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Nov 8, 2010 11:52 PM

Rockpool Bar & Grill (Sydney) - worth it if you don't eat steak?

Hello. I've got a reservation at the Rockpool Bar & Grill but am beginning to question if it's the place for me since I don't eat meat! I was under the impression that seafood is also good (plus I really want to dine in that stunning room), but having read a few reviews everybody talks about the steak. Should I spend my hard earned money somewhere else? Thank you!

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  1. Neil Perry does have a reputation for sourcing good fish (assuming you are not a vegetarian) and there is plenty on the menu. Given a lot of fish is best served simply then "Seafood from the Charcoal Oven Grill" is probably a reasonable option and doesn't look any more expensive than good fish elsewhere.

    It is a great space so worth a visit, but if visiting my advice is qualified by which other restaurants you have on your list. For a non-meat eater this may not be the best option if it is your one and only big/expensive meal. But if you have a broad range on your list it is a good place that gives a sense of Sydney.

    Check out the menu, and it is impressive the on-line one does change daily:

    17 Replies
    1. re: PhilD

      Thanks PhilD. Hmmm... I suppose it is our only really big/expensive meal. We also have a reservation at Red Lantern in Surry Hills. Plus one other evening meal, but we though we'd keep that casual/walk in (possibly Spice I Am or Billy Kwong, again in Surry Hills, where we're staying.) I have been looking for that one place that would be our big spend and also a quintessential Sydney experience - and Rockpool B&G is the only one I've found so far. (As for others I've come across, Quay is fully booked, as is Tetsuya's. Not that keen on Bentley's menu). If you have any other suggestions, they're welcome!

      1. re: belma79

        It will be interesting to hear about Red Lantern as it is a place I haven't visited.

        Kwong vs. Spice I am? I would probably head for Spice as it is very good, albeit quite basic. A good alternative, which is more glam (and also no booking) is Longrain, it may look a bit fake but it is is wonderfully, sophisticated Thai food which is a good counterpoint to Spice I am's street food (assume you mean the Surry Hills branch). Although their is nothing wrong with Kylie's place, it just seems a little pedestrian to me.

        Thoughts on a good Sydney experience. How about Guillaume at Bennelong, which is a superb restaurant in the Opera House with good views. It is nice to be "in" the view and it is a very classy space. When we used to come home from the UK we always went out to Bondi for a meal at "Icebergs" which is superb modern Australian/Italian restaurant, cutting edge design and a view along the beach that is superb. At the other end of the beach you have the sister restaurant "North Bondi Italian Food" not the best food, but a really buzzy Sydney atmosphere (Sean's Panaroma behind it is better food - but maybe not a big glam night out).

        1. re: PhilD

          Thanks again! I'll look into your suggestions, they seem really good. Quick and final question, how about Pier or Sepia, any thoughts on those?

          1. re: belma79

            Sepia has fantastic food and is very much the fine dining restaurant of the moment so if you are interested in a pure food experience it is a great choice. However, it sits under the PWC building in the business district and sits oddly in the space, some say is is NYC style but I think that is a charitable description. As a resident I would go back like a shot, but as a recommendation for a visitor I would hesitate as it lacks that Sydney vibe other places have.

            Pier is slightly out of the city, in Rose Bay, lovely water views in a tranquil bay but no bridge or OH views. It is a very refined fish restaurant with a well deserved reputation. It is in the Eastern suburbs which is where the old money lives in Sydney (Packers, Murdochs etc) so the clientele is relatively conservative. The chef, Greg Doyle, recently renounced his 3 hat status (like Michelin) as he wanted to deliver a cheaper less grand menu. Reviews are still good but it is repositioning.

            1. re: PhilD

              Hi PhilD
              Only just started on Chowhound, looked occasionally, so interested in you Cairns suggestion or seen any good recommendations for adelaide

              1. re: adelfoodie

                Sorry - have not been to Cairns for quite a long time. I think the perceived wisdom is to head away from the sea front and the tourist traps. It is also some time since I lived in Adelaide, I hear the Manse is going well, and I understand the "The Pot" is good. I loved the scale of Adelaide and its very dynamic food scene, lots of inexpensive restaurants with new talent coming to the fore all the time. Worth asking for advice - I trust waiters, bar and cellar door staff more than concierges i.e. last year we found "Knee Deep" in Margaret River because it was on all the locals list of good places.

              2. re: PhilD

                Just to say thank you again - this has really helped/clarified things for me. All the points you raise - it's exactly what I was wondering about and I suppose exactly what I'm not looking for! Thank you for that. Guillaume at Bennelong is unfortunately fully booked, otherwise we would have gone there. I will look into Icebergs now.
                Also, I do have one final (final, final!) question - what is your opinion on Rockpool as opposed to Rockpool B&G? They have tables free at the moment. Would that be a good choice for a seafood eater looking for that Sydney vibe?

                1. re: belma79

                  Rockpool vs. RB&G. Again two very different proposition:

                  RB&G is in the lobby of a a beautiful old building dating from the '30's, it was a building designed for an old mutual company so lots of soaring marble columns and the grandeuer/solidarity of a financial institution. Go and have a drink in the bar to check it out, you don't need to eat there to do this - and the Wagyu burger is very good. It is a big steak house and is a favourite of business men doing deals, it is all very mad men. Good fun, solid food, well executed - if you want meat it is unbeatable.

                  Rockpool, on the other hand is more genteel, it has been around in different incarnations for many many years. Recent reports indicate it is really on top form at the moment with it coming out as Australia's top restaurant in a number of guides. The menu shows of Neil Perry's global view of food with lots of influences especially those from Asia, lots of fish and they will adapt the menu to avoid meat - it is either a four course ALC or a degustation. I have had some quite superb food there, but equally I have had a few misses so I advise careful ordering. It is relatively formal (nothing in Sydney is too formal) with a good mix of well healed locals and tourists. It is central so you gets lots of bridge and OH glimpses as you go in and out of the place. But no views from the restaurant itself. Definitely a great Sydney experience but slightly misses out on the wow factor as it doesn't have the view.

                  1. re: PhilD

                    Great, thanks very much again. Now I have to have a little think and make my decision! I'll report back. Thanks again for the advice.

                    1. re: belma79

                      So I've made my decision - as Rockpool is getting such mixed reviews and would be a much bigger spend, I think Rockpool B&G might be a wiser choice.
                      However, another idea, what do you think of Aria? Good views, good food, would that be a good replacement for Guillaume at Bennelong/Quay for that great Sydney experience?
                      Thanks PhilD, I'm aware I've already used up a lot of your time!

                      1. re: belma79

                        Well I am not really a fan of Aria although I may be in a minority, and it is many years since I last ate there.

                        It is a fantastic location, and Matt Mora has a stellar reputation as a top chef. He scored 2 hats in the local papers good food guide which is a drop from his 3 hats last year but lots of other highly regarded places also dropped (including Tetsyua). So I put that down to a bit of recalibration and some signalling to chefs not to be complacent rather than any real drop in standards.

                        It is a good option.

                        1. re: PhilD

                          Thanks again, I really do appreciate your advice and that you took the time to reply (again!). Aria have confirmed that they have a table available on the night I need so once again I need to make a decision! I'll do so in the next few days and report back on the experience (this won't be until December though, when we're going). Best wishes and thank you again, it's always a pleasure to hear your thoughts and opinions PhilD.

                          1. re: PhilD

                            ''which is a drop from his 3 hats last year"

                            Not a big deal, but since 2005 Aria has been 2 hats. They dropped to 1 in 2004, but they have been at 2 since.

                            1. re: Camw

                              Well, after all this and the great help from PhilD, I've now decided to stick with Rockpool B&G. (Since Quay and Guillame are fully booked). I emailed Aria after reserving to ask about the possibility of having a harbour view - they emailed back to confirm the reservation but ignored my harbour view request completely! I understand they get a lot of these and can't accommodate them all, but I would at least expect my request to be acknowledged in some way, even if it's with a polite "thank you for your request, unfortunately we can't promise anything", I'm probably being oversensitive, but if I'm going to pay that kind of money for a meal, I want a bit more warmth and friendliness from the staff. Oh well! Thanks again.

                                1. re: PhilD

                                  Thank you - I've been reading this with some interest. We're off to Australia next week now, so looking forward to the dining already!

                              1. re: Camw

                                Canw - good catch, I had always assumed it had been three (the power of TV!), but from what I can see it never rose above two. Thanks for the correction.

          2. So I'm back from Australia! Actually, I've been back for a month, so this post is long overdue.... It was a wonderful trip, especially food wise. Australia has so many fantastic dining options, I could easily move there from the UK just for this reason. Thank you everyone for your help, especially PhilD for his thoughtful and detailed replies.
            We ended up going to Rockpool Bar & Grill. Great choice! It was relaxed, yet it felt 'special' enough. The food was lovely, the service impecable and we really liked the cocktails in the bar. I can see why Rockpool would be the more high end choice, but I like the flexibility of the Bar & Grill and the dining room is great. I would definitely recommend this place.
            Red Lantern - somewhat disappointing. It was pricey and even though the food was good, I didn't see why it has to cost so much. In fact, throughout the whole meal I felt I had much better for a lot less. Basically, I didn't see what the big deal was. It didn't wow me.
            We also went to Bill's (Surry Hills) for breakfast. It was great! I don't know about dinner, but there's nothing to fault about the Ricotta Hotcakes, just delicious. Coffee was good too.
            Billy Kwong - a suprise. I thought it would be good/okay/nice, but it was outstanding! We went late (about 9), and didn't have to wait for a table. We started with Homemade Chinese Pickles and the dish just exceeded our expectations - I've never had pickled vegetables like that! Extremly tasty. We went onto Deep-Fried Silken Tofu with Roasted Organic Tomatoes & Shoyu & Lemon Dressing and once again, it was delicious. The texture of the tofu was brilliant and all the flavours just worked together. Next was Dry-Fried Biodynamic Hokkien Noodles with Organic Tamari, Bean Sprouts & Garlic Chives. Again, outstanding. The peppery taste made these noodles really different from any other I've tasted. My companion doesn't usually 'react' to food (not like I do, it's just 'food' to him), but he was really taken back by this meal.
            Thanks again for everyone's input.