Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Bentley Restaurant & Bar, Surry Hills

Bentley Restaurant & Bar is nestled amongst a host of vintage shops and other eateries on Crown Street. Despite the overcast weather (and intermittent rain), Surry Hills was buzzing with activity. When we arrived, however, we were the first ones there (having made a booking for noon). Business soon picked up, though, and I was glad we had the first pick of tables and snagged a window seat!


We opted for the $55 fixed price lunch and then proceeded to observe the lunch crowd, which consisted of a healthy mix of young couples, girlfriends on catch-ups, more seasoned patrons, and a young family. We were soon served complimentary sliced sourdough bread with olive oil. The olive oil was subtle and complemented the fresh bread well. It was somewhat awkward breaking off pieces of the bread because we weren't given bread plates. Genius I am, I didn't think to do it over the bread board and ended up getting crumbs on the table.

Sourdough bread with olive oil dip
Anyway, I digress. The first course was octopus flavoured with garlic and almond. This was one of my favourites of the day. I barely had to chew the pieces of octopus because the meat was so well-tenderised and the creamy sauce was so mouthwatering I wanted to lick the plate. I thought I could taste basil and cheese in the sauce, but the main star was the chopped garlic. My lunch buddy thought the garlic was a bit too strong, but I'm a massive fan of it, so it didn't phase me.

Octopus
 The second course was a vegetarian dish made up of a thin, crispy sliver of eggplant (the brown bit sticking up), with salsify and baby turnip. What exactly is salsify? Turns out it's a white root vegetable. The salsify was pureed and presented slightly warm on the plate, which was nice as my stomach tends to become unsettled when I eat cold dishes. The texture was slightly starchy and the taste was akin to potatoes. The other vegetables were slightly crunchy and pretty fun to eat because they looked so delicate and pretty. The course on the whole was fresh, light and tangy with great textures, but I have to say that the meat dishes stand out more.

Eggplant
 The third dish was poached tuna with amaranth, artichokes, ice plant and bisque sauce. The theme of the ocean really sprang out, with the use of not only tuna, but octopus (a tie-back to the first course) and mussel. The amaranth was slightly grainy, reminding me of chewy cous cous, and there were bits of seaweed made in different ways. The dried, darker seaweed was crispy, which contrasted nicely with the rice-like mound of amaranth. The bisque sauce provided the sodium and moisture necessary to flavour the dish and reminded me of the oily layer of minestrone soup.

Poached tuna
 The final savoury course was pork cheek and belly with sprigs of fennel, black garlic and calamari. Eaten alone, the pork cheek would have been too salty, but it was just right with the dollops of green and black sauce. The mini slabs of pork belly were rich and I had to repress another urge to lick the plate. The tiny mouthful of calamari was tender (just like with the octopus). A beautiful main.

Pork cheek
 Finally, we were served a melon sorbet with fresh slices of melon, coconut cream and liquorice. I'm not a fan of liquorice, so thankfully it wasn't too strong and it actually went nicely with the coconut cream. The dessert was refreshing and tasty, but compared to the mains, it wasn't outstanding. It was nevertheless a lovely way to polish off the meal.

Melon sorbet

The lunch is well-paced and it takes a little less than an hour and a half to eat through the lunch menu. The waitstaff was observant and took care of us really well - I've found one of the best indicators of good service is when they clear dishes/ replace cutlery/ refill your water glasses unobtrusively throughout the meal, and they passed that particular test with flying colours. All in all, the combination of mouthwatering dishes and friendly, attentive service made this visit fantastic value for money. I've definitely made a note to return when their seasonal menu changes!

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