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Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Bennelong Restaurant, Sydney Opera House


Is it possible to stand at Circular Quay, take in the sweeping views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House, and not feel your heart skip a beat? Because while there's much to be said about the joys of exploring suburban back alleys in the hunt for simple but satisfying food, sometimes it's just nice to dress up, walk up the stairs of the Sydney Opera House and sashay on in to Bennelong Restaurant for a celebratory meal.

View of Circular Quay and Sydney Harbour from Bennelong Restaurant in the Sydney Opera House

I'm generally a fan of the Cured and Cultured Bar at Bennelong - a U-shaped counter where diners can pick and choose from a list of small and large snacks - but even from the bar, there's usually a small twinge of longing directed toward the diners in the main restaurant. It's here that you feel the full effect of being seated within the Opera House sails. The soaring windows afford sweeping water views, as well as the expected constant parade of passing tourists.

Unlike the Cured and Cultured Bar, the formal restaurant mandates a multi-course a la carte menu. Three courses will cost $145 at dinner or $135 at lunch. A two course offering for $100 is also available (lunch only).

Sourdough bread and butter at Bennelong Restaurant in the Sydney Opera House
Complimentary sourdough bread and butter

You know we ordered the three course menu, and that we each ordered different dishes so we could swap them around the table and taste everything. Occasionally this caused some confusion for staff, but - props to them - they took it in their stride.

Service here is worth noting - it's just the right level of attentiveness without feeling forced or stiff. The dining room isn't stuffy but has a convivial warmth about it. I love, too, that there's one cocktail on the menu that involves waitstaff pouring dry ice directly onto the carpet to create a dramatic fog effect - all done with utmost seriousness.

Fraser Island spanner crab at Bennelong Restaurant in the Sydney Opera House
Entree: Charlotte Bay bug dumpling
with hispi cabbage, puffed buckwheat, finger lime, nori and brown butter

Our entrees kick off with the Charlotte Bay bug dumpling. It's hard to spot at first, but it only takes a few digs to find the plump parcel filled with sweet flakes of Moreton Bay Bug flesh, this one sourced from Charlotte Bay on the east coast of Far North Queensland.

We appreciate the gentle contrasts in this dish, like the silkiness of the dumpling against the puffed buckwheat, and the nuttiness of brown butter accented by the pops of finger lime. The roasted curls of hispi cabbage (a small pointed cabbage that's sweeter than your normal round cabbage) are a highlight.

Crispy eggplant with sea scallops at Bennelong Restaurant in the Sydney Opera House
Entree: Crispy eggplant with sea scallops and XO streaky bacon

Crispy eggplant with sea scallops wins the entree round for most visually appealing. The sear on the scallops is textbook perfection, cooked with enough butter and sufficient heat to lend a caramelised sweetness to its glassy tenderness within. The crispy eggplant wouldn't look out of place in a tempura basket at a fine Japanese restaurant, and while the waitstaff warn that the XO streaky bacon is spicy, we find it pretty tame.

Seared tartare of Rangers Valley wagyu at Bennelong Restaurant in the Sydney Opera House
Entree: Seared tartare of Rangers Valley wagyu
with horseradish cream, capers, parsley and crispy beef tendon

My choice is the seared tartare of Rangers Valley wagyu (of course). It's not quite a piquant as most French versions, especially when the horseradish cream is mixed through. The beef tendon puffs are pretty amazing though.

Charlotte Bay bug dumpling at Bennelong Restaurant in the Sydney Opera House
Entree: Fraser Island spanner crab with soft polenta,
palm heart, corn, sunflower and creme fraiche emulsion

Our final entree is the spanner crab with soft polenta, its comforting creaminess thoughtfully contrasted with toasted sunflower seeds and a freeze dried snowfall of creme fraiche emulsion.

Arkady grass fed lamb at Bennelong Restaurant in the Sydney Opera House
Main: Arkady grass fed lamb
with smoked curd, zucchini, hemp seeds, leaves and blossoms

Could a lamb dish look any prettier? Arkady grass fed lamb - reared on the Margaret River in Western Australia - is extraordinarily tender, said by its producers to be a result of its free grazing around salt marsh basins. It's an elegant dish but a well-considered one too, with each component adding not just colour and textural contrast, but flavour too. The fresh mint leaves are a nice touch.

Crisp pig belly with confit organic carrots at Bennelong Restaurant in the Sydney Opera House
Main: Crisp pig belly
with confit organic carrots, pickled onions and black and white garlic

I'll go ahead and say it. Some mains can feel a little small at Bennelong, and liable to creating scenes of food envy. Our commitment to playing pass-the-plate thankfully avoids this scenario.

So we're happy to share the crisp pig belly, cooked so much of the fat has rendered through the flesh. There isn't a real earth-shattering crunch to the tile of crackling on top, but it is crisp. A tangle of confit organic carrots looks a little fussy with its dots of black and white garlic sauce but there is a sense that the kitchen feels like vegetables should share the limelight too.

Whole roasted tiger flathead tail at Bennelong Restaurant in the Sydney Opera House
Main: Whole roasted tiger flathead tail
with grilled cucumbers, verjuice and coastal greens

If you're looking for protein, get the fish. Last time I ordered the whole John Dory. This visit I'm won over by the tiger flathead tail. It's a substantial serve, and cooked so the flesh flakes apart with just the nudge of a fork. Grilled baby cucumbers provide a juicy freshness.

Roasted quail at Bennelong Restaurant in the Sydney Opera House
Main: Roasted quail
with stone pot rice

For true mastery, it's hard to go past the roasted quail. The pink-hued flesh is softer than a baby's cheek, its delicate flesh basted with a sweet and salty glaze.

Stone pot rice with sesame and perilla at Bennelong Restaurant in the Sydney Opera House
Stone pot rice with sesame and perilla

This modest bird is accompanied by a large serve of stone pot rice, served not so much in a stone pot but a literal stone mortar. The mixed rice combo feels like a riff on the Korean multigrain rice dish, japgokbap. This version hits all the right notes, a mix of chewy grains tumbled through with pops of buckwheat, sesame seeds and perilla leaves. The umami savouriness to it all grows with each mouthful. It's the kind of dish you could happily eat all day, every day.

Potato salad and mignonette lettuce at Bennelong Restaurant in the Sydney Opera House
Potato salad and mignonette lettuce

Complimentary sides are included with all a la carte meals. We relish the buttery nuttiness of the kipfler potato salad as well as the simplicity of fresh mignonette lettuce leaves slicked with just the right amount of dressing.

Cherry jam lamington at Bennelong Restaurant in the Sydney Opera House
Dessert: Cherry jam lamington

Can you visit Bennelong Restaurant without ordering its signature cherry jam lamington? I think not. Because it's way too hard to say no to a slab of sponge cake bolstered with cherry jam, morello cherry ice cream and whipped coconut cream covered in chocolate glaze. My favourite part of this dish are those the coconut cream shavings, dissolving into thin air as soon as they hit your tongue.

Pouring passionfruit sauce around the pavlova at Bennelong Restaurant in the Sydney Opera House
Dessert: Pavlova

While you can order the cherry jam lamington at the Cured and Cultured Bar, you have to be in the restaurant to order the pavlova.

Pavlova with passionfruit sauce at Bennelong Restaurant in the Sydney Opera House
Pavlova with passionfruit sauce

If you're looking for an Insta-worthy dessert, this is it. The meringue sails capture the design aesthete of the Sydney Opera House so well. And while it's missing the marshmallowy squidginess of a classic Aussie pav, there's still much to like about the interplay of crisp meringue, Chantilly cream and tangy passionfruit sauce.

Five textures of raspberry at Bennelong Restaurant in the Sydney Opera House
Dessert: Five textures of raspberry

Summer freshness abounds in the five textures of raspberry, a playful assembly of fresh raspberries, raspberry sorbet and nitrogen-frozen raspberry rubble.

Creme caramel vs mille-feuille at Bennelong Restaurant in the Sydney Opera House
Dessert: Creme caramel vs mille-feuille

But the unexpected highlight is the creme caramel vs mille-feuille. It's not just that each spoonful affords a different experience. It's the desire to keep going back for more, lured by alternating highlights of sweetness and saltiness, silky softness and crunch.

Dining room looking towards to the bar at Bennelong Restaurant in the Sydney Opera House

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

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

Opening hours
Friday to Sunday 12pm-2.15pm
Sunday to Thursday 5.30pm-9pm
Friday and Saturday 5pm-9pm

Related Grab Your Fork posts
Bennelong Restaurant and Cured and Cultured Bar (Oct 2016)
Cured and Cultured Bar (Dec 2015)

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2 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 10/10/2018 12:52:00 am


  • At 10/10/2018 5:24 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I note the advertising was left of the the wings of the pavlova !
    Everything looks great of course , however one needs a hamburger on the way home

  • At 10/15/2018 3:37 pm, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    Every time I see that lamington I CRAVE it


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