For over seven years the Bentley Bar was a Sydney icon; a Surry Hills magnet for wine lovers and gourmets alike, so it came as something of a surprise when partners Brent Savage, the chef, and sommelier Nick Hildebrandt decided to move lock stock and barrel to the Radisson Blu Hotel in the CBD.
Approaching six months in its new digs, the re-named Bentley Restaurant and Bar has moved smoothly into top gear.
A friend and I were invited to dine on a Tuesday night and both us were totally impressed by the ambiance (the eatery was close to full), the quality of the food and the excellent wine matches by the glass. And neither of us is that easy to please.
"This is in every way a dream restaurant for us,” said Savage when the new venue launched. "The fundamentals of Bentley as it was in Surry Hills will remain - serious food and wine served in a relaxed, modern and informal environment, but the beautiful new space will enable us to take Bentley to the next level.”
Fortunately Savage’s food, offered a la carte, as a tasting menu or part of a separate bar menu, remains cutting edge; innovative and impeccably judged, while the service, guided by sommelier and general manager Glen Goodwin, is both informed and efficient.
The bar area can cater for up to 30 drinkers and diners with casual choices ranging from charred beef tartare to a Bentley sandwich, while the 80-seat dining room has a bustling feel, although the tables are so well spaced so we could not hear what former NSW Premier Kristina Keneally was discussing at the next table.
|Nick Hildebrandt and Brent Savage|
Hildebrandt, one of Australia’s most-awarded sommeliers, has created a wine list of over 1000 labels, with an intriguing selection by the glass.
The design is by Pascale Gomes- McNabb, famous for her work with Cutler & Co and Cumulus in Melbourne; eateries blessed with a similar vibe. Home to the Radisson Blu since 2000, the heritage-listed building was built in 1856 by John Fairfax & Sons and housed the Sydney Morning Herald for almost 100 years before becoming a bank.
Highlights of our tasting menu included an amuse bouche of crispy coated brandade of smoked eel partnered but a crisp and fresh Blanc de Morgex from the Val d'Aosta in Italy, followed by a garishly-coloured dish of scallop, foie gras and raspberry (right) - a delightful little mouth explosion of flavours matched to a delightful 2012 Robert Weil Trocken Riesling.
Next came a delicate but flavoursome onion broth with Jerusalem artichoke and Toma della Rocca cheese (this with a funky 2010 Domaine de l'Horizon Macebeo blend from just outside Perpignan), followed by a charred pork cheek, garlic and yoghurt puree, raddichio and jamon, perfectly paired with a 2012 Pinot Noir by Lucy Margaux extrovert Anton von Klopper.
Next up; Rangers Valley skirt steak with fennel mustard and olive (left), an unfashionable cut beautifully presented alongside a glass of stunning Luke Lambert 2012 Syrah, then mandarin ice cream with coconut and a licorice leaf, beautifully matched with a simple Tokaj.
Many of the wines on the list are organic, biodynamic or preservative free, but there's also an impressive array of Champagnes.
If you love wine and food that challenge the senses put this one on your list.
Bentley Restaurant and Bar, Radisson Blu Hotel, 27 O’Connell Street, Sydney. (02) 8214 0505.
Open Monday-Friday for lunch; Monday-Saturday for dinner.
Bookings: firstname.lastname@example.org, www.thebentley.com.au.