Bentleys Restaurant & Bar Cover

Bentley Restaurant & Bar – Refined, Boundary-Pushing Dining

And yet, it’s so sad to hear that Bentley is closing down in August. Luckily, it doesn’t seem to be a permanent closing as it may reopen under another name (a…Chinese name?) but that’s a story for another day – when and if it happens.

I’ve had Bentley on my radar for quite some time now, but as usual, it was a matter of occasion to find a good time and occasion to go. As it turns out, a friend belatedly treating me for my 22nd birthday was just on the cards :D

Bentley is renowned for its very unique flavour synergies that are quite compelling and exciting. I walk in, tastebuds tingling in anticipation.

Date Visited: 25/05/2013
Address: 320 Crown St Surry Hills, NSW 2010
Go-to dish: fillet of black angus beef w/charred onion, leek & red cabbage

I walk into Bentley and I was…concerned. Let’s just say the light levels were uhh….not too good.

Bentleys Restaurant & Bar 25-5-13-1
Uhhh yeah, it’s pretty horrid

That is what the lighting levels was somewhat like to the natural eye. Now the reality is that you’ll actually be able to discern more because your eyes are able to adjust in sensitivity more than a camera, but that’s essentially what you’d capture with a “normal” exposure at a reasonable shutter speed (say 1/60) at base ISO.

Bentley Restaurant interior
Ahhh…much better

The above is what it looks like after a massive ISO boost (and shutter speed slowdown).

Bentley's Restaurant
Another picture, because picture.

This pretty much means one thing if you’re a food blogger – you either come at lunch, you either come with a tripod or flash, or you’re simply not going to end up with a usable photo.

As for those people who decide to go down the flash route…I’m judging you guys hard.

All the other reviews of Bentley I’ve seen out there have either been taken at lunch which showcase how great the food is. The downside to this however is that there’s no degustation covered – it’s time to bridge this gap guys: armed with a tripod, I gun for their signature 8-course, $120pp degustation.

Bentley's bread
Bread…err…or not

Okay well the bread kind of went by before I could set up my tripod. Thanks :P

But all good it was standard stuff, served at room temperature with a toughish crust that is made very enjoyable upon submersion into the olive oil. A great way to begin stoking the appetite.

Bentley's Starter - spanner crab w/spaghetti squash & yuzu
Starter – spanner crab w/spaghetti squash & yuzu

The first course comes in the form of a light crab salad.

  • Refreshing points get awarded to the taste of the crab itself and the yuzu dressing. The tang is great for the crab, but doesn’t steal its natural meaty flavour
  • The nuts come as a great texture balance which is compounded upon by the crispiness of the squash fruits

It’s very simple, yet extremely well-made and pretty much hits the nail on my palate.

Bentley's Seared scallop w/sweet potato, sea banana & smoked eel
Seared scallop w/sweet potato, sea banana & smoked eel

I actually have NO idea what a sea banana is. Somebody tell me? The purple stuff in the picture is the sweet potato, the scallops are easily identifiable and the white purée tastes like potato, though it does taste a bit like smoked eel once mixed with the emulsion at the centre.

The result is a very rich and satisfying dish. The sweet potatoes especially were very fulfilling, while the tender scallops were portioned perfectly and seared to match. I gotta say it’s pretty daring for Bentley to go into a such a rich dish as only the second, but as I find out soon enough, it’s like an ebb and flow which builds up to a crescendo…

Bentley's Tuna, pickled mussels & octopus w/squid ink quinoa & sea grapes
Tuna, pickled mussels & octopus w/squid ink quinoa & sea grapes

I had no idea what sea grapes were until I read about them in Wikipedia. Apparently they’re called as such as these fruits grow close to several beaches. OH OKAY.

This dish is interesting in that it was a bit of a sweet and savoury package, leaning more towards the former.

  • Oh man, I sure wanted more tuna that’s for sure. The portion on the plate is barely wider than my thumb, and it’s as wide as it is deep. Served rare, it’s how I’d like it to be for a dish like this
  • You could definitely taste the fine graininess of the squid ink in that quionoa. The slight “clicky” crunchiness associated with quinoa is also there.
  • The octopus is actually probably the best I’ve ever had. It’s the first time I’ve had octopus that truly had none of the toughness that’s inherent to these creatures. They must’ve gone through an intense massaging routine. The result is some insanely tender, yet firm tentacles. I’m seriously, seriously impressed

A fantastic dish.

Bentley's Spiced heirloom carrot w/pistachio, yoghuur & black olive
Spiced heirloom carrot w/pistachio, yoghurt & black olive

The only fully vegetarian dish in the degustation, I didn’t think I’d give it much thought. 

But then again, I’ve really got to stop underestimating what hatted restaurants can do when working with just vegetables.

  • The veggies were poached in a way that they retain their crunchiness, while becoming tender so that the first bite through is clean and satisfying – kind of like a resistive spring
  • Flavour comes courtesy of the black olive mush, which made for a potent but necessary complement to the otherwise texture-only vegetables. The orange-coloured yoghurt (what was in that??) served as the medium that brings all the elements of the dish together

Bentley also offers a vegetarian degustation – that’s saying something. Vegos, take note!

Bentley's heirloom carrot
Yay I got two pics this time!
Bentley's Roasted quail w/mushroom custard, peas & mint
Roasted quail w/mushroom custard, peas & mint

Mmm quail, pigeon’s fine dining brother. There’s little difference between the two, but quail is regarded to be higher quality and unfortunately, it is more expensive as a result.

I’m never sure why quail always seems to be served at a rather tepid temperature, but this seems to be the case of the quail I’ve had for as long as I can remember having it.

  • The standout here is actually the mushroom custard. As you know, I’m not particularly fond of mushrooms, but boy, this is something else entirely. The slight spicy hint on top of what is a very fine and saucy “gravy jelly” is just wonderful.
  • Pairing it with the mint emulsion and it just becomes an incredibly rich condiment that is absolutely necessary for the generally dry and bland quail.
  • Quail generally doesn’t have its own flavour, and relies on its texture to get through – that’s where the custard comes in

Saved!

Bentley's quail
Picture le second
Bentley's Fillet of black angus beef w/charred onion, leek & red cabbage
Fillet of black angus beef w/charred onion, leek & red cabbage

Unfortunately I only got one poor picture of this dish. A pity, as it’s actually the best of the night (and there were some real stars earlier).

There’s not much to say here really – the steak is simply one of the best cuts I’ve ever had. It’s cooked close to perfection, a slight outer char that completes the package. The charred onion paired with the thick sauce was very reminiscent of smoky sweet soy sauce. A more divine steak pairing I can not think of.

You know it’s good when my grammar has failed me.

Bentley's Mandarin ice cream w/liquorice, coconut & feijoa
Mandarin ice cream w/liquorice, coconut & feijoa

Pre-dessert comes in the form of a very nice ice cream that’s full of milky, orange flavour.

  • I’ve no idea what that black stuff was but it was crunchy and very sweet. Sweeter than the ice cream!
  • I felt that the ice cream itself was actually a bit too heavy on the cream and too light on the flavour. It was kind of meh, but that’s probably because the other parts of the dish were executed quite well…
  • …apart from the liquorice – it had no business in the dish as far as I was concerned – it clashed with the other sweeter elements of the dish quite spectacularly
  • The feijoa (guavasteen) actually tasted like pineapple with the texture of a tough mandarin. It was quite refreshing next to the ice cream, probably the part of the dish I’d recommend you eat last

There’s actually a lot going on in this ice cream – let’s just say I liked it a LOT. In fact I liked it as much as the dessert itself…which is…

Bentley's Frozen chocolate mousse w/pineapple, sesame & toast ice cream
Frozen chocolate mousse w/pineapple, sesame & toast ice cream

This rocky baby. It’s hard to describe this dessert – the mousse is kind of like between brownies and fudge in terms of texture. It’s complemented by lots of crunch, which is then followed up by a surprisingly room temperature-like ice cream. It was very thick which was quite the surprise, and actually had less flavour than I thought it would.

Let’s just say you won’t really have ice cream quite like the ones at Bentley.

A good dessert finish, more conservative than the preceding dishes, but sure seals the deal.

If you have the time to visit Bentley before its closure in August, please do so. I won’t mince words here.

As usual, feel free to leave a comment or three :D

The Good: great food that isn’t quite the same anywhere else. Non-pretentious service

What could be improved: certain portion size issues and the quality of the desserts

8.5/10 Caesars 

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16 thoughts on “Bentley Restaurant & Bar – Refined, Boundary-Pushing Dining”

    1. Hi Lu!

      Well not always, only when I suspect that there will be terrible lighting. Unfortunately, the definition of “terrible lighting” pretty much applies to all fine dining restaurant – when the food often looks the most beautiful. Alas, because of this I bring out the tripod more often than not.

      It does get somewhat awkward, but as long as you don’t act like you’re shy about it people stop looking at you.

      1. Ah ok – you have pretty amazing shots, and it’s probably because of the tripod =) Maybe I’ll try it and be less shy about it! Keep the photos and comments coming!

        1. Indeed! People will look, but just pretend they don’t exist. With some places though, may be good to ask the waitstaff if photos are allowed. I was forbidden to use my tripod at Momofuku Seiobo – but that was an isolated incident.

          Better safe than sorry!

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