You could've been forgiven for thinking that Bentley's former Crown Street shopfront was a corner pub. Of course, once you walked inside the darkly lit, restaurant-bar with designer Pascale Gomes-McNabb's famous wire mesh petal light shades, it was evident you were in one of Sydney's best fine diners. At their new digs in the heritage-listed Radisson Blu Hotel building with its grand entrance off O'Connell Street, there's certainly no mistaking Bentley for your local.
Gomes-McNabb has been at it again, painting over a perfectly good ceiling rose with black and grey triangles straight out of a marvel comic strip. She's flung a bunch of black metal scaffolding through the space and has lit it with an assortment of diamond frosted shades, as well as a large revolving cube light installation at the entrance. In fact, walking into Bentley feels like you're stepping into a cubist painting to find, serendipitously, that freeze-dried foie gras with scallops is the order of the day. It's not a bad way to finish off the working day, which is what hordes of punters, solo and in groups, are already doing on a Monday night.
So Brent Savage's food can be fussy, and who needs to freeze-dry foie gras anyway? Well, someone who wants to pair it with an otherwise texturally unsuitable Queensland scallop ($14). Foie gras crystals, brioche crumb and raspberry powder comprise the necessary contrast to make the scallop shine. A bowl of cold pea soup with frozen buttermilk and hidden spanner crab ($24) is oddly out of step with the rest of the excellent tasting menu. Quail with smoked celery and white soy ($28) is a neat little number and the pork cheek with jamon crumb that follows has a classic sweet match not in fruit but with charred leeks and crispy radicchio. A main of kangaroo ($42) with purple carrot has a kind of Australian Christmas feel to it, with a riberry jus that's all cloves and booze.
The star accompaniment of the meal is Iggy's bread, the kind of sourdough that will make your teeth happy, with its chewy crust and tangy, savoury wholesomeness. There's been a delicious efficiency gain in the pastry section, with the replacement of finicky petit fours with one large honeycomb crunch landing on the table at meal's end. I don't speak French but if this is 'petit' I'll eat my mini oven.
The service at Bentley 2.0 is decidedly friendlier than the Crown Street haunt, which had a bit of a Nick Cave Appreciation Society vibe. With Yellow and Monopole well and truly established as late-night Potts Point favourites, the addition of Bentley in the city means the Savage-Hildebrandt combo have this city covered for smart, grown-up dining.
Photo gallery by Lindsay Smith.