The question of where the Bentley team will next set up shop has been answered with the announcement that they'll be taking over the Bistro Fax site at the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel on O'Connell Street in the Sydney CBD.
The restaurant will keep the same name when it opens at the end of this year, but it'll be a bigger, bolder Bentley that hangs out its shingle in the CBD, with a 30-seat bar on the ground floor (all the better to showcase co-owner and sommelier Nick Hildebrandt's gift for crafting wine lists of unusual substance and focus), and 80 seats upstairs for à la carte dining.
The food, says chef and co-owner Brent Savage, will remain in line with the menus that have won consistent two-star ratings in the GT Australian Restaurant Guide since the restaurant opened seven years ago. "It'll be a continuation of Bentley, but not the same."
"There'll be a more focused food offering at the bar," he adds. "We'll have a menu that's similar to the one we opened the Bentley with that you can make a full meal with, but on a bigger scale. They'll be more like mini-dishes rather than tapas."
And the wine? "The list will be as strong as ever. Maybe stronger."
In what will be music to the ears of the corporate warriors of the neighbourhood, there'll also be Bentley-to-go in the form of sandwiches. "We'll be doing pickles and briskets and some of our cured meats - proper sandwiches," says Savage. "We're converting the area with the stairs at the front to a bar for coffee and pastries in the mornings."
Savage says the team hasn't got immediate plans to do breakfast. But though he finds the idea slightly overwhelming - "how are we going to get ready for lunch?" - he won't completely rule out a breakfast menu making an appearance in the future. "Going from the 50 seats we do at Bentley in Surry Hills to doing 80 is probably enough to worry about for the moment, but we'll definitely think about it."
Pascale Gomes-McNabb, the Melbourne-based architect responsible for the most recent Bentley refit and the design of Monopole, the Potts Point wine bar Hildebrandt and Savage opened in late 2012, has signed on for the new restaurant. A good-sized private dining room is already part of the plans.
Savage won't comment publicly on word that he and Hildebrandt have a second Potts Point restaurant project in development for a 2013 opening, but rumours that they're set to take over the Yellow House site on Macleay Street are still running hot.
The existing Bentley site on the corner of Crown and Campbell streets in Surry Hills , meanwhile, will reopen later this spring as Chow, a smart-casual Asian eating house from the Claude's team. Chef Chui Lee Luk has shared details of a few of the dishes she has on the draft menu with GT, including thinly sliced suckling pig with Chinese olive relish, oyster omelettes, braised duck in yellow bean sauce, smoky eggplant with smoked trout, spring onion oil and rice vinegar and - wait for it - egg tarts with ginger sherbet and meringue.
The last Bentley service will be 10 August. Savage and team will mark their departure from Surry Hills by exclusively offering a greatest-hits dégustation from 22 July ($120). They're also putting on a special dinner on 5 August, gathering together four of the best chefs who have passed through the Bentley kitchens: current head chef Aiden Stevens, Mr Wong's Dan Hong, Longrain head chef Louis Tikaram and Dave Verheul from new Melbourne hotspot The Town Mouse ($120 for eight courses, two from each chef). Book your seat on (02) 9332 2344.