Friday, December 30, 2011

Bentley Restaurant & Bar

UPDATE: Bentley moved from its original Surry Hills location (which my review is based on) to the Radisson Blu Hotel in Sydney's CBD in 2013.

I simply adore fine dinning, there is something about the way the food is presented, how the flavours of what may seem a strange combination of ingredients come together and send your taste buds to heaven, it's addictive. The Two Hats Bentley Restaurant & Bar in Surry Hills is a great place to work your way through some interesting and delicious dishes.

Walking into the Bentley, the first thing I noticed was the brushed metal bar to the right, followed by the wall of wine, it was an impressive sight. The decor is chic and sophisticated. The dinning area consists of oak tables and leather benches, gold lampshades, black drapes and fresh flowers. This is one place I could see myself returning time after time, be it drinking and chatting away at the bar or sitting down for a meal in the restaurant.

For a first visit, the tasting menu is probably the easiest choice, and if you want the full fine dinning experience, the matching wine is a must. I'm not a big wine drinker, but I was very glad at the end of the meal that we got the matching wine, it really made a difference to the meal.

The matching wine is served just ahead of each dish, it gave us a chance to sample them once our waiter had expertly explained the wine to us - the winery that produced it, the grapes that were used and what flavours we should be expecting. We were quite impressed by our waiter's wine knowledge, who informed us that while Nick Hildebrandt is the sommelier, all the waiters have a good knowledge of the wines served in the restaurant.

The tasting menu has 8 courses plus an optional cheese course. Some of the dishes were a bit of a miss, for example, with the Balmain bug with Lamb Sweetbread, Black Bean & Coconut Curd, given the strong tastes of the sweetbread and black bean, neither of us could taste the Balmain bug, which was a shame.

Pork Belly
When it came to the Pork belly with Wattle, Garlic Milk & Rhubarb, opinions were divided. While my dinner companion is not a fan of rhubarb and found the dish pretty average, I really loved it. This is the first time I've seen rhubarb outside the dessert menu, a rather bold dish by Chef Brent Savage.

The Filet of black Angus beef with Carrot, Azuki Bean & White Sweet Potato Cake was very impressive. I was a bit hesitant at first because of the liquorice on the plate. I have never been a fan of liquorice but with a little encouragement, I gave it a try. It wasn't what I had expected, the flavour wasn't overpowering at all. Instead, it complimented the beef extremely well, and the matching wine gave the dish an extra dimension. My taste buds probably thanked me for being brave enough to give the liquorice a go rather than pushing it aside as I originally planned to do. 

My favourite dish on the night was the dessert, Blood Peach with Sesame Meringue, Nougat & Apricot Sorbet. According to my dinner companion, who sat across the table from me, I enjoyed it so much it looked like I was about to do the Katz's Deli scene from When Sally Met Harry. Well, what can I say, that dessert plus the matching wine was ORGASMIC! I'd go back there just for the dessert (with the matching wine of course)!

The Bentley Restaurant & Bar: Ground Floor, Radisson Blu Hotel, 27 O'Connell Street, Sydney NSW 2000  Bentley Restaurant and Bar on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

BLACK by ezard

A new venture from Teage Ezard, known for his Melbourne Asian fusion diner Gingerboy and the Two Hats restaurant Ezard, Black by ezard is a welcoming addition to the fine dinning scene in Sydney. Located in the newly renovated casino, it is one of the Signature Dinning restaurants in The Star. Dishes at this contemporary Australian grill are updated weekly.

Once seated, our waiter quickly explained to us how the menu worked as it was our first time dinning here. Besides the à la carte menu, there is also a pre-theatre set menu on offer, wine list came on an iPad. While we pondered about what to order, the complimentary house made brioche arrived at our table. Even though the loaf was soft, rich and creamy, we just could not resist the soft and smooth butter that came with it. Flakes of volcanic black salt is also on the table if you should fancy it.

Just as we wondered if they have forgotten our bottle of Pol Roger, our waiter appeared at our table and explained to us that they were looking for it in the cellar and it seems the last bottle has just been sold minutes before; the in house sommelier suggested Bollinger which is a bit more fruity and has a richer body as an alternative. Now with our drinks sorted, we dived into our second loaf of brioche.

Beef Tartare
As a seafood lover, my friend could not go pass the Oysters, served with yuzu and wakeme jelly. I was tempted to order their signature dish Organic Farm Egg with potato cream, black truffles, iberico ham and herb salad, but it sounded more like a brunch dish than a starter to dinner so I went for the Beef Tartare with heirloom beets, mustard ice cream and puffed wild rice. If our waiter didn't announce it I'd have thought they brought me the wrong dish. The tartare was hidden under a sheet of beetroot jelly and only revealed itself when I took my knife to it.

For main, my friend ordered the 1 kilo live lobster with a side of Asparagus (grilled and served with crispy prosciutto and quail egg). I had the Lamb Rack which came with spring bean cassoulet and black garlic. Our waiter warned me during ordering that the lamb here is cooked medium rare, for me, lamb is one of the dishes that should not be over cooked so medium rare suited me just fine. If you like your meat well done, this might be the dish you want to give a miss. That being said, even though it was served medium rare, when I cut into the meat it did not bleed but revealed a nice tender pink. Perfectly done in my book.

When it came to dessert time we saw the table next to us being served Chocolate where warm couverture ganache is poured over a whole chocolate ball, as the ball melted from the top, banana ice cream and hazelnut mousse were shown to be hiding inside the chocolate shell.

Upside-down Cake
If it was a few years back when I had an extremely sweet tooth I'd jumped at the chance of ordering it, but I have been a little obsessed with pineapples lately so I opted for the Upside-down Cake served with pineapple curd, white chocolate powder and pineapple sorbet. It did not disappoint. On the other side of the table my friend was not very impressed with the Honeycrunch which was served with clover honey parfait, ginger biscuit, honeycomb and cinnamon. It was not what she had expected and felt it should have had a bit more honey taste and sweetness to it. As an after thought, I think the Chocolate would have suited her taste more.

The deco at BLACK resonates its name, the combination of dark wood, copper and black leather gave a sophisticated yet relaxed feel to it. It is fine dinning in an elegant and sleek setting.

BLACK by ezard: Level G, Harbourside, The Star, 80 Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont, NSW 2009 Black By Ezard on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 9, 2011

Gardel's Bar

Gardel's Bar upstairs at Porteño is the perfect place to grab a drink while you wait for your table for the Argentinean feast down below. 

We were greeted at the top of the stairs and taken to a little table next to the window in the back room, a very cosy spot for two. The whole room smelt of fresh plants and flowers and with the chandeliers, dark leather and wood furnishing and mood lighting it simply felt luxurious, yet there is also that unmistakable Rock 'n' Roll feel to it. No wonder it won Best Design at the Time Out Sydney Bar Awards 2012

The extensive cocktail menu made picking out a drink that much harder, but I just need to start somewhere, right? 

Consider the bar food here did win the Best Bar Food at the Time Out Sydney Bar Awards 2012, it would be a shame if we didn't at least try one dish. Since I was already having trouble picking a cocktail from the menu, I left the food ordering to my dinner companion, and I must say the pulled pork sliders were an excellent choice. The mini burgers were full of flavours. 

Now back to the cocktail menu, after much debate with myself, I went for the Lavender Pisco Sour: Mistral Anejo Pisco, Yellow Chartreuse, lavender bitters, lavender honey, lemon juice and egg white which came served in a wine glass and it was delicious! 

The hostesses were polite and friendly, checked on us several times during the hour and half waiting time we clocked up. And when the time came to head downstairs, my unfinished cocktail was picked up, carried down the stairs and placed on our dinner table without me having to say a word. 

I can already see myself returning to the bar, in the not too distant future, for cocktails and more of that award winning bar food. 

Gardel's Bar: Upstairs @ Porteño, 385 Cleveland Street, Surry Hills, NSW 2010   Gardel's Bar at Porteño on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 8, 2011


Often mentioned in the same sentence as some of the top and probably most expensive restaurants in Sydney, such as Bilson's, Bécasse and Tetsuya's, Porteño certainly holds its own on the food and service front and the good new is, it wont break your bank to dine here. Opened a little over a year ago, this Argentinean grill house was recently award best new restaurant and given a two-hat status at the SMH Good Food Guide 2012 Awards.

The whole place was already buzzing when we arrived at 7pm on Monday night, when the lovely Maitre d' informed us that they were full, that's right, packed at 7pm on a Monday night, we decided to head upstairs to Gardel's Bar for a drink while we waited for our table. The one and half hour wait for the table was a bit long, but I didn't mind it at all as I was with good company, plus having eaten at Porteño early in the year, I knew the food would be well worth the wait. Once we placed our order the dishes were served up quickly.

To start, we had the Pan de Casa House baked bread with olive oil & pork pate, if you like pate, this one is not to be missed, it was soft, rich and spread easily onto the perfectly baked bread; Tiradito peruano con Aji Amarillo Citrus marinated seafood with cucumber, grapefruit and yellow chilli paste was our next dish and it was fresh, the the hint of chilli was not overpowering but just right. My favourite dish of the night.

Chanchito a la Cruz 8 hour woodfried pig
Our two mains were the Chorizo Porteño Housemade pork sausage and Chanchito a la Cruz 8 hour woodfried pig, one of the must try dishes. The meat was soft and succulent, the crackling golden brown and crunchy. Our waiter suggested that we add a salad to our meal as the food is quite rich, so we went with his suggestion of Ensalada de Hinojo Shaved fennel salad with apricot, black olives and amontillado dressing. It was sweet, salty and zesty, all the flavours of the dish balanced out the rather heavy and rich meaty dishes perfectly.

All the dishes are designed to be shared and come in pretty big servings. We probably should have ordered 1 or 2 dishes less and saved some room for dessert because I simply adored the Postre Chaja South American Style Pavlova on my last visit and would have loved to try the Leche Quemada Burnt milk custard with orange jam & chocolate ice cream. I suppose it'll have to wait till next time.

If you want to avoid waiting for a table, make sure you get there early (they open for dinner at 6pm) or have 5 or more in your party so you can make a reservation. But with a great bar upstairs to pass the time by, your table will be ready before you know it. Oh and what I absolutely LOVE about this place, besides the food, is the well dressed gentleman who opens the door for all the guests. How's that for a treat!

Porteño: 358 Cleveland Street, Surry Hills, NSW 2010  Porteño on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Bistrode (CLOSED)

A favourite with the locals, Bistrode is an intimate restaurant run by a husband & wife team. Located in the leafy Bourke Street, away from the busy and noisy Crown Street, in Surry Hills, this local gem has been awarded One Chef's Hat by the SMH Good Food Guide since 2007. 

It wasn't hard to spot my dinner companion when I arrived as we were given the table right next to the window. The light foot traffic outside made the table a great place to people watch between courses but not enough to distract us from our conversation during the meal. 

My entrée, the Szechuan Pork Belly, Pear & Pickled Mushroom, was absolutely delicious. The meat was soft and moist, the skin crunchy, that is until I bit into one of the Szechuan peppercorns and it left my mouth numb for the next few minutes. For the main course I had the Lamb Rump, Harissa, Broadbeans & Mint, while my friend ordered the Grass Fed Scotch Fillet Steak, Bone Marrow & Chimichurri Sauce. I loved the fact that the bone marrow was actually served in the bone itself. 

One word of warning, the servings here are very generous. In fact, I was so full after the first two courses I could not even bring myself to look at the dessert menu. To finish the meal, I asked for a peppermint tea, which to my delight, was not served from a teabag but loose leaf tea in a teapot.

With its soft lighting and what seemed like endless wine choices, Bistrode makes a perfect place for a relaxed evening out.

Bistrode: 478 Bourke Street, Surry Hills, NSW 2010  Bistrode on Urbanspoon