Hot restaurants Sydney – No. 1 Bent Street
There’s been a huge amount of buzz about No. 1 Bent Street and its chef/owner Mike McEnearney and it remains one of Sydney’s hot restaurants since opening in May this year.
The chef has a very solid pedigree, starting his career at Rockpool and then moving to London to work in various Michelin-starred establishments, but he’s been back home in Sydney for around 10 years and responsible for some of the Harbour City’s more innovative eateries.
It was with significant expectation that Greedy Girl and foodie friend Madame Lapine wended their way one recent humid evening to McEnearney’s industrial-chic outlet in a very well-heeled part of Sydney’s central business district. While usually we prefer to eat early and, ahem, drink late, we had already imbibed some Christmas cheer with colleagues leading into our 8pm reservation. Unsurprisingly, when we arrived at No. 1, the place was jumping.
So much, in fact, there was literally no room at the inn. Our table wasn’t yet available so we were shown to the bar area, which abuts the semi-open kitchen. Not much joy there either with literally no bar stools remaining. Footsore and a bit weary, we were downcast at the thought of having to literally stand to wait for our table. Thankfully the large group next to us, who decided that sitting single file along the bar didn’t suit them and took up the whole passageway, were quickly moved into the restaurant proper. Our wait was also relatively short; we’d barely had time to take first sips of a glass of prosecco before being ushered to the table.
It’s tricky to describe McEnearney’s food. It’s certainly modern, with a wide range of influences – Asian, Middle Eastern, French, Italian. We opted to share a few plates, including some of Madame Lapine’s favourites (she had dined there quite a few times) and settled in.
As restaurant decor goes, this is definitely on the industrial side. There’s lots of exposed pipes, polished concrete and strip lighting. The interior at night remains quite dark and it’s certainly buzzy; not too many quiet corners here but it plays into the overwhelmingly 30-something clientele.
We started with scallops, presented in the shell, baked with bacon, garlic and thyme. These were enjoyable, if not packed with flavour. The scallop wasn’t overcooked so that was definitely a plus.
Next up was grilled cuttlefish, baby peas and nduja – a soft, spreadable, spicy Italian sausage. Greedy Girl didn’t really get into this dish. A fair amount of the cuttlefish was tough and the flavours didn’t really taste balanced to her palate – she could barely discern the nduja, for example. The menu said the dish was with mandarin but this was with yellow-flesh peaches.
Next was one of the daily specials – a chargrilled prawn and watermelon curry. Hats off to the chef – this is certainly a dish beyond the mundane. The prawns were again nicely cooked and the curry (which was really just a garnish) didn’t overwhelm them. It was perfectly edible, but it didn’t wow Greedy Girl.
We then moved to the dish pictured at the top of this post, ash baked eggplant with saffron, freekeh and green tahini. It’s a vibrant-looking dish but, again, it didn’t wow the tastebuds. Greedy Girl must confess to not being the biggest fan of eggplant but she’s had plenty of dishes where it’s just been extraordinary. This was another combination that we were happy to eat without being amazed at the flavour profile.
Finally, Greedy Girl was talked into the pork belly. As a dish, it didn’t look as interesting as the other plates presented that evening – just a bit of piccalilli relish on the side and the wrapped leaf, which Greedy Girl left to her green-loving friend. The pork itself? The crispy skin (crackling) was very nice. The flavour and texture of the meat didn’t do a lot for Greedy Girl she has to say.
And we were done – out into the still muggy night.
There are some signature dishes here that we didn’t have on the night and that Greedy Girl would like to try – such as the goat’s cheese souffle and chicken liver pate. Ultimately though, Greedy Girl was left a little underwhelmed by her experience.
No. 1 Bent Street
Corner Bent and O’Connell Streets, Sydney