A daring ride in a well-tooled machine
Claim to fame: Formulating a new modern Australian cuisine
Reason to go: The best wine smarts in Australia
Look out for: A brilliant collection of rare Chartreuses at the bar.
Allow yourself the temptation of the car analogy. Even if the aesthetic leans more edgy than purely old-school, Bentley is as well-tooled as its namesake, its production values high, its clientele well heeled. But it’s not a vehicle for the proverbial drive to church once a week. No. This is a high-performance machine owned by people who like to take things up a notch. Bentley is driven by a team that likes to really open it up and see what it can do.
What’s under the hood? Serious muscle. Glance into the glassed-in kitchen and you’ll see constant, efficient activity. The young men and women who toil at its stoves join the team knowing that Bentley has a reputation for being one of the most exacting kitchens in Australia. They’re here to work, and they’re here to work hard.
Chef Brent Savage has a flavor chart in his head that can sometimes seem left-of-center on the page but makes perfect sense on the palate. What place does chamomile have playing with chicken, parsnip and carrot? Who else thinks to pair umeboshi with macadamia nuts to frame the richness of a nicely fatty piece of Kurobuta pork? Since when it pork cheek a hors d’oeuvre, and what’s it doing with garlic and yoghurt purée and a flash of radicchio?
All these questions are answered with finesse over the course of a meal at Bentley, in much the same way that the crazy explosion of metal rods over the otherwise relatively classical lines of the bar resolve themselves into a highlight of Pascale Gomes-McNabb’s strikingly designed room.
Speaking of finesse, while Nick Hildebrandt, the restaurant’s sommelier and co-owner, is now counted among the more accomplished palates in the English-speaking part of the world of wine, this is not an eatery where things fall apart on the nights the big guns aren’t working the floor. There might not be an army out there, but any given member of this service team pulls the weight of five staffers at a lesser establishment. They’re drawn here by the rare promise of Hildebrandt’s remarkable cellar and Savage’s relentlessly searching cuisine.
Will they pair the sesame- and fennel dotted dry-aged lamb with an Australian new-style cool climate syrah or something from one of the more interesting appellations in Beaujolais? What about the mahi mahi with pickled mussels, zucchini stem and kelp flavored butter? How about something white? Something fortified? Oxidized? Something not made from grapes? Given the grand prix challenge team Bentley always wins the race.