The Sydney Opera House is an Australian icon. It is so synonymous with Australia that many forget Canberra is, in fact, our capital city. This architectural wonder sits perched on a small patch of land known as Bennelong Point.
The land was named in honour of an Aboriginal man captured by the British, Bennelong, who became an important intermediary between the settlers and the local people. He adapted to the settlers’ lifestyle and came to enjoy their food and drink. Today, the restaurant inside the Sydney Opera House pays homage to Australian history.
Bennelong is another outstanding addition to Sydney’s dining scene from the Fink Group, which owns Quay and OTTO in Sydney and Brisbane, as well as co-owning Firedoor, The Bridge Room, and Beach in Byron Bay. Given the iconic location and history of the site, it’s no surprise that Australian produce and wine take centre stage.
The restaurant’s philosophy celebrates the flavour, diversity and quality of Australian produce, and so the kitchen team is committed to building strong partnerships with farmers, fisherman and providores. Said team is lead by Executive Chef, Peter Gilmore, who has multiple accolades under his belt.
An occasional guest on Masterchef Australia, Peter became a household name after his signature Quay dessert, the Snow Egg, was touted as one of the toughest challenges. Peter describes his cuisine as “food inspired by nature”, and under his command, Bennelong was named Best New Restaurant 2016 in the Australian Gourmet Traveller awards and Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food awards.
At Bennelong Peter works alongside his senior sous chef from Quay, Robert Cockerill, who has now assumed the position of Head Chef at Bennelong. Robert has a similar philosophy to Peter, with a hands-on approach to produce and appreciation for the seasons.
The restaurant is split into three levels, with a signature ‘Peter Gilmore dining experience’ available on the lower level. His unique take on Australian cuisine includes options such as grilled Tasmanian octopus dressed with smoked almonds, aioli and sherry caramel, and Macleay Valley suckling pig, served with confit organic carrots, pickled onion and black and white garlic. Dessert is the epitome of nostalgia with pavlova and a cherry jam lamington.
Sommelier, Russ Mills, has worked with the Fink Group for four years. He has created a 180-bottle wine list showcasing both Australia’s favourite labels and wines from lesser-known boutique producers.
A casual menu with a focus on raw food is served on the two upper levels, with a choice of bar seating where you can watch the chefs at work on the middle tier, or a casual dining area on the top floor. Dishes include Sydney rock oysters, raw Mount Cook alpine salmon, and smoked Wagyu tartare.
Coveted Australian design firm, Tonkin Zulaikha Greer (TZG), designed the refurbishment. The tri-level layout seamlessly blends with the Sydney Opera House’s ochre and natural tones, complementing the iconic granite walls and ribs. Felt travels from floor to ceiling, softening the space, and in the centre, Larrakitj artwork from the Yolngu People connect the site to the traditional owners of the land.
It’s a hard task for a restaurant in such a symbolic location to prove itself as an icon in its own right. With Peter Gilmore at the helm, Bennelong is more than worthy of the title.