Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country this week including Bentley, Sorellina, Ruyi, Print Hall Bar & Dining Room, Hotel Hotel, and Orana.
Bentley Restaurant & Bar
The question on everyone's lips (okay, my lips) wasn't whether Nick Hildebrandt's superb wine list would translate from Surry Hills to the CBD - no fear there. No, it was this: could Brent Savage cook a steak that the city's masters of the universe could get behind? The answer is a resounding yes. Savage may be one of the most consistently avant-garde of Sydney's chefs, and is no stranger to making custard out of toast, deploying tongue by stealth and putting squid ink on just about anything, but the stuff on the char-grilled section of his menu is as approachable as it is delicious. Take the oyster blade - it's served in juicy, nicely textured slices with rounds of radish and ribbons of beetroot, more or less perfect with a glass of the Jamsheed for Bentley shiraz, or indeed a very drinkable bottle of Domaine Fourrier Gevrey-Chambertin. Rest assured, Bentley fans, there's still plenty of purslane, smoked celery and frozen foie gras for those that need it, not to mention a sandwich served at the bar stuffed with duck ham, cheese and pickles. Pascale Gomes-McNabb's pick-up-sticks-inspired design is possibly her best work for Hildebrandt and Savage yet, striking, beautiful and functional in equal measure. Bentley's back, baby, and with a bang. Bentley Restaurant & Bar, 27 O'Connell St (cnr Hunter & Pitt sts), Sydney, NSW, (02) 8214 0505.
And another thing (or two)
Speaking of sandwiches worthy of a detour, we're pretty keen to eat the entire menu at Lucky Pickle, a sweet little new sambo joint just off the corner of Crown and Devonshire in Surry Hills, from the banh mi-like pork belly, duck liver, pickled carrot and sambal number to the mortadella with smoked mozzarella and olives. Just don't tell them we tipped you off, okay? Lucky Pickle, shop 3, 509-511 Crown St (enter via High Holborn St), Surry Hills, NSW.
What, more sandwiches? Well, a truly outstanding croque madame is just one highlight of the brunch menu at Woollahra newcomer Pinbone all day Sundays. There's baked beans of a higher order, excellent eggs, a fine fruit salad and a maple syrup-glazed bacon and pumpkin tart that's a reason to rise in and of itself. For those brunching later in the day - or those simply untroubled by societal mores regarding the consumption of alcohol before noon - there's one of the most interesting new wine lists in town, and for everyone else there's exactingly made Little Marionette coffee. Get into it before the chefs wise up and choose to spend their Sundays sleeping instead. Pinbone, 3 Jersey Rd, Woollahra, NSW, (02) 9328 1600. PAT NOURSE
There's something almost alchemical about the action of a crazy-hot wood-fired oven on risen dough. Add in a sweet tomato base, a few toppings, say, some buffalo mozzarella, anchovy strips, shavings of radicchio - and, hey presto, it's party-time. Something on the side? A cool iceberg and radish salad dotted with briny bursts of anchovy and mint should keep the good times rolling. Only a handful of pizze make the carte at Sorellina and its pared-back interior is equally old-school - black-and-white walls strung with bare bulbs, unadorned wooden tables and chairs. With a savvy half-sister like 1889 Enoteca across the street (the pizzeria is 1889 Enoteca co-owner Cam O'Brien's solo side project) you'd expect a drinks list with oomph and Sorellina has plenty of fun options, including Aperol spritz by the jug, Abruzzese Montepulciano by the carafe, Birra Turan's Turan Ultrasonica and a selection of quirky minimal-intervention wines. Sorellina, 31 Logan Rd, Woolloongabba, Qld, no phone.
And another thing
Don't forget to check out Sorellina's recently arrived step-sister - the curvaceous Locanda in Fortitude Valley's M&A Lane. The co-owners of this regionally-focused casual Italian are Cam O'Brien's 1889 Enoteca partners, Dan Clark and Emmanuel Sakellarakis, in conjunction with South Bank Cove Bar Dining's Adam Barton. Locanda, Osteria & Bar, 100 McLachlan St Fortitude Valley, Qld. (07) 3852 1121. FIONA DONNELLY
Ruyi would probably gather a following on the strength of its fit-out alone. It's a gorgeous space: a serene, clean-lined creation by Hecker Guthrie, all timber and concrete (including some very smart timber and concrete light fittings), cushioned bench seating, vintage tiles and, during the day, floods of natural light. The ceramic bowls, water pitchers and water tumblers have been handmade specifically for Ruyi and add a further touch of Scandinavian-Japanese style to the place. It's a pleasure to be there. The food? Chinese with an emphasis on dumplings, perhaps pork and chive, or wontons in brilliant chilli sauce, or fried rice in eggwhite wrapping. There's other good stuff too, citrus pork lettuce-cups and the curiously enjoyable crisp fried prawns with strawberry sauce. Add an impressive list focused on smaller wineries and a laneway location and you have one of the hotter destinations for Melbourne's summer. Ruyi, 16 Liverpool St, Melbourne, Vic., (03) 9090 7778.
And another thing (or two)
If you're getting out of town over the summer, be sure to look out for the Gourmet Traveller pop-up, Gertrude Street Enoteca at Avani Red Hill, which opens at the Avani winery on Mornington Peninsula on January 8. Gertrude Street Enoteca's Brigitte Hafner will be in the kitchen cooking fresh menus based on local produce each day. Gertrude Enoteca at Avani Red Hill, 98 Stanleys Rd, Red Hill South, Vic. For details and bookings see gertrudestreetenoteca.com.
Meanwhile, Andrew McConnell's pop-up, Supernormal Canteen, has just been given an extension of its New Year's deadline due to popular demand and will now remain open for the rest of the summer. Make the most of it. Supernormal Canteen, 53 Gertrude St, Fitzroy, Vic, no phone. MICHAEL HARDEN
Print Hall Bar & Dining Room
"Bar, Dining Room" ...and, until the end of February, "pop-up garden bar". Although the Summer of Riesling doesn't officially kick off until January, Print Hall has started the party early by temporarily rezoning part of its ground floor bar as riesling central. There's plenty of good-natured kitsch to the space - expect fake grass, retro furniture and foliage snaked around the room's Olympia-esque pillars - yet the commitment to superior imbibing is just as notable, starting with the 21-wine salute to the upwardly mobile grape. From dry, citric local expressions to joyously complex German ausleses, the list celebrates riesling's delicious diversity. Chasing the full monty? Supplement your merriment with a high tea for two. Between its briny oysters, shards of honey-glazed ham and dainty lemon meringue pies (and the rest), it's got all the ingredients for a rocking white wine party. Print Hall Bar & Dining Room, Brookfield Place, 125 St Georges Tce, Perth, WA, (08) 6282 0000.
And another thing
Elsewhere in the city, Chik & Kent opens in earnest on Monday. While its attached café has been keeping Murray Street caffeinated over the past month, next week will be Perth's first chance to experience the restaurant's ambitious take on Indian cuisine. Chik & Kent, 413 Murray St, Perth, WA. MAX VEENHUYZEN
Comprised of miles of reclaimed timber, crisp concrete surfaces and minimalist spaces, the stunning new Hotel Hotel seems far more Copenhagen than Canberra. Sean McConnell (of Mocan and Green Grout, and brother of Melbourne chefs Andrew and Matt McConnell) has joined the band of artists and curators lending their creative talents to the project. There's a full kitchen fit-out on the way, but for the next few weeks he's turning out sharp bar snacks to match a selection of slick mixed drinks. House-made labne accompanies warm sourdough from neighbouring artisanal boulangerie A. Baker, culatello - the most coveted prosciutto - is served with local cherries, while thin slices of pickled new-season tomatoes complement buffalo mozzarella. It all bodes very well for what's sure to be some of the biggest news in the capital for gourmet travellers in the year to come. Hotel Hotel, 25 Edinburgh Ave, New Acton, ACT, (02) 6287 6287. GARETH MEYER
Jock Zonfrillo might just have put Adelaide back on the map for destination diners. Orana, the Scottish-born chef's new 25-seater, is all about melding prime farmed or fished ingredients with foraged indigenous exotica, and is all about trying to find a new Australian cuisine. Kangaroo Island scallops come with sharp, salty iceplant, for instance, while smoked beef intercostals are topped by bitter mousse flavoured with grasses. These sometimes unlikely-sounding combinations achieve impressive harmony, with lots of natural saltiness and astringency from indigenous ingredients that pop and dazzle in the mouth, balanced by licks of sweetness to ensure that flavours linger long on the palate. It's by no means a cheap or quick night out; it's degustation-only, the menu priced at $155, or $295 with an eclectic flight of matched wines, but the value is sound. It's a bold and original restaurant, a restaurant with a mission, but it also happens to serve some damned tasty food. It's a big win for South Australians and visitors alike. Orana, 285 Rundle St, Adelaide, SA, (08) 8232 3444. DAVID SLY
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