Bentley Restaurant and Bar is one of Sydney's influential restaurants, having been awarded two Chef Hats in 2020 (the Australian equivalent of Michelin stars). They have been open since 2006, serving seasonal items in their modern Australian cuisines.
We dined here for our 6th year anniversary in late June and had a lovely time. At the time of dining, NSW was 2 weeks out of the 3 month Covid19 lockdown and people were thrilled to be seated at restaurants and eating out again.
It was a set tasting menu of 4 snacks, 4 mains and 3 desserts for $180 per person.
To start any fine dinner, we have our bread and butter. The bread had fennel seeds, coriander seeds and orange zest. It was very soft and had an airy texture so it didn't feel carb-heavy. There was a sweet coating on top of the bread, almost rounding off the bite. The butter was slightly salted, creamy and had hints of cheddar. I wanted to keep eating but Mick told me not to fill up on this starter 😤
The four "snacks", or entrees, came out all at once and we were overwhelmed by the sudden abundance of food. I've posted it from our least to most favourite.
Our least favourite snack was the smoked eel dumpling with lemon jam. The pastry was soft and mushy in this one-bite ball. The eel flavour was mild and bland, with the smokiness coming through in the aftertaste. It was interesting but overall, as a dish, it was just not our thing.
Coming in third on our list was the Jerusalem artichoke with delice des cremiers. The artichoke flavour was well salted and good. It was balanced out by the triple cheese which was light and creamy. The presentation was very delicate but it was not enough to beat the other two snacks.
We liked the celeriac and truffle toast next because it was blooming with flavours. The cheese was fluffy and creamy on top of the thin pastry toast. Every bite was light and melted in our mouths. The truffle was subtle and enhanced every bite with its delicacy. Yummm.
But it does not compare to our favourite snack, the sea urchin custard with tomato broth. Woah! The presentation was spectacular! They carved out the sea urchin and created this amazing pudding only to put it back in the shell 😍 The tomato was a sweet acidic tang and not at all overpowering. It complimented the urchin custard so well by cutting out the heavy umami taste sea urchins are known for. The nucleus had been refined perfectly, creating this delicious and balanced bite. We loved it!
Our first main was the Fremantle octopus with sunflower, lardo and Geraldton wax. This was an interesting dish with lots of intricate textures, like the crunchy sunflower seeds and the tender octopus meat. The first bite had a strong impact of salt and as we chewed, we tasted a lingering bitter oceanic taste from the octopus. There was a bit of kaffir lime in the sauce, which brought out a hint of Asian inspirations. Finally, the vegetables added a cool freshness, cutting through the concentrated sauce. It was delicious but not our favourite out of the mains.
We were informed this was a dish designed pre-Covid (3 weeks prior to the lockdowns) and it did not get the chance to shine long enough so Bentley included it in this post-Covid tasting menu.
Next was the kangaroo with castelfranco and riberries. I really enjoyed this dish because it came with the bone marrow broth in a cup. Compared to other restaurants, we thought this kangaroo tartare was a unique take because the tender meat was intertwined into the mixed shredded cabbage and riberries instead of being placed next to it, creating this simple salad-style presentation. It was refreshing to eat and contrasted well with the creamy and rich mayonnaise.
Woah! This was the bone marrow broth, inclusive with the kangaroo tartare, and upon first sip, it tasted like a concentrated slurp of phở (Vietnamese beef noodle soup) 😍. The broth was a light viscosity. We tasted the nutmeg and staranaise but unlike the traditional soup, there was also a hint of cinnamon and a lingering bitter aftertaste from the red wine deglaze. The flavours were strong and strangely addicting (added MSG?) that I slurped both down to nothingness. So good!
Our third main dish was the pork jowl with wattle seed, macadamia and sunrise lime. This fatty piece of Peppa Pig was so tender that our knives cut through like warm butter. Every bite was compact and powerful with savoury juices of pork, emulsified macadamia and acidic lime gel. Mmmmmmmm. Deliciouss. We loved the crispy pork skin, paired with the creamy and rich mashed potatoes.
Our final main was the wagyu beef short rib with bone marrow toast and charred onion. Holy shit, we were getting so full by this point but that didn't stop us from eating this super tender piece of meat. Mick was mind blown 😲 The wagyu was fatty and flavourful and melted in our mouths with its delicious juices. The brown sauce was thick, sticky and salty. The charred onion added sweetness and dimension to the bite. Towards the end of the dish, it felt heavy and was exhausting to finish because of the fatty meat. In our opinion, some acidity was needed to cut through between the pork jowl and the short rib.
The wagyu was served with these bone marrow toasts. It was very creative and unique, with a beautiful presentation. The bone marrow flavour was clean and mildly infused in to the nice, crunchy bread. The delicate herbs on top brought a bit of spice to the bite, cutting through the richness of the dish but it was not enough to cleanse the palette from the overload of fatty meats (pork, wagyu, bone marrow).
Hmm, the beetroot sorbet was an interesting dessert. Mick does not like beetroot so after a bite, he handed his one over. It honestly tasted like eating a soft, cold beetroot. The flavour was strong with a bitter aftertaste. The sprinkles of dark chocolate and raspberries created texture but otherwise did nothing. This was not our kind of dessert.
Ok, ok, now this is a dessert, with a show! The staff wheeled around a small cart with a pot of freshly cooked mandarin. They poured it around this quince with fennel pollen, buttermilk, mandarin, creating this beautiful hot and cold dessert. 10 out of 10 for presentation 😍. The contrasting temperatures were pleasantly soothing on our tongues. The sorbet was smooth and icy with a mild quince flavour. The mandarin was sweet and comforting, embracing our taste buds with its warm hugs. It was the perfect winter dessert and we loved it!
To end our dinner, we had the petit fours. This was a strawberry gum biscuit. It tasted like a sickly sweet cream inside a soft pastry. We did not like it.
This was the dark chocolate with honeycomb bite of the petit fours. It was really good, like a sticky bold amount of cocoa.
Finally, this was the banana and yuzu bite of the petit fours. The banana was hard to chew, like a lolly, and while it was stuck in our teeth, the mild yuzu cream would ooze away. Their textures did not mix well.
We had a lovely dining experience at Bentley. The interior was beautiful. The staff were friendly however we got mixed feelings for the vibe of the restaurant. The Front of House was formal and coldly professional whereas our server was chill and informal so we were not sure if we felt comfortable or uptight during our meal. There was an element of prestige and, dare we say, arrogance in the air 🤔.
For the food, every dish was unique in its own way and presented at a steady pace. The tasting menu was a great selection for a reasonable price. In our honest opinion, as delicious as they were, most dishes lacked a wow element. We also thought the menu was too rich and needed more freshness and acidity to break up the main course. Otherwise, it was a great culinary adventure into Australian cuisine.
Until our next meal, happy eating!