Everyone has heard about the current state of affairs in the Sydney restaurant scene. Restaurant upon restaurant is closing due to a number of reasons – one of those being the drop in numbers of people dining out. There is very much a ‘use it or lose it’ vibe around town. Having had enough of the closures, Jill Dupleix and the team at SMH decided to do something about it.
Of course I was straight onto it, perusing the list of offers restaurants were dishing up. Straight away the deal two hatted Bentley Restaurant & Bar were offering jumped out at me – 5 courses for $70.00 per person. I’d been to the Bentley back in 2010 for a work dinner and had been determined to return soon thereafter. With a deal this good it was impossible to say no.
I booked dinner in for Dylan and I on a random Tuesday night. And then I counted down the days. Yes, I get a little bit excited!
Taking a look at the regular menu Dylan saw the Black Angus beef dish, turned to me and said we should just go all out – support the restaurant and experience the full tasting menu. Rubber arm over here thought it was a brilliant idea.
Tasting Menu – $120.00 per person / with matching wines $210.00 per person
- Malt cured ocean trout with pine nut and trout roe
- Kingfish with roe, juniper and baked potato broth
- Tuna, pickled mussels & octopus with squid ink, quinoa and sea grapes
- Balmain bug with lamb sweetbread, black bean and coconut curd
- Pork cheek with fennel, black garlic and calamari
- Fillet of Black Angus beef with Jerusalem artichoke, rosa radish and burdock
- [Optional Course - $10.00] Creamed Brillat-Savarin with pretzel, celery and hazelnut
- Frozen goats cheese mousse with violet, buckwheat praline and passionfruit ice cream
Bread and EVOO.
It was a welcome change to see olive oil on the table. I absolutely adore butter, but a really good olive oil is hard to pass up and with butter taking over restaurants at the moment I enjoy it when olive oil makes an appearance. The bread was Iggy’s sourdough and it was great as always.
Malt cured ocean trout with pine nut and trout roe.
The first cab off the rank was the ocean trout. A swirl of pine nut cream was not what I would have thought to go with ocean trout, but the creaminess went well with the malt cured ocean trout.
I ordered a glass of the wine that Nick had matched to the first course (2010 Donnhoff Dry Riesling Nahe, Germany), a dry Riesling with a crisp palate and lovely acidity. I’ve recently honed in on Rieslings and thoroughly enjoyed them, this was a nice pairing with the first few seafood dishes.
Kingfish with roe, juniper and baked potato broth.
Next up was a gorgeous piece of poached kingfish. Oh how I love kingfish, though more often than not I am devouring sashimi, so the lightly poached fish was a nice change. And for once a piece of cooked kingfish did not let Dylan down. Poaching the kingfish boosted the delicate flavour normally seen with sashimi while enhancing the fish’s wonderful texture. Surrounded by liquid gold in the form of baked potato broth we both loved this combination.
Leek and baby potato with fenugreek, oyster mushroom and almond sauce (Complimentary).
We were surprised to see the next course arrive at the table as it was clearly not the next seafood dish. The team kindly sent us an addition to the degustation and I was speechless. Many chefs don’t do vegetarian dishes very well; Brent Savage is not one of them. This dish was insane.
Such a varied dish in terms of elements – but it was this diversity that brought it all together. The baby potatoes were still quite firm, and with the skin on there was a double texture going on that was great. Creamy and ever so smooth, the almond sauce was able to pull the other ingredients together to lift the dish. Hints of pea puree punched through the almond sauce while the oyster mushrooms added contrast to the crunchy translucent crisps.
Tuna, pickled mussels & octopus with squid ink, quinoa and sea grapes.
‘Pickled mussels’ was stuck in my head. I wasn’t quite sure if this would be my kind of dish – if you haven’t worked it out already, I hate pickled anything. But I of little faith was put in my place as usual. While the seafood elements were enjoyable with a variety of types and feel, the hero of the dish for me was the squid ink quinoa. So used to having quinoa with more of a crunch, it was a revelation to experience it this way. There was still the firm bite evident but beyond that was a creamy richness that completely blew our socks off – it was utterly addictive. Dylan has never been a fan of squid ink but said this dish has changed his mind.
Balmain bug with lamb sweetbread, black bean and coconut curd.
Service on the evening was a little erratic with some dishes coming out in quick succession and others taking forever to reach us. But we didn’t have anywhere else to be so we were happy enough chatting away while we waited. And as they say (whoever ‘they’ are), good things come to those who wait.
An absolute hit of the evening – plump Balmain bug, pan-fried lamb sweetbread, black beans and coconut curd. Wowsers, the coconut curd was insanely good – sweet but not too sweet, creamy and silky smooth – unexpected and totally perfect for this dish. And with the match made in culinary heaven of velvety sweetbreads and subtle bugs it was hard to pace ourselves. The addition of tapioca pearls that were cooked to perfection and a few sprigs of samphire made for a very unique food experience.
Pork cheek with fennel, black garlic and calamari.
Next up was one of Brent’s signature dishes – pork cheek with fennel, black garlic and calamari. The piece of pork cheek with the jamon herb crust was inspired; soft giving cheek full of pure pork flavour and a salty smoky slap from the crunchy and intoxicating jamon crust. Another wonderful dish with interesting textures. Little nubbins of black garlic purée were quickly devoured by two garlic lovers, rich and sweet with that gorgeous garlic undertone. With such dominant flavours I thought the calamari may feel lost but as it was cooked to perfection it was almost as soft as the pork and was a lovely addition to the dish.
Fillet of Black Angus beef with Jerusalem artichoke, rosa radish and burdock.
And then came the dish that swayed Dylan to choose the full Tasting Menu rather than the Appetite for Sydney menu. The juicy piece of Black Angus beef fillet seemed to glisten on the plate with a rosy pink centre. We dug in and we treated to a sensational beef fillet; it was hard to fathom how tender and moist the steak was, we were both grinning from ear to ear. Burdock and Jerusalem artichoke were a great synergy on the plate and the radish played its peppery part. Another treat was the beef powder hiding up the back of the plate that really amped up the meatiness of the dish.
[Optional Course - $10.00] Creamed Brillat-Savarin with pretzel, celery and hazelnut.
I wanted the cheese course but Dylan didn’t. I would normally follow his lead but this time around I decided just to listen to my eyes (bigger than my tummy) and go all out. There were interesting textures going on with the creamed cheese, crunchy pretzel and wafer thin slivers of celery. Though sadly the intensity of the salt seemed to outweigh the benefits of having the celery and beetroot to accompany it making this one a very rare miss.
Rhubarb sorbet with apple and black olive (Complimentary).
Another unexpected dish from the kitchen. A brilliant combination of apple and black olive with the tart rhubarb sorbet. I loved every aspect of this dish and how it all came together. Refreshing is an understatement with the magnificent quenelle of sorbet cleansing the palate thoroughly yet accompanying the big hitting combination of olive and apple superbly.
Frozen goats cheese mousse with violet, buckwheat praline and passionfruit ice cream.
I’ve discovered my new favourite frozen delight – frozen goats cheese mousse! It was like a party in my mouth with contrasting textures and flavours. The mousse had the perfect texture – not hard or soft, still creamy and light, yet firm. That’s really the best way I can describe it. It’s really just one of things you have to go and try for yourself! It paired so well with the sweetly acidic passionfruit ice cream. A brilliant dessert.
But it wasn’t over just yet! Some petits fours arrived to accompany our macchiatos and these little bites were incredible. Sticky chewy honeycomb centre with a dark chocolate outer, all dusted in cocoa and a sprinkling of salt. Absolutely delectable. I wonder if Brent would share his recipe?
How cute are the macchiato cups?! In fact, how stunning is all of the crockery? The Bentley guys have a friend who produces all of their range which matches the style of food and the restaurant so well. Love it!
Brent Savage knows how to surprise and delight and Nick Hildebrandt sure knows wine. Together they make an impressive team. While I chose not to have the matching wines, Nick’s suggestions of wines by the glass were spot on. He steered me in the right direction and didn’t miss a beat. We left with big smiles on our faces and so happy we decided to go all out with the Tasting Menu. We will definitely be back – soon!
Bentley Restaurant & Bar
320 Crown Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010
(02) 9332 2344
Bentley Restaurant & Bar Website