After an 18-month limbo, Bennelong restaurant at the Sydney Opera House will open its doors on July 1 and is currently taking reservations.
Bennelong is the first new project by executive chef Peter Gilmore since he found fame at Quay more than 10 years ago. The menu will celebrate the best fresh produce in Australia.
“I’ve always worked really closely with farmers and producers, and I’ve really ramped that up with Bennelong,” says Gilmore.
The main restaurant will offer a three-course a-la-carte menu for $125 per person, available at dinner seven nights a week and lunch from Friday to Sunday. Walk-in diners can experience Peter Gilmore fare at the Cured & Cultured bar, where cured, fermented and raw ingredients will be offered on a shared menu with nothing priced over $30.
“You can come in and have a glass of wine and a few oysters, a plate of prosciutto and a couple of raw salads and go off to the theatre,” says the acclaimed chef, who says the Bennelong menu has been designed to be accessible. “There’s more choice and more variety. The food is a lot more straightforward – it’s all about produce.”
Gilmore has assembled a team comprising Quay veterans and new talent. General manager Kylie Ball, from Quay, will oversee the operation, supported by newcomer Neil Walkington in the role of restaurant manager. Chef de cuisine Robert Cockerill, who has spent eight years working alongside Gilmore at Quay, is responsible for the day-to-day running of the Bennelong kitchen. Sommelier Russell Mills will preside over the wines. Gilmore expects to split his time evenly between both restaurants.
The Fink Group recruited Sydney architects Tonkin Zulaikha Greer to complete a multi-million-dollar refurbishment of the space, including a $1.2 million kitchen rebuild.
Gilmore and the Fink Group won the tender to run Bennelong in November 2014, after prominent chef Guillaume Brahimi announced the end of his 12-year run at Guillaume at Bennelong in 2013. The Opera House’s initial deal with restaurateur Frank van Haandel of Melbourne’s Stokehouse fell through when his St Kilda restaurant was claimed by fire at the start of 2014.
Gilmore says it’s a privilege and an honour to be taking over the Opera House’s premier dining space.
“It’s such an iconic Australian landmark,” he says. “I think it’s really important to represent where modern Australian cuisine is at and celebrate our produce.”