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Oct 24, 2009 05:20 PM

Rockpool Bar & Grill [Sydney]

A birthday treat and a trip to Sydney’s hottest new restaurant “Rockpool Bar & Grill”. Be warned book early, we first called three weeks ago and could only get a late table on a Saturday night.

It is a spectacular space with the restaurant located in what I assume was the old banking hall of a beautiful 1930’s Art Deco building. Neil Perry has really done the space justice and has built a very stylish restaurant that adds to the grandeur of the space rather than detracting. Along one side of the restaurant is a large open kitchen, which reminded me of the some of the Terrance Conran “gastro-domes” which opened in London in the ‘80’s (Quaglinos etc). Table settings are basic, it isn’t set up to rival the fine dining subtlety of the main Rockpool restaurant, but stylish.

The menu is quite lengthy with lots of choice, clearly steaks are the main event here but there are lots of other options from the grill plus interesting salads and pasta (including the signature goats cheese tortellini).

The wine list is really awesome; it comes in two volumes, one for red one for white. The cellar is founded on a portion of David Doyle’s wine collection; David is a US software billionaire who now collects great wines. He has approx $9 million of his cellar at Rockpool and it is available for us mere mortals to try. As you would expect then it is a list with lots of Grand Cru’s from Burgundy and Bordeaux but also some more reasonable wines. We drank a great ’07 Spanish Fefiñanes Albariño at $78 and a 2008 Battle of Bosworth Cab Sav from Mclaren Vale at $50. Both are really good wines and were great recommendations from the barman and Sommelier respectively. I think the $50 bottle is the cheapest on the list but it is a fine wine at that price.

OK the food: my partner started with a fantastic “Tuna Tartare, Moroccan Eggplant, Cumin Mayonnaise and Harissa” at $29. The tuna is good and chunky and spankingly fresh, and the Moroccan spicing adds a wonderful dimension to the dish. This superbly conceived and executed. I chose the “Trofie with Hand Pounded Pesto, Green Beans and Potato” at $19, which was very good, the pasta (trofie) in this classic Ligurian dish was very fine and all the elements worked well, my only slight criticism is that IMO there could have been more pesto with the dish to give it a bit more punch.

We could not go past the steak section for main courses, the menu reads like a carnivores dream. My partner went for the classic “My Steak Tartare with Chips” at $25. It was good but oddly the rawness of the meat seemed to be lost in the preparation, the mixture hid the natural quality of the beef, which she had hoped would be the feature of the dish. It was good, but she felt not really as good as ones she has eaten in France. I chose the on-the-bone 79 day, 350g “Cape Grim Dry Aged 36 Month Old Grass Fed Rib-eye” at $58, this was an outstanding steak, quite possibly the best tasting and best cooked I have had. The flavour and texture was divine.

A couple of niggles though, my steak came with a béarnaise sauce, and I love béarnaise, as it is perfect with great beef. Disappointingly this is a “new” béarnaise where the tarragon (and other herbs) is added as oil on top of a hollandaise sauce. For me it really doesn’t work. I did ask for another portion hoping the first wasn’t right and the waiter had more oil added it didn’t really make much difference. The other niggle is the potato puree at $9. This isn’t an easy dish to make as it is really an emulsion of potato and butter (with an equal weight of butter and potato in the best), the result here is quite tasty but the oil had started to split out of the potato, which was disappointing. But all credit to the FOH staffs who are superb; they happily removed the dish from the bill. What is Neil Perry’s magic with FOH teams? He manages to build teams of very skilled people yet ensures they retain their personalities; they are always so good.

Overall it is a really good restaurant for a big night out; a stunning building, great service and good food. At $259 for two (50% booze) I thought it quite reasonable value, we left happy and very full – no desserts we couldn’t fit them in….!

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  1. Great review Phil. Have enjoyed reading your posts on uk restaurants previously and am very much enjoying the Sydneyside ones too, especially as I hope to return next summer (ours not theirs unfortunately) so am slowly narrowing my list down. Keep up the good work!

    1. Love your take on everything you review have exquisite taste!
      Didn't Rockpool have a place in the Rocks?
      New location looks stunning..

      3 Replies
      1. re: Beach Chick

        Thanks BC.

        Yes, Neil Perry still runs the original Rockpool in the Rocks, he has changed it a bit. Now there is an oyster bar at the front for light meals and more casual dining, and at the back the restaurant has returned to be an ALC fine diner with the style of food made Perry famous (it has morphed between themes and styles over the last few years). So he now has four places in Sydney (the fourth is Spice Temple a regional Chinese restaurant) and one in Melbourne

        1. re: PhilD

          We ate at Rockpool in the Rocks and someone in the kitchen had this annoying habit of clapping his hands in order to hurry things up. It wasn't working so well and the kitchen seemed very slow for the number of people working in there. I don't think we need to go back.

          1. re: PhilD

            Melbourne..what a great city and I'm sure Neil does very well there..

        2. We went to the bar at Rockpool Bar & Grill on Friday (no need to book) and had some really great burgers.

          We started with four beef empinadas which at $10 is far cheaper than last weeks visit to Bodega at $4 each, the Rockpool ones are also twice as good so in relative terms quite a bargain. We then tried a Wagyu burger with Bacon, Gruyere Cheese and Zuni Pickle ($22) and a Grass Fed burger with Bacon, Gruyere Cheese and Zuni Pickle ($18) and some chips ($12). All were fantastic although at 50 cents a chip they should be. The burgers may seem expensive but are a good size and more than enough to satisfy. The difference between the two burgers is quite marked, with each having their own qualities, I would be happy with either again.

          Drinks here are not a bargain, the entry point to the wine list is $50 for a bottle and it exponentially rises from there. That said the wine quality is very good, and is far superior to the standard $12 glasses you get in other bars. we drank a 2006 Massena ‘The Moonlight Run’ from the Barossa at $58 which slipped down nicely.

          3 Replies
          1. re: PhilD

            I go to the bar fairly often and have yet to get beyond the great burgers. The empanadas are a great pointer.

            It ain't cheap, but it is worth it. I can particularly recommend the manhattan cocktail, which is brilliant

            1. re: fergal76

              I usually have a burger and burgundy - usually good stuff by the glass.

            2. re: PhilD

              Just (as in this morning at 6am) returned from trip which included Sydney (Tetsuyas and Rockpool B&G). Will cover RBG here, I thought it was a really excellent restaurant, truly a beautiful space to sit and eat (sucker for art deco), rocked up in grey jeans, polo shirt and trainers and was welcomed as those in full suits and fatter wallets than me had been. Got in at 1pm without a booking for table for two( a Wednesday) and it was rammed, a lot of suits on the office account but lots of satisfied faces so was put at ease. Excellent cocktails were followed by a serving of truly great goats cheese (surprisingly aussie) tortellini with grilled prawns and burnt butter and the cape grim t-bone, as well as two sides of the mac cheese and the kipfler cooked in wagyu fat. A glass of Thomas 'DJV' Hunter Valley red and Clonakilla Sem/Sav demonstrated the excellent, if not cheap, wine list went with them. Both mains and sides were of excellent quality, the beef was particularly good, nearly as good as an attempt at Hestons 24hr that I once nailed (with a little help from friends). All in all I think we scored it a 7/10 (based on our version of the UK GFG scoring system), a very good score fore a very good restaurant

            3. We arrived early for our reservation on September 18th and the "hostess" looking up from her reservation book after a while, swiveled on her heels and lead us to the table I had requested four months earlier (I had asked for a "quiet booth" at that time). She took us to a small twofer next to the service area where the dishes are taken and the servers hang out. We said that this would not do for us. She swiveled around again, told us to seat at the bar and wait for the manager. At no time did she make us feel welcome, smile, or try to accommodate us. We politely told her we would dine elsewhere and left.

              It's a pity that management allows someone to behave this way to customers and that they do not train people to consider making customers happy. I'm sure the food was fine but, frankly, Melbourne is full of great places to eat and this sort of behavior will only work on people who feel they can accept being treated poorly by well-reviewed restaurants ""run by famous chefs.