I did something a seasoned restaurant diner would normally never do. I went to Bentley on the second day it opened. Usually, I will give a new place a few weeks to find their feet and resolve any teething issues. But my thinking was that Bentley isn’t “new new” – it’s a solid team that has just changed premises (and I’d been to the Crown Street original) – so I figured they would be on top of the situation. The new premises are in the CBD at the Raddison Blu Hotel, on the former Bistro Fax site. There’s been a bit of a restaurant migration to the CBD of late, which tells me that the corporate dollar, while sparser than it used to be following that terrible acronym the GFC, is still important.
The fit out is what you would call modern elegance. Plush carpet, beautiful veneer tables, gorgeous cutlery and plates (looks like the same guy that does the handcrafted dinnerware for Ormeggio?), with what Gourmantic aptly described as “pick up sticks” hanging from the ceiling. On the service side, the staff were simply wonderful. We had a little family challenge and drama that day, as is prone to happening in our household, and our booking time became somewhat fluid. They were fabulous about accommodating us. The staff were also all very knowledgeable about the dishes, and clearly adoring of the talents of the chef.
And if you’re up for a drink there is a seriously awesome wine list.
The menu too has that trend of modern minimalist wording. I’m fairly fluent in the matter of Language Menus, having passed LM101 some years ago and now doing the Advanced Course. But I did need some help with things like purslane, cardoons, quangdongs, samphire and the like (a succulent, an artichoke thistle, a fruit, a ‘salty’ plant, for those who also require interpretation). After our well informed waitress had enlightened us, this is what we ordered.
Southern Calamari + Carrots + Squid Ink + Sea Blight. How pretty! The paper thin carrots looked like a flower. We got too busy eating it, but underneath was this gorgeously swirled calamari and a delicious squid ink sauce, which I soaked up with the excellent sourdough.
Moreton Bay Bugs + Smoked Sweetcorn + Shellfish Broth – delicious and beautifully cooked.
It came with a side to mop up the broth. We’d been eyeing this off at the adjacent table. From a distance it seriously looked like a brownie, but a brownie with your main course? Turned out it was a squid ink brioche. The squid ink served in my mind to give colour rather than flavour, as it did just taste like a traditional buttery brioche. It came with a sea urchin emulsion, which I wasn’t a fan of.
Pork Loin + Macadamia Milk + Wattle Crumbs + Quandongs. It wasn’t a big piece of pork loin, but it was so rich that I couldn’t possibly have eaten more of it. I adored the combination of the macadamia milk and wattle crumbs, with the redness and flavour of the quandong.
Cape Grim Beef Tenderloin + Roasted Parsnip + Nettle Salsa. Again very well cooked and a lovely dish.
Aerated Chocolate + Fig Leaf Ice cream + Lemon Aspen. This was like eating one of those Aero bars and was good fun. Great ice cream.
Apricot and Black Cardamom Ice-cream + Cumquats + Saffron. This one didn’t do it for me – “interesting” is probably the word I would use. The cumquats, which I think were poached, were too intense for my liking, but my husband (the subject of the birthday message!) really liked them.
On my next visit (and I’m sure there will be one given the new location nice and close to the office), I would probably go heavy on the savoury and skip dessert.
Bentley Restaurant and Bar, 27 O’Connell St, Sydney, ph (02) 8214 0505