Swapping a canteen for a CBD location is quite a change, but the laid-back ethos remains at Mike McEnearney's new digs.
Mike McEnearney doesn't want you to think of his new menu at No 1 Bent St as traditional. "We don't like what a normal menu stands for - something that's laminated and doesn't change," he says. "Ours is just a list of what we're cooking that day."
The doors to his new Sydney CBD restaurant open on Monday 16 May and the chef is excited. Although Bent St offers more structure and service than the canteen queues of Kitchen by Mike in Rosebery, which he left last year, the same values remain. The food will be as seasonally focused and ingredient-driven as ever, changing day by day. "We're letting the produce tell us what we should cook," McEnearney says. "We never go to the market with a shopping list, but see what's good and then decide what to cook from there."
It's a proper restaurant, with an attractive fit-out finished in polished concrete and blond wood. Beyond its à la carte menu, it also offers a chef's selection for $70 a head. The wine list is concise, featuring 50 mostly local, small-production labels. The "huge, enormous" wood-fired oven will be doing most of the work, and McEnearney says the set-up at the new digs has enabled him to work with more of his repertoire. "There were many things we weren't able to execute at Kitchen by Mike. "We've opened this style of place so we can cook a wider range of dishes."
The wood-fired oven will produce hefty 1.5-kilo loaves of sourdough, and lend a touch of smoke to the likes of goat's cheese soufflés with rosemary, whole fish roasted on terracotta tiles, roasted pumpkin with ash-baked shallots, walnuts and buttermilk, pot-roasted lamb shoulders, and fine apple tarts. There's also a rôtisserie, which will spin whole chickens, and a char-grill for the likes of bottle squid with white beans and chorizo.
"I'm super-excited," says McEnearney. "There's very little difference in our ethos; we just have the opportunity to do more here. There are one or two more steps to each dish, with a waiter bringing it to the table with good wine. Light seasonal, fresh, just like Kitchen by Mike."
No 1 Bent St, 1 Bent St, Sydney, NSW, (02) 9252 5550, onebentstreet.com.au. Mon-Fri 11am-3pm and 5.30pm-late, Sat 5.30pm-late.