Bennelong, Circular Quay

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Bennelong is one of those iconic Sydney restaurants on every avid diner's bucket list. Whether it be the allure of eating under the Opera House sails, those stunning harbour views, or the much talked about, produce-driven menu, there is something about Bennelong that makes it a truly unique and sublime place to dine.

Nestled under the sails of the Sydney Opera house, the restaurant sits in perfect harmony with its waterside surrounds. Natural light floods through the space during the day, but the interior becomes a warm, glowing space by night. The lunch service is available as a two or three course meal, and dinner is reserved for three courses only. There is also a separate cured and cultured menu, which features smaller dishes perfect for sharing in a more casual setting, as well as a supper menu which is offered from 10pm. 

The menu is built around seasonal, high quality Australian produce. Each dish is named simply after the hero ingredient, and is accompanied by a careful selection of both familiar and more intriguing, lesser known ingredients such as ice plant, agretti and roasted fermented rye.  

Not long after ordering, we're presented with a basket of warm sourdough. 'Mmmm...' is the unanimous exclaim as we sink our teeth into a crusty piece. It's textbook, picture perfect sourdough; so good that we can't refuse the offer of a refill. We're not even onto the first course yet, but surely this has to be a good sign.

Spanner Crab
Each mouthful of this dish is a mind-boggling explosion of creamy, sweet-savoury deliciousness. Soft pieces of spanner crab are hidden in a refined, layered mess of soft polenta, young corn and crème fraîche emulsion. A showering of toasty sunflower seeds and tiny popcorn nubbles add crunch, although the crab is the real star of this entrée.

Southern Australian line caught squid
This cleverly constructed dish sings of lemon and features house made pasta alongside ribbons of finely sliced squid. The squid has a soft bite and has been prepared in such a way so as to mimic the look and feel of the impeccably cooked pasta. It's quite possible to mistake one for the other. A golden, pangrattato-like crumb delivers crunch while thin, spindly agretti leaves lend a seasoned, sea-like saltiness.

Wild Cape York Barramundi
Cape York Barramundi is paired with the classic flavours of garlic, lemon, capers and brown butter and sits atop a super smooth parsnip puree. The fillet is generously sized and has an irresistibly golden, crispy skin that is seasoned to perfection. It's faultless; simple but sophisticated cooking.

Arkady grass fed lamb
Tender loin of lamb is cooked to a blushing pink, sliced into four thick, juicy pieces and topped with squares of soft eggplant, capers and nasturtiums. 

Roasted master stock duck
This duck is woven with the robust, warming flavours of star anise, plum and soy. Pickled purplette onions, fresh baby red grapes, currants and Kampot pepper are the perfect accompaniments to cut through the richness of the juicy, tender meat. The addition of ume lends a fruity dimension that is a nod to the ideal combination of duck and plum sauce. Thoughtful and refined. 

A fresh salad of baby red oak lettuce heads is skillfully dressed in a simple vinaigrette. Robust, unpeeled baby potatoes have a punchy anchovy dressing and are the perfect side to go with our mains. 

Just like all of the other items on the menu, which read simply on paper but are in fact striking, spectacular creations, the desserts at Bennelong are not to be missed. Case in point is the 'Pavlova', which pays homage to the iconic, majestic sails under which the restaurant operates. The dessert is a play on the ordinary pav, with the fruity flavour of passionfruit balanced by soft clouds of Italian meringue and vanilla-speckled cream.

The meringue forms a jubilant half-dome and houses a soft, custardy passionfruit centre that is echoed by a puddle of neon passionfruit sauce. Fine meringue 'sails' give this dessert a feel of playfulness and grandeur.

Cherry jam lamington
This is the ultimate contemporary take on an Aussie favourite, and elevates the well known flavour combination of cherry, coconut and chocolate to a whole new level. The jam filling is replaced by a cherry ice cream center, which is sandwiched with surprise pieces of sweet, jammy cherry bits and soft sponge. The lamington is covered in a shiny, bittersweet chocolate glaze and surrounded by frozen coconut shavings crafted out of liquid nitrogen. A truly superb dessert that accentuates all the best parts of the humble lamington. 

Chocolate cake from across the water
A nod to the infamous eight-texture chocolate cake from Quay, this cake is not for the faint-hearted. Think of every possible technique you could use to showcase chocolate in a dessert; there's a high chance you'll find it in this cake. One would think that an overload of chocolate would create an overly rich and sweet dessert, however it exists in so many different dimensions, flavours and textures here that everything just melds together perfectly. Although it is undoubtedly decadent, there is enough balance and restraint in each each bite to make you want to go back for more. 

The food at Bennelong is not over the top, complicated cooking. It's familiar food with a sophisticated twist that will keep you on your toes and wanting to eat again and again. Definitely one of my favourite places to eat in Sydney.


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

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