TOP 100 QUEST: ROCKPOOL, Sydney
It’s quite apparent to me why Rockpool is sitting in the number one position on the Gourmet Traveller Top 100 list. And when I say Rockpool, I’m not talking Rockpool Bar and Grill. This Rockpool is the original flagship restaurant established in 1989 at The Rocks and re-locating to Bridge Street in the CBD a couple of years ago. I’d already ticked this one off years ago at the old location, but I thought – what better way to celebrate finishing the Top 100 list than go to the current number one restaurant!?
The Bridge street location is a beautiful space – very chic and stylish. We were there for dinner. It was dark and atmospheric with white table cloths, lots of black and small table lamps. We were warmly greeted and led to a great table where we could see the whole restaurant in its full glory. I just knew this was going to be a magnificent experience – an experience that we just had to start with a glass of French champagne!
In terms of food options, there’s the 4 course a la carte menu at $150 or an 8 course degustation for $185. After taking literally years to complete my Top 100 Quest, there was no holding me back, and despite my 5 course lunch that day, the 8 course degustation was the only option. There are still some decisions to be made with the menu however – you can choose whether to pay an additional $35 to have Sterling caviar with egg over the ‘standard’ Coorong yellow eye mullet, and/or pay an additional $35 to have Moreton Bay Bug over the Burrawong Chicken.
I’d previously told Neil Perry why I was coming in and he thoughtfully arranged for head chef Phil Wood to come out later on in the evening to say hello and pass on his congratulations. I was so excited! Phil was really personable and we had a bit of a chat. We also scored an extra course of abalone! Thank you, thank you Neil and Phil!
They had me at hello, and then the ‘snack’ of Chicken wing with konbu and caviar came out. I almost fainted with excitement. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m chicken wing mad. I eat a kilo a week – I’d eat them every day if they were a health food, but to be served up this fine dining wing was the perfect start to my meal – the snack of all snacks.
Following wing-heaven, out came the Scampi with grilled cucumber and sherry dressing followed by Kingfish sashimi on enriched Koshihikari rice with Japanese peach and mirin dressing. Both delicate, light and tasty. I loved the concept of the King prawn mousse rolled in pangrattato on squid ink sauce – what’s not to love? The crunch of the pangrattato with the softness and slight spring of the mousse. Next I had the Coorong yellow eye Mullet cooked in turmeric leaf and sauce amandine and my partner chose the optional Sterling caviar with soft poached egg and sauce allemande. He was happy with his choice.
And then came wow factor – the extra course. Black lip abalone with sauce meuniere, herb salad and puffed rice. I have to say, I’m Chinese and abalone is up there with the food of foods. I even did a dissertation on it as part of my Gastronomy studies. It was tender and beautiful.
For next course we both decided to forego the chicken (chicken, schmicken – even though I have no doubt that chicken at Rockpool would be no ordinary poultry) and have the Grilled Moreton Bay Bug with strozzapreti pasta and crustacean butter. Yum, yum YUM! The pasta was true al dente, which I only came to appreciate after eating pasta every day for 2 weeks in Italy last year. The bug was cooked perfectly and so sweet, and the crustacean butter made me swoon. And the final savoury course – the finest quality Wagyu I’ve had – literally melt in your mouth stuff. Blue Mountains Wagyu softly grilled, served with oxtail sauce, wasabi and fresh lime. Goodness me, as if it couldn’t get any better.
Then came the sweets – four different things in total. Delicious, but I’m not sure I was able to truly appreciate them given how full I was feeling! Perhaps it was my big lunch… oops. We were about to explode, but we soldiered on and finished it all – it would have been rude not to.
What a night we had. Rockpool is a class act from beginning to end – fine dining at its best. From the food, the service, the wines and even the matched juices – it’s clear why this place is up there at number one and has remained in the Top 6 for a number of years.
Breaking news: I’ve just read this morning that so many people have been getting confused about Rockpool and Rockpool Bar and Grill and turning up to the wrong restaurant, that in a couple of months, Rockpool will change its name to Eleven Bridge and will be offering a different menu, moving away from the smaller ‘fussier’ dishes. So, if you want to experience the Rockpool of old, you’d better book in very quickly! Glad I made it when I did!