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Sunday, December 06, 2015

Bennelong Restaurant, Sydney

White nectarine nectar and fresh coconut granita at Bennelong Restaurant, Sydney food blog restaurant review

Bennelong. It's the home of a $22 cheese truffle toastie, a $24 sausage roll and a $28 lamington. Say whaaat? But Sydneysiders can't get enough of it. It's been five months since Peter Gilmore's newest restaurant opened at the Sydney Opera House, taking up residence on the site formerly held by Guillaume Brahimi for ten years. There's been more than just a multi-million dollar makeover here. Bennelong heralds a new shift for the dining public, offering a more casual service with longer opening hours. And fancy sausage rolls.

View of the Sydney Harbour Bridge from the bar at Bennelong Restaurant, Sydney food blog restaurant review
Bennelong Bar with a view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Casual dining at the Sydney Opera House is never going to be a cheap night out, something easily forgiven once you get a load of the view. It's one thing to see a play or a show from deep within the building, but the view from within the glass-walled sails is something else. Sipping on a cocktail while you watch the Sydney Harbour Bridge flame red from the evening sunset has to be one of the most spectacular settings in the world to wait for your table.

View of the Botanic Gardens through the Opera House sail at Bennelong Restaurant, Sydney food blog restaurant review
View of the Botanic Gardens looking out from the front sail of the Opera House

The main dining room - at 99-seater - is housed within the front sail of the Opera House, the soaring ceilings providing an impressive view of the forecourt steps, the Botanic Gardens and the looming skycrapers of the Sydney CBD. The a la carte dinner menu will set you back $130 for three course.

Cured and Cultured Bar at Bennelong Restaurant, Sydney food blog restaurant review
Cured and Cultured Bar

We take up our stools at the Cured and Cultured Bar where you can eat as little or as much as you please from a menu that runs from $5 to $30. You also score a neat view of the chefs, cooking buckwheat pikelets on the grill, baking sausage rolls in the oven (that buttery pastry smell is stomach-rumbling), and plating the bar dishes with long handle tweezers.

Red claw yabbies at Bennelong Restaurant, Sydney food blog restaurant review
Red claw yabbies $30

Of the 14 savoury dishes on the menu, our party of five ends up ordering ten of them to share between us. The red claw yabbies are the first to arrive, three whole crustaceans split down the middle and served on a bed of ice.

Red claw yabby on a buckwheat pikelet at Bennelong Restaurant, Sydney food blog restaurant review
Red claw yabby on a buckwheat pikelet with lemon jam and cultured cream

A heavy cloth napkin holds a warm pile of freshly made buckwheat pikelets. It's a hands-on affair of stripping out the yabby from the shell, and rolling it up in the pikelet with dollops of lemon jam and cultured cream.

The lemon jam is a little too sweet, and would probably have been better restrained to a mere smidge, especially when the yabby itself is already so naturally sweet from the sea. But it's a beautifully elegant dish otherwise, especially as your fingers curl around the still-warm pikelet that is soft and nutty.

Raw kingfish at Bennelong Restaurant, Sydney food blog restaurant review
Raw kingfish $27
with artichoke, capers and ice plant

Raw kingfish might seem like a simple dish, but it's the quality of the fish that's the star. There's a firm plumpness to each chunky slice, garnished with lightly salted capers, nasturtium leaves and the juicy crunch of ice plants, one of my new favourite vegetables.

Raw Mooloolaba yellow fin tuna at Bennelong Restaurant, Sydney food blog restaurant review
Raw Mooloolaba yellow fin tuna $28
with mushroom, soy, pickled white radish, sesame oil

There's just as much to love about the raw Mooloolaba yellow fin tuna, a silky mouthful of softness draped with a trail of the tiniest mushrooms you ever did see. The inclusion of soy, sesame oil and pickled white radishes give a welcome Japanese vibe to this dish.

Holy Goat La Luna at Bennelong Restaurant, Sydney food blog restaurant review
Holy Goat La Luna $24
with broad beans, fennel, pickled apple and sea parsley

Goat cheese can be a little strong in flavour for some, but Holy Goat La Luna is so smooth and creamy it could easily convert the most reluctant. A congregation of broad beans, fennel and pickled apple add contrasts of texture and a zingy freshness.

Cured and Cultured kitchen at Bennelong Restaurant, Sydney food blog restaurant review
View of the kitchen from the Cured and Cultured bar

As darkness falls outside, so too does it affect the bar area. Chefs use flexible lamps to illuminate their stations.

Roasted carrot salad at Bennelong Restaurant, Sydney food blog restaurant review
Roasted carrot salad $24
with almonds, sherry caramel, feta and amaranth

Are roasted carrots the new black? Here they're a tumble of ribbons amped up with the sweetness of sherry caramel, the creamy tang of feta and the satisfying chew of amaranth. Toasted almonds give a terrific crunch.

Smoked wagyu tartare at Bennelong Restaurant, Sydney food blog restaurant review
Smoked wagyu tartare $28
with fermented chilli paste, cultured grains, mushrooms, seaweed and egg yolk

The smoked wagyu tartare diverges from the usual cornichon and caper execution, and takes on more Asian flavourings with fermented chilli paste and seaweed thrown into the mix. And those crispy bits? Most diners will crunch on these without much thought but it's not until we chat to the chefs that we realise the complexity of its preparation.

The crunchy component consists of black barley, green rice, fermented rye, kombu and shallots. The black barley are green rice are deliberately overcooked, chilled for two hours, rolled flat and left to dry overnight before deep frying into puffs.

The rye is cooked, koji (a fermentation culture) is added, and the mix is left to ferment at 32C for 1.5 days in a styrofoam box. It's then brined for a week before meeting the deep fryer.

Layered kombu is fried in sheets and shallots are thinly sliced are then fried at 170C.

Sitting at the bar offers more than just visuals. We're grateful for the chef's insight, and end up ordering another serve of the smoked wagyu tartare to share. It's a different experience once you know the amount of work behind the dish, thoughtfully chewing on the hand cut beef cloaked with the richness of egg yolk and those ridiculously intricate crispy bits.

Salad of saltwater chicken at Bennelong Restaurant, Sydney food blog restaurant review
Salad of saltwater chicken $27
Single origin wheat noodles, palm heart, sesame and peanuts

There's an Asian echo to the salad of saltwater chicken too, a nest of single origin wheat noodles covered in a mountain of soft and silky white cut chicken, palm hearts and a rubble of peanuts and sesame seeds.

Five cheese truffle toastie at Bennelong Restaurant, Sydney food blog restaurant review
Five cheese truffle toastie $22

The $22 five cheese truffle toastie is something to behold. It's picture perfect, from the even golden hue on its surface to the tantalising ooze of molten cheese escaping from the side. Cast aside any childhood memories of the Kraft cheese toasted sandwich of your childhood. This is decadence that is off the charts, starting with the house made brioche slathered with truffle butter to a gun-slinging combo of Australian cheeses: Bruny Island's C2 (Australia's first raw milk cheese), Heidi gruyere from Tasmania, Shaw River buffalo mozzarella and Mountain Man L’Artisan washed rind, both from Victoria, and Paesanella ricotta from Marrickville, Sydney.

There's no mistaking the whiff of washed rind tempered by the creaminess of ricotta, the sweet nuttiness of the C2 and the tantalising stretch of buffalo mozzarella and gruyere. Shavings of West Australian Manjimup truffle offer fragrance but tends to get a little lost flavourwise, in amongst all the cheese. It's so rich you could easily share this between two.

Byron Bay pig culatello at Bennelong Restaurant, Sydney food blog restaurant review
Byron Bay pig culatello $30
Barley toast, truffle butter and radishes

The Byron Bay pig culatello is another DIY affair, a rack of toasted barley bread with a pot of truffle butter on the side. Spread on as much as you like and add the finest shavings of flavour intense culatello, made from the rear part of the back leg. Culatello is often regarded as the most prestigious cured meat. A nibble on a palate-cleansing breakfast radish is exactly what you need between mouthfuls.

Suckling pig sausage roll at Bennelong Restaurant, Sydney food blog restaurant review
Suckling pig sausage roll with black garlic $24

Our finale is the suckling pig sausage roll. Once again, everything is not what it seems. Forget everything you know about this Aussie schoolyard classic. Here they take a Bryon Bay pig and cook the pork shoulder at 85C for 8 hours. What you get is a sigh of tender pork shreds wrapped up in a rich and buttery pastry that smells so good it will make your toes curl. A teardrop of black garlic puree is the fancy alternative to tomato sauce. It works.

White nectarine nectar and fresh coconut granita at Bennelong Restaurant, Sydney food blog restaurant review
Jersey cream, white nectarine nectar and fresh coconut granita $28

Desserts seem a little on the steep side at $28 a pop, although this is probably the easiest way to score Quay's famous Eight Texture Chocolate Cake without forking out a minimum of $175 for dinner ($150 for lunch). We go with the jersey cream, white nectarine nectar and fresh coconut granita. It's super light and refreshing and probably big enough to share.

Cherry jam lamingtons at Bennelong Restaurant, Sydney food blog restaurant review
Cherry jam lamington $28

The cherry jam lamington, on the other hand, is a dessert you may not give up so easily.

Cherry jam lamington with frozen coconut curls at Bennelong Restaurant, Sydney food blog restaurant review
Cherry jam lamington cloaked with smoke

Its arrival is pretty spectacular to begin with, obscured by plumes of smoke that waft and billow. By the time the smoke clears, you'll be itching to sink your fork into the square of sponge cake coated in a shiny chocolate mirror glaze.

Inside the cherry jam lamington at Bennelong Restaurant, Sydney food blog restaurant review
Inside the cherry jam lamington

Inside the lamington you'll find a light sponge, chocolate ganache, coconut cream and tart blobs of rich cherry jam that cut through the sweetness. And those curls you think are shaved coconut? It's coconut milk parfait frozen with liquid nitrogen and then shaved so each delicate curl disappears on your tongue before you've even had a chance to close your mouth. It's wondrous fun.

And the total bill? Our food component ended up at $75 a head which is nothing to wince about given the service and the view. That cherry jam lamington alone is worth the visit.

View of Circular Quay promenade from inside Bennelong Restaurant, Sydney food blog restaurant review

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

Bennelong Restaurant
Sydney Opera House
Bennelong Point, Circular Quay, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9240 8000

Opening hours:
Lunch Friday to Sunday 12pm-2pm
Dinner 7 nights 6.30pm-10pm
Pre-theatre 5.30pm and 6pm
Post-theatre 10pm-11pm Cured and Cultured only

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Quay, Sydney
14 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 12/06/2015 04:15:00 pm


  • At 12/07/2015 9:43 am, Anonymous Bianca@forfoodssake said…

    The desserts were a highlight for me!! We were all rather surprised by the decor, felt SUPER dated!!

  • At 12/07/2015 1:53 pm, Anonymous Brian Tam Food said…

    I just had lunch but my mouth started watering at the sight of the toastie and suckling pig sausage roll! I think I'd like that lamington too...

  • At 12/07/2015 3:33 pm, Blogger Roo Food said…

    Those tiny mushrooms on the raw tuna are adorable! I want to try them!!!!

  • At 12/08/2015 7:10 am, Anonymous Napoli Restaurant Alert said…

    The place looks amazing and I definitely want to try it. But when they first put this place out to tender, the whole idea was to make it "more accessible" and used more. Stokehouse, the original winner, was going to open 7 days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Imagine a Mother's Day Brunch here - how wonderful. At $130 per head and limited openings, I don't think the "more accessible" objective has been achieved. Sydney has indeed gotten a new beautiful dining space that showcases our wonderful city, but it will still be for a select few.

  • At 12/08/2015 8:07 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    Yabbies are not from the sea. They are freshwater...

  • At 12/08/2015 11:54 pm, Blogger Ramen Raff said…

    Prices are not too bad considering where it's at and OmG all dishes look and sound amazing! I want that cheese toastie and suckling pig sausage rolls and the lamingtons and everything else! Haha

  • At 12/09/2015 1:54 pm, Anonymous Berny @ I Only Eat Desserts said…

    What an amazing and beautiful view! That is a steal of a meal at $75 and not too much damage on the wallet. The food looks and sounds amazing - esp that cherry jam lamington :D

  • At 12/09/2015 9:15 pm, Blogger irene said…

    DAT TOASTIE THOUGH. OMG even Magic Mike isn't as sexy as this.

  • At 12/09/2015 10:41 pm, Anonymous Tania | My Kitchen Stories said…

    Oh thanks for going there just so I could see. So many of the things I sell them ( ingredients) at work are on show here and look great. I wonder if I will ever get to go?

  • At 12/10/2015 12:46 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Dead keen to try the bar food! I looooved that carrot dish when I had dinner here. Who knew carrots could be so damn tasty?

  • At 12/13/2015 10:50 am, Anonymous John - heneedsfood said…

    Wow, what a transformation from what it used to be. And that food! So nice to see some native Australian herbage going on!

  • At 12/14/2015 12:56 pm, Anonymous Martine @ Chompchomp said…

    I have been wishfully and keenly watching what is served at Bennelong via social media, and of course your awesome photos do it even more justice. I am one of those over indulgent people who love splurging on a meal and this will remain on my hit list when I next get to Sydney!

  • At 12/16/2015 12:00 am, Anonymous Sara | Belly Rumbles said…

    Wanting to get here, more now you have shared the deliciousness on offer.

  • At 1/03/2016 3:56 pm, Blogger Sarah said…

    That sounds like a fun place for a treat of a dinner! And omg, those teeny tiny mushrooms! Totes adorbs!


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