Bennelong restaurant opens for business this week under the Quay crew, and Peter Gilmore and John Fink want to be clear on one point above all: Quay hasn't moved to Bennelong. No sooner had The Fink Group won the tender to take over the restaurant at the Sydney Opera House after the Stokehouse bid was withdrawn than rumours started to fly that its three-star flagship would be crossing the water.
"We're keeping Quay exactly as it is," says Gilmore, "and we plan on being there in the long term. I'm going to stay at Quay as executive chef, and I'll be working across the two restaurants."
Rob Kabboord has stepped in at Quay, while Quay's sous, Robert Cockerill, is running the kitchen at the Bennelong site, both assuming the title of chef de cuisine.
And the food? It depends where you're sitting. The bar remains a bar as it was under Guillaume Brahimi, the mezzanine is the Cured and Cultured raw bar, serving the likes of Byron Bay culatello with barley toast, truffle butter and young radishes, and tartare of cold-smoked Blackmore wagyu with fermented chilli paste, cultured grains, sesame, seaweed and egg yolk.
In the restaurant proper you might be looking at roast Holmbrae duck with black miso, raw and pickled hispi cabbage and seaweed, John Dory roasted and served on the bone with orach, turnips, gai lan and umami butter, and the fun of a cherry-jam lamington at dessert.
Gilmore's concept is for a "slightly pared-back version of the sort of food that I do at Quay", involving fewer processes but with the same quality ingredients.
The room has retained much of its former structure and colour palette in a nod to Jørn Utzon's original vision for the space. Sharp copper surfaces, Marblo resin tables and striking Tom Dixon "Melt" lamps add to the theatre.
"The Sydney Opera House is one of the most recognisable buildings in the world," Fink says. "There's seven performance venues in the Opera House; this isn't a performance venue, per se, but it is an eighth venue where people can come and engage culturally over food and wine, which is theatre anyway."
Doors officially open on 1 July.
Bennelong, Bennelong Point, Sydney, NSW, (02) 9240 8000