Brent Savage and Nick Hildebrandt’s influence on dining and drinking in Sydney is hard to underestimate. They now have four restaurants under their umbrella, but it was with Bentley Restaurant + Bar that they found their long stride. And that original combination of Hildebrandt’s adventurous wine selections and Savage’s clever cooking is as exciting as ever.
After almost a decade, Savage and Hildebrandt moved Bentley from Surry Hills in 2013, taking up more substantial floorspace in the Radisson Blu Hotel on the corner of O’Connell and Pitt Streets (the old Sydney Morning Herald building). In 2018, the pair gave everything a thorough rethink, not just refreshing the interior, but reimagining it, with menu, wine list and service protocols all coming under the magnifying glass.
Working again with Pascale Gomes-McNabb, the stately and somewhat imposing interior was given an overhaul, still making the most of the grand arched windows and original features but matching the scale with a new level of intimacy. The reboot was more aesthetic than structural, but the impact is profound.
The black scaffolding linked in abstract form across the ceiling remains, but the geometric murals have been replaced. Splashes of black paint now creep up the walls and across parts of the ceiling, like jagged ink spills. The mezzanine restaurant space has had its fringe of glass inked in a forest green mural, with slick tubular pendant lights cloistering the space further, while the bar has been enriched with brass, dark-hued timber and the addition of leather banquettes. The effect is familiar but also strikingly dramatic, with a serene elegance to it, encouraging lingering, sinking in.
As always, you can open the throttle at Bentley and let Hildebrandt and his polished team pair 15 or so dishes of Savage’s tasting menu with an eye-opening selection of inspired wine matches, or strike out on your own with the á la carte menu and leaf through the wine bible – help is never far away. Alternatively, embrace the “bar” in Bentley’s name and prop up drinks with a few snacks, or just have the drinks, if you like.
Hildebrandt was an early adopter of lo-fi wines and has always championed the interesting and the unusual, with an unerring eye to quality and synergy with the menu, and that spirit remains. At Bentley, the wine list has cavernous depth and extraordinary scope, with over 1,000 listings from across the globe, and needless to say a sizable collection of the sought after and revered. An ever-changing list of 40 by-the-glass selections means that you can leave the pages of that tome unturned, if you wish, with ample choices across styles, and premium options, curios and rarities aplenty. And, as said, help is never far away.
COVID-19 conditions: Bentley has trimmed back its hours and sessions, with Savage creating a new menu to celebrate being back: “Until the city gets back into full swing we will be offering a refined tasting menu format that we hope will deliver a really memorable dining experience for our guests after this challenging time.” Hildebrandt is upping the stakes, opening some favourite bottles to match: “We’ll have an all new by the glass selection featuring some rare wines from producers such as Foillard and Ganevat”.