Tucked away in Surry Hills is a 2 hat diner trying to do some fun stuff with modern kitchen equipment and techniques. Brent Savage is the head chef in charge at Bentley Restaurant & Bar, which does a modern ala carte menu as well as a tapas menu and a degu, which was what I had. They’re also popular for Nick Hildebrandt, the sommelier who helms the alcoholic side of things at this avant garde eatery.

Vignetting courtesy of the lens cover on my LX-3. Completely unintended!

They print their name on the glasses. I used to have this font but I can’t recall the name though.

It was gonna be 8 courses and I opted to get 2 wines, a Sauvignon Blanc and a Pinor Noir to do a simple matching. My eating companions were not too keen on the grog. My brother is underaged afterall and my mom is my mom. So without further adieu.

Smoked Potato Mousse with Mussels & Clams

The first course came soon enough. A smoked potato mousse with some shellfish and what appeared to be an ultra thin potato crisp. Possibly the best potato chip in the world. The briny nature of the shellfish seemed to be echoed in the mousse itself, which was foamed frothy and light, a good starter and a decent example of how a foam isn’t just trendy. It wasn’t all air though, it had enough consistency and body to be called a mousse for sure.

2nd Course. Kingfish Marinated in Squid Ink with Perfumed Fruit and Coconut.

This is taking a typically meaty and dry type of fish that fares well grilled and turning it into a svelte beast with low temperature poaching. The texture was superb. You also got a scallop tossed in as well as a gentle coconut cream that was light enough not to be noticeable. The perfumed fruit lent a sweet touch and overall the dish felt great.

Black Sesame & Pea Fondant with Snow Peas and Goat’s Curd.

Lovely. The fondant looks and feels like a choc truffle with liquid pea puree inside. You squeeze with the tongue and it breaks away to reveal the liquid. Then you slap on the texture with the peas, something that I think was pea shoots/celery and a pea powder below the fondants. This had me wondering how the hell to make it. You don’t really taste the black sesame that much and the skin that it acts as for the fondant is thin and slightly chewy.

Steamed Mahi Mahi and Emulsion with Chives and Jamon.

Lovely. Nice and tender fish. It’s definitely got a meatier hook. The chive emulsion was lovely and you get bits of jamon cubes diced up for that big fish x pork combo. The most conventional dish of the night and one that still tasted great.

Roasted Quail with Silverbeet, Quinoa, Feta & Barberry.

Hands up who knows what Silverbeet is? Or barberry for that matter? I don’t either. Well at least I do now. The former is just another name for chard. The latter is a kind of tangy berry. This dish was nice. At one point, it felt like an oversexed bit of chicken sausage with some cheese and berries. At another, it was a brilliant combination of savory with sharp and sweet.

Roast Duck Breast with Lentil Puree, Pumpkin & Rhubarb.

Brilliant if disappointing. I suppose I’m too spoilt by having roast duck with crisp skin. This one was superb in terms of texture and flavor. The depth of the earthy lentils took that classic combo to a new level here. The pumpkin and rhubarb gives it the elegance and sweetness. Definitely a modern aesthetic at work here. The only problem was the skin, chewy chewy chewy.

Creamed Stilton Blue with Kumquat & Spiced Bread.

Oh yes. This was awesome. Take a strong tender cheese and turn it into a cream and give it some citrus and spice for interest. The combination and texture was awesome. Smooth cheese, bitey kumquat and gritty breadcrumby things. So un-cheeselike. So good.

Bonus Round! A complimentary pre-dessert of Cucumber Sorbet, Tomato and some other stuff I can’t recall.

This was superb! I thought the cheese was my highlight but this broke it. The sorbet tasted like honeydew. Whilst nothing on the plate was fruit, it all tasted like fruit. The clean, bright refresh was lovely. Palate cleansed and totally ready to finish on a sweet note.

Final course. Hazelnut Custard with White Chocolate & Blueberries.

Oh yes. Finally. A dish that was pretty much par for the course up against Pier. Whilst Katrina Kanetani’s desserts are kick ass. This beautiful thing was almost and probably just as good. I loved everything. The serving plate with it’s uber assymmetrical curved central form. The beautiful hazelnut custard covered in nuts. How the hell do you do that? And the blueberry mousse. Plus that amazing white chocolate cylinder with a liquid center. You’ve got to eat it to understand but I am sticking this trio of flavors the next time I make a dessert.

Having finished the meal. I am contented. At just about AUD$130 plus per person, this was superb value. Overall the meal was never as good as a 3 hat experience but it was really really good, even going hella close at the end. Heck, I’d say that hazelnut custard was just as good. Service was brisk and polite. We never had to wait, always got smiles and never felt awkward. The decor and sitting feels a touch weird I suppose. It’s not quite the fine dining setting but it’s not something that bothers me the slightest. The only thing that maybe let it down, if you could call it that were that some of the earlier dishes felt a touch too playful. Too much about modern technique and not about eating something that is great. The other thing is that they do awesome on light, bright and clean but I haven’t had anything deep and heavy and rich in the entire menu. It’s not a criticism in so much as an observation. As in I think I would have liked to see how they would tackle something like a red meat dish and make it heavy but light.

If you want hip Sydney dining, there’s no where else. Bentley’s the spot.

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