Come for the steak, stay for the sides.
MENU HIGHLIGHTS Beef
AMBIANCE Business at lunch; ‘this is a treat’ at dinner
WOULD I GO BACK? Not unless someone else was paying (to try the most expensive steak option)
Rockpool is an institution. It stands for Australian contemporary food. Neil Perry’s most stable baby, for sure.
I love the structure of the menu, because there is something for everyone. Like Fred’s, this is somewhere you can bring your grandma, and she’s likely to be able to recognise everything. The menu descriptions are written in plain English–a rarity when it comes to sophisticated dining. Today’s philosophy is: if you can’t pronounce it, it’s impressive. My philosophy is: explain the food well and it will be enjoyed and understood without the risk of disappointing diners’ expectations. If I need to whip out Google more than once to understand my options, you’ve lost the purpose of having a menu.
As far as I’m concerned, Rockpool sprints beyond the boundaries of value for money. 500 grams of Eastern Rock Lobster with herb butter is $110. A small shortcrust beef and Guinness pie with mushy peas is $38. If you want to try 700 grams of their finest rib eye on the bone, that will be $430, thanks.
I would completely disagree with the quote on the menu “Man first used fire to roast chicken. There is no reason to believe that it isn’t still the best method. Taste the difference!” Oh, I can taste the difference. It’s charcoal. In order not to overcook the chicken, the skin is not allowed to get totally crispy (it burns first). Thus the free range chicken with heirloom carrots and sage ($49) was boring and undercooked (look at the gristle, pinkness and leg socket in the photo). It was the most flavourless roast chicken I have ever had.
I’ve had Rockpool’s signature dishes. Four raw tastes of the sea ($39) was definitely not worth the price. It was an average crudo (with Kingfish, Tuna and others). It’s also hard to say anything about the charcoal roast squid and pork belly ($36), which was a few pieces of flesh with some random bread.
Cape Grim dry aged 36 month old grass fed rib eye had to be ordered for the sake of this-is-why-you-came-to-Rockpool. It’s very expensive, but it’s supposed to be one of Australia’s best steaks. The beef is so aged and dry that you need to order it as rare as possible, not even medium rare (like we did). I wasn’t crazy about the condiments either. Why mask such an expensive steak with all that lemon? The seeded mustard was straight out of a jar…
Seared King Prawns with goats cheese tortellini, burnt butter, pine nuts and raisins ($39) is too al dente. It’s good, but there are plenty of better places to get your pasta fix (like Rocker, Otto, 10 William St…)
I was fascinated by an item on the menu that I’d never tried before–Redgate Farm partridge with blueberries, pancetta and hazelnuts ($56). It was a tougher version of quail–lean, and very pink. I liked it, but I wouldn’t order it again. It didn’t have a crispy skin, and there was hardly any meat.
Neil Perry’s desserts are famous. We tried the most popular date tart ‘original recipe since 1984’ ($26). This was definitely a great dessert, but not good enough to make me want to order it again. There was not enough date flavour and the custard filling was dry. Catherine’s passionfruit pavlova ($23) was 95% fluffy meringue. Zero crust. It needed far more cream or ice cream, and some dominant flavour from a less acidic fruit, such as mango, to balance the passionfruit.
Rockpool’s petit fours are nothing to write home about. You can have a selection of four for $8 per person. We picked the Valrhona chocolate after dinner mints, dark chocolate bark with macadamia and sesame, passionfruit marshmallow and salted butter caramels.
Move past the ‘proper dishes’ and you will discover a gold mine. First off, the béarnaise is a must-try. It came with our beef, but there was far more than we needed. Thus, I ate/drank it by the spoonful. No waste. The mac and cheese was only $12, containing speck and topped with breadcrumbs. The rigatoni pasta was too large (macaroni would be better) and the sauce needed to be thicker. Less butter, more cream/milk.
The bar menu is better value. There you can sample the famed Rockpool cheeseburger with bacon and dill pickles, paired with a Sydney Beer Co. Lager for $22. Alternatively, there’s a David Blackmore’s wagyu reuben for $23 and a chicken salad for $19. Click to view the bar menu.
Visit dates: twice in 2017
Order next time: Wood Fire Grilled bone marrow with milanese crust and herb salad; wood fire grilled baby octopus with smoked eggplant and aleppo pepper; Charcoal roast Globe artichokes with macadamia tarator and grapes