‘Bentley’s Grill … the kind of restaurant where you want to put your phone off as soon as you come in…’ said one companion, a regular customer, as we neared the entrance. ‘Why’s that?’ asked the other as we walked in. The question needed no answer. The atmosphere, the ambience was immediately felt – and enveloping.
What there wasn’t was loud decor, or (remember it?) ‘painting-by-numbers’ type art in overblown gold frames hanging skew-whiff from the walls nor gimmicky lighting – in fact, nothing overpowering or noisy or slick at all. It’s an entirely kitsch-free zone.
Instead, what you find is calm … and a polished, understated elegance with leather armchair-seating, linen tablecloths, candelabras and candle-holders, decanters, a race-horse or two (prints, that is, not on the menu), little bronze equine statuettes, and the superbly efficient, unobtrusive service led seamlessly by Restaurant Manager Melanie.
In a word, ‘class’. Bentley’s Grill has that often elusive quality and, with the evident personal touches of both Gordon, the GM, and wife Margaret Mackenzie, whether for business or sheer pleasure it provides an ideal, sophisticated setting for leisurely, intimate dining.
Our own dinner-for-three was for both business and pleasure and, hand towels and welcome beverage dispensed with, we perused with anticipation the leather-bound menu. If the cuisine reflected the surroundings we were in for a treat.
Free for the occasion of DVP (Daughter’s Vegetarian Presence – although she would have been happy to choose from, I have to admit, some appealing ‘V’ options from among the menu’s Starter and Main Courses) we resolved, as Julie Andrews suggested melodically in quite another context, to ‘start at the very beginning’ and work our way through the offerings, if not melodically then at least methodically.
However, we were pleasantly usurped by Melanie producing Chef Pushpa’s ‘amuse bouche‘ in the form of cream cheese and fresh strawberry atop beef pastrami wrapped around a bread stick, to give it all some ‘crunch’. This definitely augured well, we felt.
The starters eventually chosen (and only then because we’d made a decision to share them) were the popular Alaskan salmon crab cakes, made with smoked paprika, salmon roe and ‘herb aioli’, served with a lightly-crisped coating (deliciously moist, flavoursome and with just that hint of garlic, we concurred); Maine (also known as Canadian) Lobster Cocktail – fresh lobster tossed in citrus mayonnaise, with microgreens (shoots, for the uninitiated, of salad vegetables picked when the first leaves appear), with avocado and mango and served beside a reduced balsamic glaze (‘gloriously fresh with a mildly tangy aftertaste’ ventured one companion to a murmur of assent); and we’d all agreed to try the Mushroom Overload, phyllo pastry cups filled with brown mushrooms sauteed in garlic and topped with red cheddar cheese.
We’d been umming and ahhing between this dish and the Grilled Portobello Mushrooms (a ‘V’ dish) served with warm brie cheese, roasted pine seeds and pomegranate vinaigrette. And while, before we tasted our selection, it was easy to say ‘next time’ for the Grilled Portobello Mushrooms ish, it will require quite a bit of willpower to make the change – the creamy texture and subtle flavour of the Mushroom Overload, complimented by the light-crispy phyllo, being a wholly compelling combination.
Using the same sharing formula to hasten a decision between the tempting options we agreed on three main courses, first among them being Braised Wagyu Tenderloin Beef Tips – ‘Japanese cow’ no less – don’t say you can’t speak at least some Japanese now.
Australia, now a top producer of Wagyu beef, exports worldwide its exquisite heavily-marbled Wagyu fillet, striploin and ribeye, and all were available from the menu’s appetising Steak Selection options, along with a good half-dozen cuts of prime Angus beef. Included in the prices stated are seasonal vegetables, hash browns and a variety of sauces and dressings.
But Braised Wagyu Tenderloin Tips it was (easier to share) and the dish came with a selection of vegetables, gravy (exactly as Granny used to make it) and truffle mashed potato. Ambitiously, a Yorkshire Pudding was ordered from the ‘Accompaniments’ list (all nine options were ‘V’ items), although eating one without hot, meaty gravy is surely sacrilege – and the two companions were treated between mouthfuls of it to an account of the history of this dish. The lightly crispy batter, made from eggs, flour and milk or water was, ‘in the olden days’, how the poorer members of society blunted their appetites for when the meat dish was served, so that just a little meat (disproportionately expensive in those times) would suffice. Thus Yorkshire Pudding was served hot, in a bowl shape and as big as the dinner plate it sat on, filled with gravy. And for the sake of historical verisimilitude that was exactly the manner in which the self-appointed Food Historian consumed a smaller version of one while sharing the tempting Wagyu Tips, cooked to succulent, medium-rare perfection.
Meanwhile, the two lectured companions – carnivores also – had opted for Veal Medallions with Gorgonzola Cheese Crust served with braised celery stalks and, perhaps surprisingly, chicken risotto (what an interesting, full-flavoured combination); and Pan Fried Duck Breast in the form of potato and duck meat croquettes, garnished with grilled radicchio wedges. Against the distinctive duck flavour the radicchio was more than able to hold its own, providing a surprisingly even balance.
Each mouthwatering dish cooked to perfection, there was no ‘I wish I’d ordered that instead’, as we had indeed ordered ‘that’ as well… Probably a longer pause between sampling the different dishes would have refreshed the palate more but its easy to say that after the event!
Thoroughly sated and deciding (by majority vote) not to go for broke and to forego the wickedly tempting desserts, among which are Rhubarb Crumble, Medley of Mousse and Molten Chocolate Cake, Melanie wasn’t having any of it and appeared bearing gifts once again – this time in the shape and form of a deliciously sweet and tangy ‘pre-dessert’: a soupcon of blackberry and blackcurrant drizzled with a white chocolate sauce.
A positively sinful note on which to end a positively marvellous dinner, was the unanimous verdict.
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