Devonshire Street is one of the more eclectic food strips in Surry Hills, so opening The Devonshire had a certain element of risk associated with it, although a vibrant room on a fairly nondescript Tuesday night is evidence that Chef Jeremy Bentley has gone a long way to winning the locals over. Waving corkage on the Tuesday is a great initiative, and offering a three course Prix Fix Lunch menu on a Friday for $35pp is the type of goodwill that is repaid with return covers. Set in an intimate terrace, the use of a multitude of gilded mirrors by designer Victoria Waters to fill one length would normally be a stretch, but it undeniably works well here. The understated smart feel of the room fits like a glove with the overall intention of both the food and service.
The subtle honey butter is that moreish, the minimal $1 surcharge for quality extra bread is totally irrelevant, as recharging at least once is mandatory. Followed by a very accomplished amuse bouche of house-made salt fish brandade using mulloway tails and belly, hitting perfect seasoning and textural points. The balance and nuance of the caper sauce is astonishingly good, and a teasing promise of things to come. The wine list offers both quality and diversity, whilst being mindful of the price points, and the BYO policy is incredibly generous, given the quality of the restaurant involved. Service is friendly yet professional, and never wanes even at the pointy end of the night, which is a reliable front of house barometer.
A vibrant, but not overpowering red pepper heirloom tomato gazpacho ($25), with Yarra Valley persian fetta adding just the desired level of piquancy, is served at just below room temperature. This is preferred over the usually chilled versions elsewhere. The speckling of dried olives are a nice touch, and the almonds and croutons add a nice textural contrast. Time well spent by the Chef in the UK really comes out with the roast pork belly, black pudding and crumbed pig’s tail ($25), which is a modern, technical, and tasty homage to the animal. Nicely poached enoki mushrooms both lighten the dish up, whilst offering an innovative textural contrast, alongside the butternut puree, crispy sage, and crackle.
An appealing boudin of free range chicken breast garnished with jus gras ($36), is upstaged by a spectacular parmesan foam topped pot roast tortellini, that sings with flavour. The grilled asparagus and sweet corn provide a nice counterpoint to a dish of essentially two distinct parts. I nearly devour the side of the triple cooked royal blue potatoes ($7) on my own, but my dining companion gets lucky and scavenges a couple before that. Let’s be honest, cooking seafood to absolute precision is the test of an accomplished Chef, and the spectacularly pan seared Palmers Island Mulloway ($36), confirms Jeremy Bentley’s credentials in that art. The textbook crispy skin is absolutely exceptional, as is the seasoning, which particularly highlights the calamari. The lush confit potato noodles display technique, whilst the intense squid ink dressing makes the dish complete.
Sublime vanilla and honey yoghurt ($16), with blueberries and a textural ”nutty granola”, gives this dessert an undeniable breakfast feel, but the velvety mango mousse adds a little ‘twilight’ sophistication. Then, the signature dessert; a playful and innovative take on a classical Devonshire tea, with absolutely flawless execution of each element. The exquisite consistency and balance of the tea flavoured crème brûlée works a dream with the unique scone ice cream, the slight tartness of the cherry jam, and richness of the fresh whipped cream. The dish quintessentially taps the sense memory of those traditional Devonshire teas, with ‘a wink and a nod’ from one of Sydney’s most under rated and accomplished Chefs.
Any memorable restaurant experience is the sum total of all the little things being done well. Restrooms unfortunately can often be the forgotten extension of a restaurant, but is impeccably maintained here, from the stylish hand soap to the softly lit ambience. The dedication and commitment of the team at The Devonshire can be found in every detail, and the synergy between the classy food and service, is stunningly seamless for that duty of care. No doubt the time spent by Chef Jeremy Bentley under the exacting Phil Howard at the two Michelin star Square in London, progressing from Chef de Partie to Sous Chef, was a master class in the pursuit of excellence, and has paid immense dividends for diners in Surry Hills. The challenging balance between maintaining standards, within a more casual context, is struck perfectly here. The result is a restaurant that I genuinely want to visit on a regular basis.
204 Devonshire Street, Surry Hills
Tuesday to Saturday 6pm to 10pm
Reservations: (02) 96989427
Licensed (BYO Tuesday corkage free, Wednesday to Thursday $10 per bottle)