Bennelong is one of my favorite fine dining destinations in Sydney – the bold flavors, the moody atmosphere, and the cocktails truly appeal to my palate. After dining from the three-course a la carte menu at the restaurant once and with two sessions at the Cured & Cultured bar under my belt, I’ve come to the conclusion that I prefer the bar. There’s a more casual vibe and I always love it when you can order dishes that are more conducive to sharing.
Cured & Cultured Bar
Seeing the chefs in action at the bar is one of its many charms. Quite a few dishes have a raw or cold element and, as intimated by the name of the bar, there’s often something cured or cultured going on. Some of my faves have included the David Blackmore bresaola with thinly sliced rye, cucumber pickle, fennel butter and horseradish creme fraiche as well as the salad of smoked eggplant, crisp falafel, pistachio nuts, currants, labneh, and super-soft housemade pockets of pita bread.
The red claw yabbies with buckwheat pikelets, jam, and cultured cream have quickly become a fast favorite for a lot of people I know. And if you’re prone to a cheeky sausage roll, try the amped up version here made with suckling pig and dotted with daubs of black garlic (if you’re game, ask for the crispy end bits, which is what my pal Jeff shamelessly has done twice). On all three visits at Bennelong, I ate the roasted carrots. They’re always, always perfect. And arguably one of the best vegetarian dishes in town.
The cherry jam lamington has become a well-loved dessert and I can see why. The frozen coconut curls add drama and innovation. But as always, I’m much more into fruity desserts, so the five textures of Queensland mango are more to my taste.
Would I come back? In a heartbeat. There’s something so comforting about sitting at the bar and seeing all the action up close and personal. While I enjoyed the food equally dining in the restaurant, that informal atmosphere gets my vote. Plus, you’re likely to spend a little bit less. The three-course sets you back $130, but at the bar, you can get away with spending $80-90.
I dined at the Cured & Cultured Bar on 3 April 2016 and 16 December 2016.
My first experience at Bennelong is actually at the restaurant for an anniversary dinner with my insignificant other (I kid, he’s significant sometimes). It’s my first meeting the delicious roasted carrot salad, but it’s certainly not my last. Eric orders the grilled Lady Elliot Island bug with organic turnips and XO sauce for his starter – it’s as pretty as a picture.
The main event of roasted John Dory served on the bone with orach, turnips, native coastal greens, and umami butter delivers on umami-ness. It makes the dish utterly delicious. Eric’s Macleay Valley suckling pig with heritage apples, cipollini onions, black garlic, and smoky juices hits home with punchy flavor. The three-course menu also includes a side of super delicious potatoes and a bowl of salad.
The chocolate cake from across the water is a clever name for the eight-textured dessert originally (and still to this day) served at Quay on the other side of Circular Quay. I don’t know why I ordered the chocolate dessert – I think maybe just because I hadn’t tried it at Quay yet either. It’s, of course, rich and delicious, but I’m left wishing I had gone with my regular pick for something fruity or sour.
All cocktails are excellent but it’s the espresso martini that leaves a lasting impression. The wattleseed and hazelnut espresso martini with Firedrum vodka, Mr Blacks coffee liqueur, fresh coffee, and hazelnut and wattleseed mousse is a dessert in its own right. Plus a boozy hit. What more could you want?
I dined at Bennelong Restaurant on 29 September 2015.
Note the photos below are a mish-mash of three visits over the course of a year or so. Some dishes are most likely not on the current menu.
Bennelong Restaurant and Cured & Cultured Bar
Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point, Sydney, NSW