In June this year, just three months after The Bentley Group opened their latest venture Brasserie 1930, co-owners Brent Savage and Nick Hildebrandt announced they were expanding their culinary horizons with soon-to-open contemporary Asian restaurant King Clarence in Sydney's CBD.
Originally set to open in October, the buzzy new venue now has an official opening date of Friday 1 December, ready to usher in the summer crowds.
The group is already behind an impressive swag of Sydney stalwarts, from the eponymous Bentley Restaurant & Bar and slick CBD bistro Monopole to vegan Potts Point diner Yellow and Barangaroo's Med-leaning seafood restaurant, Cirrus. And with the addition of their new French-inspired Australian brasserie — Brasserie 1930 — Savage and Hildebrandt have elegant Euro-Australian dining pretty well covered. Now, they're changing pace.
Despite its colonial-entrenched name, King Clarence will be a contemporary Asian restaurant. As for the name, it merely reflects the two Sydney streets the corner restaurant will open on: King and Clarence Streets.
To lead the culinary direction, Savage and Hildebrandt have appointed Khanh Nguyen as executive chef. The former executive chef behind popular Melbourne restaurants Aru and Sunda is set to move to Sydney for the role and has already been collaborating with Savage on the King Clarence menu.
"I worked with The Bentley Restaurant Group seven years ago, before making the move to Melbourne," says Nguyen. "We built a great relationship when I was working with [Brent and Nick] and have stayed in touch. They've both been amazing mentors for me and I'm so excited to work alongside them once again at King Clarence."
King Clarence will take its culinary cues from China, Japan and Korea — three countries renowned for their distinctive regional cuisines. However, with Nguyen now at the helm there is speculation other East Asiean cuisines may also be present on the menu. It's pan-Asian cuisine, but not how Australians typically know it.
"Nick and I love eating Asian food and are really looking forward to applying The Bentley Group ideas and philosophies to this style of food," says Savage.
While the menu is under development for now, we do know that the restaurant will boast a custom-built barbecue and grill which we hope leads to the likes of yakitori, shaokao and galbi. Plus, there will also be large live seafood tanks reminiscent of the old-school Chinese restaurants of Sydney both lost and still existing.
In line with all Bentley Group venues, King Clarence will have an extensive wine program, with current Cirrus Dining sommelier Polly Mackeral set to take on the role of head sommelier. We're talking 40 wines available by the glass and a bottle list that circumnavigates the world, with classic European styles and new innovative drops. While lengthy, the list will have two key focuses: lesser-known winemakers and varietals that complement Asian cuisine. As for cocktails, there will be a tight list of reinvented classics.
The restaurant is set to open this spring and promises a level of rambunctiousness that is not found (or if so, rarely) at The Bentley Group's other establishments. Think more fun, more noise and more buzz in the expansive 100-seat, industrial-chic space.
"This is new and exciting territory for us. It's been a big year for us with the opening of Brasserie 1930 in March, and we look forward to rounding out the year opening a venue Brent and I have long been planning," says Hildebrandt
King Clarence is slated to open at 171 Clarence Street, Sydney CBD on Friday 1 December 2023.