The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry | A Sydney Food Blog

Bentley revisited and a book giveaway

November 11th, 2010  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  16 Comments

Pictures from the new Bentley book, available now through Murdoch Books

At Bentley Restaurant & Bar, Brent Savage uses a colourful mix of ingredients – lychee glass, coffee puree, orange blossom gel, red miso oil – to create dishes that are spring-loaded with flavour. It’s one of my favourite places in Sydney and it was the restaurant that inspired me to start this blog. And after the refit earlier this year by Pascale Gomes-McNabb (who softened the space with lamps that look like skirts a-twirl), it’s even better.

Recently, we visited twice in one week – one was a long-planned dinner, the other a last-minute chance to experience Lemonpi’s spell-casting ways with dessert. She had reinvented the menu, pairing caramelised pineapple with beer sorbet and barley cream; drawn on the DNA of Cherry Ripe to create a cherry sorbet and coconut-adorned choc sponge; and turned cheesecake into a cold-temperature surprise, mixing frozen, creamy flavours with gritty-sweet biscuit crumbs and lively fragments of fruit.

My favourite moment, though, was when we thought the meal was over and she surprised us with one last curtain call, a prototype dessert – ice cream cones delivered, experiment-like, in laboratory jars. It was a generous and creative end to a lovely night.

From my very first visit to Bentley, I’d noticed how imaginative and rewarding the vegetarian dishes were – full of tripwire flavours, unexpected ingredients and surprise-me textures. I was really happy to see it singled out for Favourite Vegetarian Menu in the latest Good Food Guide, and when I asked co-owner/sommelier Nick Hildebrandt whether they’ve had an uptick in diners as a consequence, he said they definitely had – and by a dramatic amount. (Bentley’s inspiring and considerate menu is partly thanks to Brent Savage’s wife Fleur being a vegetarian; she actually comes from a family that spans “three generations of vegetarians”.)

I’m glad to see that there’s such a demand for vegetarian dining at a high-reputation restaurant. Also, it’s extremely heartening to see such diners not being dumped with just after-thought salads and side-dishes-parading-as-main-courses. I hope this Bentley-led trend stays.

Now, you might have noticed that you can take Bentley home and file it into your library – a 256-page recipe book has recently been released by Murdoch Books (consider these accompanying pictures a convenient browse-through).

The volume features a full-spectrum range of dishes, from the long-gone but much-loved Gazpacho Three Ways (which Simon Thomsen once drew attention to for its pure traffic-light colours) and lollipop-resembling White Anchovy Sticks to dessert favourites (such as the Malted Milk Marshmallows that teleport me instantly back to childhood). It’s been beautifully photographed by chef Luke Burgess, who runs the newly opened and already renowned Garagistes (currently my number-one reason for wanting to visit Tasmania).

Given that Bentley was what sparked me to start this blog – and seeing as this site has just passed its three-year mark – I thought it’d be nice to give away a copy of the hardcover book as a prize. For your chance to win, please leave a comment describing the most inspiring meal you can remember (also add your contact details so I can sleuth out your postal details if you win). I’ll leave it open until December 1 before I put on my judge’s hat and decide the winner.

And if you have a chance to go to Bentley, do – it’s one of the most imaginative restaurants in this city (with thoughtful and unpretentious service to match).

Bentley Restaurant and Bar, 320 Crown Street, Surry Hills, (02) 9332 2344,

From left: sommelier Nick Hildebrandt and head chef Brent Savage, the wonderful co-owners of Bentley Restaurant & Bar

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  1. i think the first time i tried Tetsuya’s oysters and dressing was the moment i realised oysters can possibly taste even better than just in their natural brine and a squeeze of lemon 🙂

  2. nh says:

    I was dining at Circa some 10 years back and the sommelier suggested that I try a certain red with my pheasant. It was the first time I undertstood the matching of wine to food and it blew my mind.

    PS I have been meaning to visit the Bentley and your post inspired me and I have just made a reservation.

  3. OohLookBel says:

    That is such a gorgeous book, just like the restaurant.
    I had the most inspiring meal at Quay (where else?), where the breathless anticipation of a romantic dinner was more than met after being seated inside the glass turret, with the Opera House and Harbour Bridge below. The food was sublime, with such clear flavours. And the desserts were mesmerisingly pretty. I’ll never forget it…
    PS: I had one of Lemonpi’s desserts at Sepia, and you’re right, she’s also an inspirational genius.

  4. Divemaster says:

    So many good things in the pictures i want to eat them all 🙂

  5. Nugmeg says:

    It was in 2008 when I visited my sister in Melbourne. I had my first degustation course at Vue de Monde and it blew me away. At that time, I was tossing between study in Sydney or Melbourne. After that meal, I made up my mind and came to study in Melbourne and started my blog.

  6. ellen.e says:

    just a question – is it necessary to book ahead for bentley?

  7. Mitch says:

    The most inspiring meal I’ve had was the last one I had. It was Fu Man Chu in Darlinghurst and while it was not anything super fantastic (it was good and I am a repeat visitor there), what I mean is that I am constantly inspired to keep trying new places in Sydney and new tastes, so long as the experience is enjoyable I’ll keep dining.

  8. Nerida says:

    The most inspiring meal I have eaten was for my 30th birthday at Becasse. We had the degustation, and the delicate combination of interesting ingredients inspired me to be more adventurous with choosing dishes at restaurants, and with my own home cooking. I’m now eating whatever organic vegetables from a community supported agriculture box, whether I have eaten them before or not.

  9. Nerida says:

    I have been wanting to try Bentley. The most inspiring meal I’ve eaten was at Becasse for my 30th birthday. The delicious and delicate combinations of ingredients in the degustation inspired me to be more adventurous when selecting dishes at other restaurants, and with my own cooking. I’m now eating whichever organic vegetables are in my community supported agriculture box, whether I’ve heard of them before or not.

  10. Nerida says:

    I have been wanting to try Bentley. The most inspiring meal I’ve eaten was at Becasse for my 30th birthday. The delicious and delicate combinations of ingredients in the degustation inspired me to be more adventurous when selecting dishes at other restaurants, and with my own cooking. I’m now eating whichever organic vegetables are in my community supported agriculture box, whether I’ve heard of them before or not.

  11. tori says:

    When the line between food and art gets blurred is when I get really weak at the knees. Had a dinner at Alinea in Chicago earlier this year that left me laughing and awe struck all at the same time- chasing rubble of chocolate and eucalyptus with a spoon across a rubber mat on your table that had been painted and sculpted with dessert in front of you. Crazy good. NB, love the refurbed Bentley and those desserts- wow. The beer sorbet is something else entirely.

  12. Love how vegetarians are so well catered for at this level of fine dining. My vego friend raved about her meal here. My inspirational meal is along the same vein of vegetarianism but not fine dining. I’ve never been particularly impressed by Chinese vegetarian dishes and dismissed vegetarian dishes growing up. It took a visit to a Vietnamese temple and trying Vietnamese vegetarian food for me to appreciate that vegetarian can be tasty, inventive and part of my food spectrum. Still don’t like Chinese vegetarian though.

  13. Inspiring? I guess my grandpa’s dumplings. He taught me how to ‘shape’ them when I was 5 years old in his old,run down restaurant… miss him, good thing i store his recipe book!!


  14. hcpen says:

    There are too many inspiring meals or memorable meals for me. But if I had to pick, it may be the simple ‘special dry noodle’ at a small store at the entrance of the alley way leading up to my grandfather’s place in Taipei City, the first bite made me nostalgic for my childhood visits to Taipei, where i once lived. The noodles and the accompanying radish soup was so delicious.:-) This was back in January 2009.

  15. leetranlam says:

    Thanks so much for all your great answers! It was very tricky to decide but I think I will award the book to Tori (the escaping rubble made me laugh, too!). Thank you everyone.

  16. Lauren says:

    Wow, wow wow!!! That looks simply amazing! You are so lucky.

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Hi, I'm Lee Tran Lam. When not blogging with my mouth full, I'm usually writing, presenting Local Fidelity on FBi radio, making zines, producing podcasts or continually breaking promises about how I really am gonna get through my book pile one day.

All the good pictures on this blog are by photography ace (and patient boyfriend), Will Reichelt, (all the dodgy ones can be credited to me)!

The lovely banner is by friend and ultra-talented illustrator Grace Lee.

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This is a blog I do for pure fun and zero influence – there's no sponsorship, sneaky advertorial or advertising. I pay for all the food mentioned, 'cos it seems the ethical thing to do.


This is a blog about eating and drinking in Sydney, Australia (with the odd cross-border or off-topic detour). BYO appetite.

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