Bensons on Martin ('Bensons') is a lovely restaurant in Brighton that serves modern Australian cuisine with some Spanish fare. On a lovely summer evening, I paid a visit to Bensons with a Groupon voucher. Upon presenting our voucher we were promptly showed to a table near the big French windows which overlooked a cosy outdoor dining area complete with shades and potted plants. The restaurant itself was quite small but spread out in an L shape which accommodated roughly 50-70 people. Wood dining tables and chairs were dotted all over the dining area.
We were one of the first arrivals but as the evening progressed more people trickled into the restaurant slowly taking up most of the tables. The clientele seemed to be people of all age groups including couples, families and friends. The restaurant appeared child friendly. A little smile crept across my mouth as I realised many appeared to have brought vouchers with them. Lively chatter and happy laughter impregnated the area. The casual, relaxed vibe proved to be conducive to conversation.
Our waiter brought us the menu and explained that our voucher entitled us a glass of wine each, a grazing board for entrée, one main each and one dessert each. We ordered Rose to start off.
We perused the menu as we sipped on our sweet wine. The extensive menu tempted us with popular dishes like linguini marinara, seafood paella, seafood bouillabaisse, butter chicken, lamb salad with Moroccan spices and so on. There was something for almost every taste including someone with an indecisive streak. Unfortunately there weren't many options for vegetarians. On the bright side, the menu boasted gluten free choices, a small yet interesting dessert menu and even a kids menu. After some animated discussion with my dining partner, we finally placed our order and eagerly waited.
Our grazing board appeared with a flourish. It was a wood platter containing 4 varieties from their entrée menu, cherry-picked by the chef. The drool-worthy presentation kindled our hunger. The cheese croquettes were crispy balls containing gooey, cheesy goodness. Oohs and aahs serenaded the delectable croquettes while the melt in the mouth lamb koftas were polished off in a rush. The tender salt and pepper calamari went down pretty well with the accompanying sauce. The arancini balls were quite tasty. After the lips-smacking entrées our expectation skyrocketed.
Service was slow. Our mains took some time to appear. For mains we had the seafood paella and linguini marinara. Linguini (small ribbon like pasta) was cooked with seafood sautéed in chilli, garlic and semi sundried tomatoes, blue swimmer crab and olive oil. The fresh seafood were sumptuous. We used pliers to scoop out juicy meat from the swimmer crab shells. It was a yummy dish which could have been perfect if it had a spicy kick. The chili was too mild and barely perceptible. Fit for a king, this massive dish was almost impossible to finish but we managed to do so with great difficulty.
The seafood paella was saffron infused calasparra rice cooked with prawns, scallops, calamari, mussels, capsicum, peas. My tongue couldn't detect any chorizo in the dish even though the menu included chorizo in the paella. The flavoursome rice enveloped abundant seafood which was fresh and succulent. It was a huge serve and could be easily shared between 2 people. Overall, it was a lovely dish.
To finish off our meal we had sticky date pudding and crème brûlée. It was a long wait before we could sample our desserts. We were already pretty full so didn't mind the delay as it allowed our digestive systems to demonstrate their magic.
I am a big fan of crème brulee. But Bensons disappointed me. The strong bitter flavour of the expresso brulee triumphed and failed to strike a chord. I surreptitiously reached out to my partner's sticky date pudding which was an instant hit. The pudding was moist and had a whole sticky date inside. The butterscotch sauce and the accompanying ice-cream elevated the experience.
In the absence of the voucher, our bill would have been $129 representing 2 glasses of wine ($18, $9 each), grazing board ($30), linguini marinara ($28), seafood paella ($29) and 2 desserts ($24, $12 each). But thanks to the voucher we paid $59 for the whole feast – a whopping 50% off the total bill. But even if we had to pay the full price it would still have been an enjoyable dinner. Bensons do a lot of special deals on various deals sites like Groupon, Scoopon, Ouffer and so on. So keep an eye out for these specials if you will like to make great savings.
Bensons don't treat patrons with vouchers as second class citizens which some places tend to do. This was definitely a plus. Staffs were quite helpful and polite. However, more smiles from the wait staffs and lesser delays in bringing out the food would go a long way in enhancing customer experience. For service and ambiance I rated Bensons 3 out of 5.
The standout entrees and scrummy sticky date pudding were the winners of the night while the mains were note-worthy. Food and wine as well as enticing presentation earned Bensons a healthy score of 3.7 out of 5.
Bensons on Martin is conveniently located at 146 Martin St, Brighton VIC which is minutes away from Gardenvale railway station on Sandringham line. If you take your car then there is ample parking around the corner on Asling Street. Bensons is open Tuesday to Saturday from 8am to 10pm and on Sunday and Monday it is open from 8am to 4pm. Booking is recommended. Bensons allow BYO with a corkage fee of $6.50. And after enjoying your meal you could go for a romantic drive down to the nearby Brighton Beach. We were too full and had to skip the trip to the beach.
I went to Bensons on 19/3 for lunch. The rest of the meal was very pleasant but the Sticky Date pudding was a wedge as if cut from a cake, rock hard and tasteless, very disappointing. The worst Sticky Date I have ever had.