I was starting to feel the pace after a week of exceptional socialising. After a fairly active day wandering around Sydney, including walking across the harbour bridge, I decided to eat somewhere fairly nearby and soon hit upon Bentley as a likely candidate.
It looked pretty swish but I quite fancied a tasting menu with a meaty emphasis and it fit the bill for that. It has two hats from the Good Food people and while exeprience told me this was not a two Michelin star equivalent, it still meant that the quality would likely be very high.
Upon entry it was immediately obvious that the place was very dimly lit. It was dark. Each table had a little lamp light to help illuminate dishes, but this was lighting at a level that did the place no favours. Presentation was hard to discern at times and the atmosphere was really curious. As you will see the want of brightness had a huge impact on overall scoring, which was a shame as much of the food was very good.
During the week, they offer a full a la carte plus tasting menu options but on Saturday night it’s tasting menus all the way. This left me with the choice of five or eight, plus the small matter of wine matchers or indeed premium wine matchers, as this is a place with an extraordinary wine list. You could do some serious damage if you got the whiff of Romanée Conti in your nostrils.
I opted for eight as the reason I’d picked the place was mainly to give Australian wagyu a look. I’m actually not the biggest wagyu fan as there’s a point – a point which wagyu often exceeds – where the exceptional marbling of the meat makes things tastes to me like buttered meat rather than distinctly beefy. I’m a heretic, I know.
Anyhoo, this menu had it treated a couple of different ways with some inexpensive cuts I’d not previously seem.
Things opened with a quartet of snacks comprising rock oyster, kingfish tartare, an unusual dish of beetroot treated like pastrami with beef powder and horseradish cream, and crisped kohlrabi leaves with whipped cod roe.
The beetroot dish was an experiment gone wrong, but everything else was excellent. The kohlrabi crisps were probably the winner as they felt both virtuous yet a bit naughty.
The next round of snacks involved a delicate parmesan tart, crisped potato topped with chives, wagyu tongue with fermented saltbush and native berries called muntries, and a cracker of dulse with toothfish.
Again, these showed accomplished kitchen work. The tongue dish was the most substantial and probably the most memorable.
Fresh bread with black sesame butter arrived at this point. This was very pleasing stuff.
The next course of Bass grouper was served in an absolutely massive bowl for some reason and was also the weakest wine pairing. The fish itself was very good with a smooth almond sauce but it was a course that needed some tweaking.
We moved onto a dish of local pork neck fillet finished on the barbecue served with a wasabi, lime and miso dressing. It had a lovely sweet smokiness to the crust with the meat succulent and tender. It was splendid.
The main featured wagyu chuck flap served with black radish wrapped asparagus. An elegant dish of kohlrabi with camel’s curd and nashi pear was a good accompaniment to the richly flavourful meat.
A trio of desserts followed with the quince sorbet with blood orange and straciatella the winner for me. In the dim light, the grated pomelo atop coconut ice cream looked like a bowl of grated cheese. The textures of pineapple were bright and zingy.
I rounded things out with comfortably the worst espresso I was served in Australia.
So overall, the food at Bentley was a slightly mixed bag. The hits – the pork, the kohlrabi leaves, many others – were extremely good, and most of the issues I had with less successful dishes were fairly minor. But most of all the place needs to be a few lumens brighter as the front of house gloom is doing a considerable disservice to the presentational efforts of the kitchen.
Blythe scores Bentley
4.5/5 for food
3/5 for presentation
3/5 for setting
4/5 for service
giving an overall 14.5/20
I ate: rock oyster; kohlrabi chips and whipped cod roe; beet-strami, beef powder, horseradish; kingfish; parmesan tart with tomatillo; toothfish with dluse; crisp potato, wagyu tongue; bread with sesame butter; grouper; pork neck; wagyu chuck flap flap, kohlrabi with nashi pear; coconut sorbet, quince and preserved lemon sorbet; olive oil ice cream, lactose, pineapple beer
I drank: ‘Gabriela’ manzanilla, Jurancon sec, Albillo orange, Viognier, Garnacha, French Malbec, Dr Loosen Riesling, water, espresso
I wore: newly laundered linens
Total bill: $272
Address: 27 O’Connell Street, Sydney, NSW 2000