Bennelong Restaurant

October 17, 2015

Having read excellent things about Bennelong, particularly from I'm Still Hungry I was set on making it my next fine dining destination and it was the perfect place to celebrate DT's birthday. Everything from the lighting, the decor and more importantly the spectacular architectural design of The Sydney Opera House makes Bennelong the most beautiful restaurant I have set foot into by far.  Peter Gilmore's new restaurant venture was quickly awarded two chef hats and drawing from my experience at his three chef hat restaurant, Quay, I had a much more pleasant experience at Bennelong in terms of the service and the food.

Captivating interior of Bennelong Restaurant
Simple and elegant
Sourdough bread and butter
I always look forward to the complimentary bread offered during fine dining and sour dough bread seems to be the carb of choice which is unfortunate for me as the sourness of the bread and toughness of the crust hasn't won me over. There is nothing classy about trying to tear through a slice of these with my teeth and I always leave evidence of my messy eating in the form of scattered crumbs on an otherwise immaculate table.

Sour dough with butter
To counter that sourness, I smothered it generously with the amazingly soft and smooth butter which helped redeem the bread. There is something oddly satisfying about getting the butter to seep into those crevices and then having it ooze out as you bite into the bread slice. Though not on par with Tetsuya's famous truffle butter it tasted very light and had a whipped cream consistency which made it a dream to spread.

Sparkling Jun tea, Oolong tea, thyme honey $15
I went with a non-alcoholic beverage and frankly, I was not pleased with my choice although DT enjoyed it. I suppose it was too much of a "manly" drink for me which I wasn't expecting, and I particularly didn't like the aftertaste of the thyme honey. Now that I think about it, the fact that in the description "sparkling" was included it should have rung alarm bells in my head as I dislike sparkling anything with a passion. Lesson learned.

Symphony #4 in D Minor (Hendricks gin, St Germain, lemon juice, apple juice, chamomile) $22
How funny that DT ended up with such a "girly drink" unlike me and I preferred it a lot more because I like my alcohol with strong sweet notes in order to mask that bitterness.

Grilled Lady Elliot Island Bug 
The flesh of the bug was so exquisite, not unlike the texture of prawn however it was more firm and succulent and best of all, didn't have that characteristic prawn taste which I despise. It was flavoured perfectly with XO sauce and it didn't overpower the star of the dish as opposed to Quay's XO sea treasures which had the seafood sitting in a pool of it and as a result I wasn't particularly fond of that dish. The organic turnips and radishes were delightful elements and not only did they make the meal aesthetically pleasing with its gorgeous colours, they were also refreshing on the palate.

Smoked Blackmore Wagyu Tartare 
Brilliant mixture of flavours and textures and the perfection that was the spherical egg yolk made it all the more difficult to burst and watch it disappear into the depths of what DT described as a cereal - a gourmet umami version of course. The wagyu tartare tantalised my tastebuds with its smokiness and I could barely tell that it was raw especially when coupled with a spoonful of the blend of crispy puffed grains, mushrooms, seaweed and sesame.

Grass fed veal fillet
DT enjoyed his choice for the main course of which I had a couple of bites of and I was not disappointed. I can vouch that the protein was perfectly cooked to medium rare and had that beautiful pinkess to show for it. The fillet could be cut through effortlessly and was very tender and full of juiciness. Toasted hazelnuts, Swiss brown mushrooms and smoked parsnip were carefully placed to complete the flavours and textures and the wonderful plating. 

Roasted John Dory
When the waiter came by and placed this in front of me I was taken aback at how large the portion was and I definitely don't mean that in a bad way because when one is splurging on fine dining, one envisions meals that are easily polished off with a few bites. The fish, being served on the bone meant the provision of an empty bowl to put those troublesome and fiddly things in. The flesh was easily pried away from the main network of bone however you would have to worry about the little translucent ones which were quite abundant throughout. While more effort was involved in delivering food to my stomach it was so worth it as the fish was perfectly cooked to achieve a slightly crisp, flavoursome skin and flesh that was devoid of any dryness. The coastal greens and orach were saturated with umami butter making them extra juicy and allowed them to literally explode with umami flavour in the mouth however the downfall to that would be the hits of saltiness which did become too apparent and overwhelming.

White chocolate and raspberry sponge
Bennelong's complimentary cake for the birthday boy came out with a lighted candle and it was certainly a much appreciated and thoughtful touch to what was already a very enjoyable evening. The cake itself was delicious. The dollops of piped cream was so airy and light and likewise can be said for the layers of sponge. Upon savouring my first bite I was instantly reminded of the textures of Black Star Pastry's watermelon cake but I think I prefer Bennelong's cake more because of the inclusion of white chocolate, it's a tough choice. The delicately sliced raspberries matched the overall flavours of the cake which overall wasn't overly sweet.

Chocolate cake from across the water
A popular dessert choice among diners and choosing it was a no-brainer for me. There was no way I could resist the temptation of what was essentially eight layers of mouth-watering chocolate goodness. To be honest, I couldn't distinguish between those different textures individually but I can say that it was extremely decadent and very rich. The pouring of chocolate ganache was the perfect finishing touch.

Poor attempt doing a cross-section
Such fail at cutting because you can't see the layers at all but let's admire how thinly the chocolate was tempered and the glorious consistency of the ganache.

Cherry jam lamington
My expectations for this raved about dessert were more than fulfilled and I personally loved this a lot more than the Snow Egg from Quay which I thought was a bit of a letdown. Everything about Peter Gilmore's fancy lamington, from the beautiful chocolate glaze, the light sponge enriched with sweet  and tart cherry jam and the delicate flakes of coconut ice cream which melted on the tongue were nothing short of amazing. I will never think of a lamington the same way again, move over desiccated coconut, coconut ice cream flakes are where it's at.

I highly recommend Bennelong restaurant for an excellent fine dining experience, a three-course dinner will set you back $130 per person but it's relatively good value for money as the portions are decent and DT and I left surprisingly full which meant no burgers from Mary's as a second dinner.

Bennelong Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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