Several people had suggested that I should dine at Bennelong when in Sydney. When they explained it was in the Opera House I was a little cautious as sometimes these sort of places can be a bit tourist trappy, but then again I reflected upon the memory of the excellent Bozar as an example of how the arts venue restaurant can be done brilliantly.
The Sydney Opera House is one of a very small handful of globally recognisable buildings. Seeing it first hand was every bit as mesmeric as you might imagine. To dine inside one of the iconic sails was quite magical. Both interior and exterior of the restaurant were just amazing. I said wow out loud at least three times while looking around the room which is not really my normal behaviour.
The menu is a brief and focussed a la carte with three courses for $145. This proved a fair price for the quality and not in the realms of a gratuitous tourist premium, which was very good to see.
The menu – from chef Peter Gilmore, who is also the operator of nearby three-hat restaurant Quay – was squarely focussed on Australian produce but with an array of world cuisines referenced in style and techniques. From that I chose the Princess Charlotte Bay bug dumpling to start then followed with local grass-fed lamb served with Jerusalem artichoke and broad beans.
I sought advice from the sommelier after having started with a glass of Tasmanian fizz. He recommended a chardonnay with the starter and a cab merlot with the main. These worked out very nicely.
The starter was an elegant dish with hispi cabbage adopt a deftly created gyoza-style dumpling. Flavours were bright and fresh and seasoning spot-on.
The lamb came with sides of chive-topped potatoes and lightly dressed leaves. The lamb was beautifully cooked to pink and succulent. The potatoes were delicious. The whole dish was simple but with a high level of understated elegance.
I rounded things out with a cheeseboard of Australian cheeses. This is not a strength in general in Australia, but these were good cheeses served with a nice array of crackers. A bit of chutney or even some more of the excellent unsalted Tassie butter that had come with the bread wouldn’t have gone amiss, though. The accompanying tawny port was a very good pairing.
So overall, Bennelong did a very good job of putting out plates of food to match the incredible building in which the restaurant is housed. I’m sure there is better value to be found in the city, but this was highly accomplished cooking and a place I’d urge you to add to your list, particularly on a first visit to glorious Sydney.
Blythe scores Bennelong
4/5 for food
4/5 for presentation
5/5 for setting
4/5 for service
giving an overall 17/20
I ate: Princess Charlotte Bay bug dumpling, lamb, potatoes, salad, Australian cheese
I drank: Tasmanian bubbles, chardonnay, cab merlot, tawny port, water
I wore: new Fernet Branca pin
Total bill: $204
Address: Sydney Opera House, NSW 2000