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Monday, August 30, 2010

Rockpool Bar and Grill, Sydney

rockpool bar and grill crystal chandelier

There are 2,682 Riedel riesling glasses in the famed chandelier at Rockpool Bar & Grill. Its sheer enormity is enough to make you stop and pause a moment, a little awestruck with admiration.

rockpool bar and grill
Rockpool Bar and Grill reception desk and banquette seating

It's the same feeling you get when you enter the sweeping surrounds of the restaurant dining room, impressively opulent with a soaring atrium and heavy marble columns. The 1936 Emil Sodersteen-designed art deco building is statuesque, cool and stylish with echoes of Mad Men glamour.

open kitchen
The open kitchen

Our group of seven is shown to a table that is directly opposite the open kitchen, a gleaming vision of steel that runs the length of the dining room. An army of staff attend to a multitude of stations, the atmosphere calm and quiet. We notice that the chef de parties are each wearing headsets, allowing them to communicate each with other from across opposite ends of the kitchen without having to raise their voices.

grill station
The grill station

The daily menu, printed in heavy A3 paper, offers a dizzying myriad of choices. Thirty-four entrees are split across three columns headed Cold Bar, Hot Starters and Salads & Other Things. Main courses number twenty-nine, from pasta to seafood, to main plates and the wood-fired rotisserie and grill. And then there are the sides (fifteen) and side salads (three).

Needless to say, I am torn with indecision.

Thankfully I have done some preliminary research. Pig Flyin has recommended the rotisserie chicken, and when I ask our waiter what process it undergoes to warrant the 50 minute waiting time listed on the menu, he points his hand in the direction of the kitchen.

rotisserie chicken
Free range chicken on the rotisserie

The chickens are cooked to order, speared onto a rotisserie that sends them on a flaming ride over a charcoal grill.

My moment of indecision is over.

bread and butter
Bread and butter

We settle into our heavy leather chairs, squat and square but easily moveable on castor wheels, taking advantage of the complimentary crusty bread and pats of butter served on rustic blocks of wood.

Fried calamari with Romesco $28

Our entrees don't take long to arrive, delivered to us via one of those foldable side tables topped with canvas, unnecessary from a practical point of view, but creating a sense of occasion and importance as our white-coated waiters fuss over a procession of dishes.

roast squid and pork belly
Charcoal roast squid and pork belly $28

Accommodating friends mean we switch and swap spoonfuls and plates so we try each other's dishes. The charcoal roast squid is incredibly tender, and whilst the charcoal roast king prawns are a little finicky to eat, the effort pays off with succulent and sweet prawn flesh that tastes fresh from the sea.

king prawns
Charcoal roast king prawns, split and marinated $34

Warm salad of wood fire grilled quail $29
with braised dried figs, walnuts and fresh herbs

The wood fire grilled quail is hard to spot beneath the tangle of salad leaves, walnuts and fig, but there is at the bottom, its flesh cooked to tender pink - perhaps a little under toward the bone - even though the tips are deliciously caramelised.

steak tartare
My steak tartare with chips $25

I'd ordered the steak tartare, titled as "my steak tartare with chips" on the menu. Executive Chef Neil Perry makes no other claims on the remaining dishes.

The steak tartare is not the vision of raw beef and egg yolk I'd expected. Instead a cascading mound of beef, pale pink and smothered in a creamy mayonnaise, is presented on a radicchio leaf with accompanying canoes of witlof. The steak tartare is deceptively light, expertly-seasoned and zingy with a meticulous dice of cornichons.


A side plate of chips is more than generous, deep-fried to a golden brown.

slow cooked hens egg
Brioche with slow cooked hens egg and bone marrow $21
with red wine butter sauce

I'd been torn between ordering the steak tartare and the bone marrow, and am glad to strike a deal with A to trade a spoonful or two. The dish is glorious exercise in decadence, a pristine orb of slow cooked hens egg that is pierced to release a stream of runny egg yolk over the thick slab of fluffy brioche.

The bone marrow is where the real action lies for appreciative gluttons. The discs of marrow are the size of scallops, pale and quivering with flecks of pink at their centre. The pleasure of pure bone marrow melting on the tongue is the type of sensation one should enjoy behind closed doors. It really is that good.

runny egg yolk
Pierced and runny egg yolk

rockpool bar and grill
The Rockpool Bar and Grill dining room floor

Waiter exiting the kitchen

seafood stew
Seafood stew with spicy mussel and saffron broth $45

Our mains meet similar nods of approval although there is no question that the prices here are not for the faint-hearted. Seafood stew is a jumble of clams, octopus, prawn and mussel, the broth tinged orange with saffron and rich with flavour.

wagyu steak
Wagyu sirloin 200g 21 days $110
David Blackmore's dry aged full blood wagyu 9+ marble score

Wagyu sirloin comes in at a breathless $110, a stark presentation of meat with lemon on an expansive white plate. The meat is reassuringly tender, although I'm more impressed by the 350 gram rib eye on the bone, particularly when I score the bone to gnaw on.

rib-eye steak
Rib-eye on the bone 350g 80 days $60
Cape Grim dry aged 36 month old grass fed

waiter table service
Condiment table service for the steaks
A choice of mustards, barbecue sauce, harissa, bearnaise and horseradish cream

free range chicken
Free range chicken from the wood fired rotisserie $39
with tuscan white bean and bread salad (50 minutes)

The free range chicken is halved per portion, its skin slightly crisp and seductively smoky from the wood-fired grill. There's a faint hint of lemon in the skin, and the flesh is tender. I take great delight in my accompanying pot of aioli, pleasingly powerful with garlic. On the menu is a quote, presumably by Neil, that says "Man first used fire to roast chicken. There is no reason to believe that it isn't still the best method. Taste the difference!"

onion rings
Onion rings $9

We order a motley collection of sides, just as well given the bareness of the steak dishes.

Onion rings are surprisingly heavy with batter, although they are a celebration of earth-shattering crunch.

macaroni cheese
"Mac and Cheese" $11

Mac and Cheese arrives with a layer of charred cheese on its surface, the elbow pasta drenched in a thick lava of molten cheese.

green beans
Green beans with creamy anchovy, toasted almonds and chilli and lemon dressing $9

Green beans are surely the antidote to excess. We relish the bright green spears daubed with a creamy lemon anchovy dressing and the crunch of toasted almonds, although we find it hard to detect much chilli here.

Sauteed mixed mushrooms $25

At twenty-five dollars, the sauteed mixed mushrooms is the most expensive side dish, however the combination of exotics is captivating with its earthy aromas and garlic butter.

rockpool bar and grill
View of the waiters station from the mezzanine level

"There he is again!"

We'd spotted the bobbing ponytail of Neil Perry as he'd walked breezily past our table at the start of our meal. Here again, we catch but a fleeting glimpse of him as we exit the bathrooms upstairs. We miss him by seconds again, as his ponytail disappears around the corridor.

waiters side table
Waiter with our side table of desserts

Could there be room for dessert? Of course there is!

Bar & Grill cheesecake with marmalade and mandarin sorbet $19

Bar & Grill cheesecake is a dense wedge of dessert, lifted by a scoop of mandarin sorbet and a sticky mandarin marmalade.

creme caramel
Creme caramel $18

I'd ordered the creme caramel which arrives as a massive portion. Doused in a sweet caramel sauce, the baked custard is glossy and smooth but honestly so rich, I can barely manage to eat half. This indeed, is tragic news to my stomach.

prune and armagnac creme brulee
Prune and armagnac creme brulee $20
Thick linen napkins surround the ramekins holding the prune and armagnac creme brulee, folded in a lily style that is endearingly kitsch.

prune and armagnac creme brulee

The custard is silky in texture, but I find the prunes and armagnac tip this already decadent dessert into somewhat overwhelming excess.

rose granita
Vanilla panna cotta with strawberry salad and rose granita $19

Much more successful are the granita and sorbet desserts, including the vanilla panna cotta which unexpectedly arrives in a parfait glass, hidden beneath a macerated strawberry 'salad' and rose granita.

Rose granita on strawberry salad

blood orange sobet
Blood orange sorbet with fennel meringue and yoghurt $10

The prettiest dessert goes to the blood orange sorbet, exquisitely presented with tiny buds of meringue.

blood orange sorbet
Blood orange sorbet

passionfruit marshmallows
Passionfruit marshmallows $18

And even for those that don't want dessert, passionfruit marshmallows are easily shared, the fresh marshmallow squares tangy with passionfruit and as fluffy as clouds.

flat white coffee
Flat white coffee

caramel popcorn
Caramel popcorn petit fours

Coffee and tea come with a bonus glass of caramel popcorn petit fours.

A memorable meal with exceptional service.

rockpool bar

Rockpool Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

66 Hunter Street, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 8078 1900

Opening hours:
Lunch Monday to Friday 12pm-3pm
Dinner Monday to Saturday 6pm-11pm

All day dining available in the bar (no reservations)
Monday to Friday 12pm-11pm
Saturday from 6pm

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Spice Temple, Sydney

Congratulations to Hannah, KK and bambil - you have each won a prize pack of Waterthins Chocolate Selections containing ten packets of biscuits. That should go some way to satisfying those chocolate cravings!

Missed out this time? Don't forget to enter the Freebie Friday competitions still open on Grab Your Fork:

(entries close Thursday 02 Sepember 2010)

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27 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 8/30/2010 02:35:00 am


  • At 8/30/2010 6:20 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    heh there is always room for dessert especially for that sexy beast of a creme caramel! it's so shiny!

  • At 8/30/2010 8:06 am, Blogger Stephcookie said…

    I'd be happy with just 2 of those Riedel glasses! That creme brulee looks so huge and amazing, and the brioche with egg and bone marrow is like my dream dish. Yuuuummm

  • At 8/30/2010 9:06 am, Blogger Simon Leong said…

    great decor shots. that $110 steak had better been worth it though. food looks so yummy. it looks like you've finally joined Urbanspoon now. what changed your mind? :-)

  • At 8/30/2010 10:29 am, Anonymous billy@atablefortwo said…

    Without finishing your creme caramel? Fail Helen Fail I tell ya! LOL... but there are a lot of food, oh my god I can feel my heart clogging looking at all the meat... but I am so sure is worth it.

    So did you get to stroke Neil's pony tail in the end after all? ;)

  • At 8/30/2010 10:39 am, Blogger Two fit and fun gals said…

    oh wow how many people did you dine with, so so much food but it all looks great! i think i just gained 10kgs looking at the photos hehehe

  • At 8/30/2010 10:47 am, Anonymous A said…

    i love it!
    great post. that A character sounds pretty amazing

  • At 8/30/2010 10:47 am, Blogger OohLookBel said…

    The prices are certainly breathtaking enough to make this a place to go to when someone else is paying! The desserts look fantastic, especially after the abundance and meatiness of the mains.

  • At 8/30/2010 11:49 am, Blogger Gummi Baby said…

    Glorious, glorious pics! Everything looks wonderful but at those prices, I think this is definitely a special occasion place, at least I now know what I would want to order thanks to you! :D

  • At 8/30/2010 12:54 pm, Blogger April @ My Food Trail said…

    I was wowed by the photo of all those glasses! That's amazing. Let's just hope there is never an earthquake! :P

    I love the look of all the food, especially the egg on the brioche! Prices seem really expensive but I guess it is a must try once kinda place!

  • At 8/30/2010 1:19 pm, Anonymous Jacq said…

    Wow this place definitely looks extravagant with that OTT chandelier, the side table service and the prices but I guess it's all part of the experience! I'd be interested in trying that steak tartare, did it taste very different to the usual one with the egg yolk?

  • At 8/30/2010 1:47 pm, Blogger David said…

    Even before you look at the prices, for me the choice between the sirloin and bone-in rib eye is a no brainer - the rib eye wins every time! Having eaten them both, did you have a preference, Helen?

    And, I have to ask, given the prices - were you paying? Or were you a happy and well-fed guest?

  • At 8/30/2010 2:11 pm, Anonymous Hannah said…

    Is there a better phrase in this world than "charred cheese"? I think not. (Unless it's "popcorn petit fours"...)

  • At 8/30/2010 2:40 pm, Blogger Brenda said…

    Definitely a price tag not for the fainthearted!
    Oh but the beauty of bone marrow......*drools*

  • At 8/30/2010 3:26 pm, Anonymous Yas (aboutthefood) said…

    Oh wow...the food...the prices...it's all so intense. Looks delicious though. Have you had the burger at the bar? I haven't, but I've heard good things.

  • At 8/30/2010 3:55 pm, Anonymous Anna Johnston said…

    Woweee :) I'd love to check out the Riedel chandelier, so impressive. Loved the photos, drooled over the menu choices & am amazed you guys still had time for sweets.

  • At 8/30/2010 7:22 pm, Blogger Tina said…

    What beautiful desserts! I don't think that cheesecake was on the menu when I went... :(
    Glad to see the egg/bone marrow dish still there - isn't it a stunner?!

  • At 8/30/2010 9:13 pm, Blogger Yas @ hungry.digital.elf. said…

    Hmmm, they had me at the tartare!
    $110 of beef.. my goodness!!

    Last time I was there I didn't get to go for dessert, but they surely look nice!

  • At 8/30/2010 10:17 pm, Blogger Viv said…

    Sighs..that bone marrow + runny yolk dish is making my tummy doing the cartwheels at this hour!!
    and that creme caramel...decadent!

  • At 8/30/2010 10:45 pm, Blogger "Joe" who is constantly craving said…

    definitely want to check out the melbourne outlet very soon!!

  • At 8/30/2010 11:11 pm, Blogger Matt said…

    Good old Rockpool Bar and Grill. It actually has a split kitchen with dessert and the majority of prep being undertaken upstairs. I worked in the pastry kitchen for a bit and saw first hand at a hands on level the amount of detail which goes into those desserts.

    The wagyu burger in the bar is still the best value burger in Sydney I feel

  • At 8/31/2010 12:44 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi chocolatesuze - The creme caramel was crazy shiny. And oh so rich!

    Hi stephcookie - Riedel glasses are beautiful aren't they? And the bone marrow was amazing.

    Hi Simon Food Favourites - I am easily distracted, and any activity that helps with blogging procrastination is dangerously appealing! lol

    Hi Billy - Fail indeed. You know me - I almost always finish everything on my plate!

    Haha sometimes you disturb me Billy!

    Hi Betty - We were a group of seven but even then we covered only a small portion of the menu!

    Hi A - He's alright. lol.

    Hi OohLookBel - Food always tastes better when someone else is paying! lol

    Hi Gummi Baby - I think Rockpool is definitely a special occasion place. I deliberated for hours over the menu! lol

    Hi April - Thank goodness Sydney doesn't suffer from earthquakes, and prices are on the steep side, although the surrounds do make you feel like a king.

    Hi Jacq - I found the steak tartare was much lighter. Usually I find steak tartare to be almost a meal in itself. The mayonnaise wasn't overly rich either,which was good.

    Hi David - I only had a small sample of the rib eye so I can't judge. And we dined as paying guests - if it had been free, I definitely would have disclosed it :)

    Hi Hannah - Haha, I prefer blow torched cheese. lol. Tasty and fun!

    Hi Brenda - The bone marrow was mesmerising. Perhaps it's part of the plan to take your mind off the prices! lol

  • At 8/31/2010 12:50 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Yas (aboutthefood) - Intense indeed! I haven't tried the burger yet, and I'm quite curious to see how it stacks up against Plan B. Must investigate soon!

    Hi Anna Johnston - I have an emergency stomach for dessert, although I think in this case I really needed two!

    Hi Tina - The egg and bone marrow dish is glorious. The menu is so expansive I do wonder how often they change their menu items.

    Hi Yas @ hungry.digital.elf - The tartare was amazing and no dessert? I love desserts at fancy dining restaurants - they're also so exquisitely presented and conceptualised.

    Hi Vivienne - The creme caramel was one of the richest I'd had, and the portion size - all things considered - was insane. lol

    Hi Joe - I keep hearing good things about the Melbourne version. Would love to hear what you think of it if you get there.

    Hi Matt - We did notice a few dishes coming from the upstairs kitchen. I'd love to explore the pastry kitchen - I can only imagine the effort that goes into each dish.

    Must try the wagyu burger soon!

  • At 8/31/2010 6:21 pm, Anonymous john@heneedsfood said…

    Sounds like you had a bit of a moment with that bone marrow Helen. What an amazing food spread!

  • At 8/31/2010 11:44 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Been wanting to try this for too long! Now that bone marrow has pushed me over the edge raarrrr!! and of course that wagyu steak and the creme caramel and the.... /ramble on and on

  • At 9/01/2010 9:49 pm, Anonymous Betty @ The Hungry Girl said…

    I want that brioche!! It looks so good! Looks like you all covered a lot of the menu! I've always wanted to try Rockpool.... one day *sigh*

  • At 9/01/2010 11:51 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi John - Haha, it's always a good thing when you have moments with food :)

    Hi FFichiban - It was a bit like that. Food galore and the amazing bone marrow was the definite highlight.

    Hi Betty - And yes there are still so many more things on the menu to try. I haven't been to Rockpool yet either but I think Bar & Grill offers a diversity of options to suit different budgets.

  • At 9/10/2010 12:53 pm, Blogger Angie Lives to Eat (and Cook)! said…

    I still remember our experience when I took the boy here for his birthday. The final bill was painful but it was definately worth it, at least once =) Unfortunately we did not have room for dessert but I love all your photos, now I can just sit and dream ;)


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