Neil Perry

A for­mer stu­dent be­comes mas­ter of No. 1 Bent Street

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I’ve known Mike McEn­ear­ney since his late teens, when he started his ca­reer with me at Rock­pool. He now owns No. 1 Bent Street and Syd­ney Air­port canteen Kitchen by Mike ( and has just re­leased his se­cond cookbook, Real Food by Mike.

What strikes me most about No. 1 Bent Street is that the food is just as I like it – beau­ti­ful in­gre­di­ents, per­fectly bal­anced and cooked with real skill. It’s de­li­cious and, most im­por­tantly, it’s Mike’s food.

The restau­rant has a mix of two-, three- and four-seaters, a bar and sev­eral com­mu­nal ta­bles. The heart of the restau­rant, though, is the open kitchen, where the wood-fired grill, ro­tis­serie and oven take cen­trestage. This is where Mike and his trusty head chef, Jef­frey De Rome, ply their trade.

Let’s start with the sour­dough with Pepe Saya cul­tured but­ter. When Mike de­cided he wanted to make sour­dough, he worked at the best bak­ery in Syd­ney, Iggy’s Bread, for a year. This isn’t just any bread – it’s been fer­mented for 48 hours. What a crust!

Next up? A creamy, smooth chicken liver pâté. Spread on toast and sprin­kled with four-spice salt, it’s su­per-tasty. I have it with a glass of Rhône Val­ley red, which is a per­fect match for the sweet liver.

Baby globe ar­ti­chokes are cooked whole then cooled in the cook­ing liq­uid. Cut and trimmed to or­der, they’re served in halves with the stock, a spoon­ful of mint dress­ing and as­sorted cit­rus. The ten­der ar­ti­chokes are sub­lime with the fresh mint and cit­rus – a cel­e­bra­tion of sea­sonal in­gre­di­ents.

Ash-baked egg­plant with miso broth and a sesame-based sauce is beau­ti­fully pre­sented, thanks to the “danc­ing” bonito flakes. The egg­plant is nes­tled in ash for an hour un­til soft, the broth is made with hand­made un­pas­teurised miso paste and the shaved bonito is scat­tered on top. This dish is a triumph – the melt­ing flesh of the egg­plant, the sweet­ness of the miso and the tahini’s nut­ti­ness work so well with the slightly bit­ter, smoky flavour from the charred egg­plant skin. I love it!

The char­grilled ar­row squid is equally good. It’s stuffed with peas, mint, sour­dough crou­tons and ’nduja, driz­zled with lemon, grilled over char­coal and grapevine wood then dressed with olive oil, sherry vine­gar and more ’nduja – so com­plex and de­li­cious.

The Brus­sels sprouts, chick­peas and but­ter­milk is a fit­ting side. The sprouts are fried hard un­til golden brown then tossed in lemon juice and olive oil, served with but­ter­milk dress­ing and sprin­kled with smoky pa­prika. The per­fect blend of taste and tex­ture, this dish al­most makes me want to be a veg­e­tar­ian.

We fin­ish the meal with Paris-Brest, a brit­tle choux pas­try with a sugar-paste top, hazel­nut pra­line and vanilla cream. Clas­sics are only great when pre­pared with care and craft – just like this dessert.

By the end of lunch, I’m filled with emo­tion be­cause of the won­der­ful meal I’ve just ex­pe­ri­enced – and pride that this young, en­thu­si­as­tic cook has be­come such a tal­ented chef and stand-up guy.

Char­grilled squid and sour­dough by chef Mike McEn­ear­ney

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