Recently, I was invited to a lovely lunch at Bennelong. Now in the hands of Peter Gilmore, I haven’t been here since Guillaume was at the helm.
When Guillaume’s lease was up back in 2013, the space was put out to tender with a brief that it would be “more accessible”, and Guillaume wasn’t keen on a more casual type venue. The Van Haandels, behind Melbourne’s Stokehouse, won the tender and planned to open it seven days a week including breakfast on weekends. While it was not going to be cheap, the plan was to make it more affordable than a fine diner and not such restricted opening times. Imagine going there for a breakfast or brunch on a special occasion like Mother’s Day or a birthday, or going just because it’s a beautiful Sydney morning. It never happened though, with the Van Haandels’ Melbourne restaurant tragically falling to a fire, and their attention had to be focussed on rebuilding that.
In steps Peter Gilmore to take over. And I’m not sure what happened to the whole desired more casual vibe that made Guillaume walk away, as it’s very much a fine dinner, with lunch only three days a week and dinner seven days. And I don’t think the whole “accessible” thing has really been achieved with a three course meal at $135 for lunch and $145 for dinner; add a few wines and coffee and $200 per head is not a normal meal for most people, even the well healed, so special occasion it is. Bit of a shame as more people should get to experience this unique space.
Now I will say that I’ve always thought Peter Gilmore’s Quay was a little overrated, and I’ve been a few times. If I was going to splash out, it wouldn’t be on my list. So I was curious here. And it was a really lovely and beautifully presented meal – with entrees outperforming mains – but I didn’t walk away thinking I’m dying to go back, and there is a dish I must have again, and I must take the Marito and and and…
On the menu that day:
Tartare of Rangers Valley wagyu with horseradish cream, capers, parsley and crispy beef tendon. I love a good tartare and this was well balanced with the horseradish and the textural element.
Confit tomatoes with straciatella, smoked almonds, sherry caramel and linaria (which is a herb apparently). Essentially Italian cheese and tomatoes – a very classic combination, but a richness was added with the caramel.
Yellowfin tuna with kohlrabi remoulade, anchovy emulsion, black rice and lava chips. Beautiful quality tuna.
And for the mains, pink snapper with radish, shellfish broth and lobster roe emulsion. So tiny for a main course, and not sure where the broth was.
Grass fed lamb, spring cabbage, fermented rye peas and blossoms. Again a very small main course, and this was disappointing as the lamb was cold and a bit chewy.
Onto dessert. Now this dish, strawberries and cream, did wow me. I don’t really do strawberries much, but this was just a wonderful combination of flavour and texture and tasted so lively and fresh.
Finally chocolate cake from across the water (does that mean Tassie?). I’m not big on chocolate and found it bitter, but the chocolate fans on the table liked it.
Bennelong, Sydney Opera House, Ph 9240 8000