria is one of Sydney’s most established fine dining restaurants and was awarded 2 Chef’s Hats in 2012, cementing its position at the higher end of the dining scene. Apart from its reputation for superb food, it also boasts a postcard perfect view of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge through its glass windows, providing a very scenic backdrop for our meal.

You need to ask the waiter specifically for the lunch special to see the menu of the day, and after settling in we started with a complimentary amuse bouche of a Carrot and Ginger warmed soup in a shot glass. I’m not a fan of either carrot or ginger, but surprisingly enjoyed the intensely creamy flavours of the pureed vegetables, priming my appetite for the main course.

Amuse bouche – carrot and ginger warmed soup

The main dish of the lunch special is chosen from a series of dishes featuring various cuts of beef created by Matt Moran – which dish you receive depends on the day you dine at Aria. We ended up with the Beef Brisket which isn’t my favourite cut of beef but Aria did a fantastic job at making the meat quite tender through their slow cooking process – the beef almost melted in my mouth and was layered with lots of flavour. The serving of the beef on the plate was more filling than expected and I struggled to finish it, although I did quite enjoy the side of creamy, buttery mash which came with it.

Slow cooked, glazed beef brisket with red onion choucroute and a balsamic sauce

This lunch special came with a glass of Topper’s Mountain wine but I passed on the alcohol as I was heading back to work soon after the meal. However, I did come back to Aria for their Let’s Do Lunch special during the month of October.

Our amuse bouche this time was a creamy cauliflower soup sprinkled with some juicy salmon roe on top. My friend wasn’t a fan of the strong flavours pureed into the mini cup it was served in, but unexpectedly I didn’t mind it at all even though cauliflower isn’t high on my list of favourite vegies.

Amuse bouche – cauliflower and salmon roe soup

The main dish featured for Let’s Do Lunch ($38 pp) has been on their Good Food Month menu for the past few years – Cone Bay Roasted Barramundi with Alaskan Crab and Pea Risotto.

Cone Bay roasted barramundi with Alaskan crab and pea risotto

A glass of Brown Brothers 2011 Pinot Grigio and tea or coffee were also included in the price. I opted for the wine this time and thought that it was a lovely complement to light flavours of the main dish. The flesh of the Barramundi was still slightly moist, which contrasted nicely with the lightly crispy crackle of the skin on this reasonably-sized portion of fish. As much as I enjoyed the flavours of the Barramundi, it was resting on a bed of delicious risotto which I could not ignore. There were more hints of fresh seafood with the shredded pieces of soft Alaskan crab meat, complemented by sprigs of dill and the sweetness of the peas. All in all, it was a light yet filling meal which left both my tastebuds and stomach quite satisfied.

After thinking about the two lunches I experienced at Aria, I have to say that I preferred the flavours of my second Aria experience because I’m more of a seafood person. But the professional yet friendly service at Aria was consistent across both visits and the staff make you feel at ease while you’re enjoying your meal and the stunning view through the windows.

I’d come back again to celebrate a special occasion (instead of just splurging for no reason like I did these 2 times) but luckily for those who are keen to try Aria soon there’s a November lunch special for $35 which features different seafood dishes and a glass of Bartlett’s wine.

1 Macquarie Street
Sydney, NSW 2000
Phone: (02) 9252 2555

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