Celebrations at Rockpool Bar and Grill

by Forager on May 3, 2011

Another year, another birthday and this year, the roving lunar Easter holidays have collided with my birthday. Normally over Easter the Co-pilot and I would be off on an overseas jaunt – typically somewhere in SouthEast Asia involving barely identifiable street food and frosty cocktails next to piping hot beaches but this year, for the first time in as long as we can remember, we stayed in Sydney and I have taken up rest, relaxation and slothfulness like it’s going out of fashion. Admittedly, being home for your birthday has its benefits and I’ve been spoilt silly with fantastic presents from the Co-pilot and family. The DNA test the Co-pilot gave me certainly wins the prize for being the most fascinatingly unusual present I’ve ever received. On one hand I’m incredibly curious to investigate my ethnicity properly – am I pure pedigree Chinese as I believe myself to be – or was there a bit of tom foolery in my ancestry? On the other hand there are genetic results that I am anticipating with a ample dose of trepidation.

But what’s a birthday without a feast and to satisfy that important criterion he took me to Rockpool Bar and Grill, Neil Perry’s elegant restaurant located in one of Sydney’s best examples of American style art deco architecture, the City Mutual Insurance building designed by Emil Sodersteen in 1936. The space was artfully redesigned around the original art deco themes and now features impressively high ceilings, mottled marble columns, black granite, glass panels and bright lights all backlit with attractive fuschia purple neon hues. Along with the white suited waiters, its a recreation of old world American glamour that is dark, handsome, seductive and very Gotham City. The lustworthy Riedel glass rack feature doesn’t go unnoticed either – as the sound that sings from the bowls of Riedel glasses are renowned to be crisp and pure, the impish kid in me wonders if any of the staff has secretly tried playing them.

Rockpool Bar and Grill's interior - dark, brooding and very handsome

Rockpool Bar and Grill's interior - dark, brooding and very handsome

Rockpool bar and grill kitchen

The theatre of Rockpool's open kitchen is mesmerising, clouded with bursts of steam and smoke from the grilling stations.

We’d perused the menu thoroughly and had chosen our courses and dishes even before we’d arrived at the restaurant. The first course chosen was the marron salad which arrived with the plump marron flesh splayed across a mound of cucumber, avocado – a sight guaranteed to excite crustacean lovers. The sweet subtle flavours of the marron is married with creamy avocado, nutty almost charred roasted almonds and brightened with a tang of vinegar.

Marron salad, Rockpool bar and grill

West Australian marron salad with cucumber, avocado, zucchini, chorizo and mint, $31

Plump marron salad Rockpool bar and grill

Plump fillet of marron meat

Our other starter was the steak tartare – and the minute I’d spotted it on the menu, I knew there was no resisting it. In hindsight I was very relieved we had as it turned out to be the tastiest dish we tried that night. The finely minced tender beef was mixed with a deliciously piquant vinegary melee of capers, onions, mayonnaise and I think I detected one of my favourite morsels – boquerones or pickled white anchovies in there too. Incidentally, our pinot noir from Tapanappa ‘Foggy Hill’, South Australia paired with this dish like a house on fire. It was greedily smeared on the accompanying fat hand cut chips and devoured. This dish is aptly titled “My steak tartare” and so far, Neil Perry’s version of this dish is the best I’ve tasted. I’d like to know the exact recipe so I can make it “My steak tartare” – but in the meantime, I’ll happily come back and devour this dish again and again.

Steak tartare Rockpol bar and grill

Steak tartare and chips, $25

Thick handcut chips Rockpool bar and grill

Thick hand cut chips to accompany the steak tartare

For our mains we opted for the prawn and goats cheese tortellini as it had come highly recommended by a number of friends that had dined here recently. Unsurprisingly then, we’d found another winner. The taut, rotund tortellini were bursting with super smooth, creamy, tart goats cheese that oozed out when sliced open. The real surprise was how well the flavours and textures of the different components melded together – the salty, tart and creamy goats cheese is tempered by the bursting freshness of the prawns and saccharine sweetness of the soft raisins. Pictured below is a half serve of the dish as the staff were lovely enough to split the main so the Co-pilot and I could share the tasting.

This dish we paired with an (unpictured) side of celeriac, fennel and cheese gratin ($12) that was rich and spiked with the aniseed aroma of the cooked fennel but we found it too salty and left it largely untouched.

Prawns goats cheese tortellini Rockpool bar and grill

Seared king prawns with goats cheese tortellini, burnt butter, pine nuts and raisins, $32

Our other main also came highly recommended – the wagyu chuck braised in red wine. The wagyu was very rich, fatty and tender and strongly perfumed throughout with the sweetness of red wine. The richness of the beef was further amplified with the silken smooth potato puree, no doubt laden with butter. In an attempt to brighten the rich flavours there’s a light sprinkling of fresh herby gremolata, but alas, we both felt the sprinkling was far too frugal and it needed a generous handful of gremolata to lift the heaviness of this dish.

We paired this with a side of brussel sprouts – the flavours of which complemented the richness of the wagyu beef well, but the saltiness and richness of this dish just further amplified the heaviness and it sank like a heavy boulder in our bellies. A light, vinegary salad would have been a better pairing choice. Our appetites were defeated and we ignored the lure of of the dessert menu.

Braised wagyu chuck Rockpool bar and grill

Wagyu chuck braised in red wine with gremolata and potato puree, $42

Sauteed brussel sprouts Rockpool bar and grill

Sauteed brussel sprouts with speck, chestnuts and burnt butter, $9

For good reason too as waiting for me was (other than yet more presents) a little slice of sweetness that the Co-pilot’s mother had made for me. I’m not a massive fan of cakes and desserts but this simple yet delicious little carrot cake came with just the perfect amount of love and sweetness as much as my full belly could bear.

Carrot birthday cake

A birthday cake designed for small lung capacities

Once a year is the perfect amount of spoiling for me – any more frequent and I could get too accustomed to these luxuries! Now all that’s missing is an overseas holiday and I’m working hard on rectifying that lack-of-holiday injustice.


Rockpool Bar and Grill

66 Hunter Street Sydney

Open for lunch Mon – Fri; dinner Mon – Sat.

Tel: +612 8078 1900


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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mark @ Cafe Campana May 4, 2011 at 12:10 am

Rockpool Bar and Grill is definitely has very cook decor to match its superstar food. I love the presentation of the marron, it is a cute and freaky at the same time.
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2 Helen (grabyourfork) May 4, 2011 at 3:16 am

I do love a good steak tartare. Hope you had a fantastic birthday. And aww such a cute little carrot cake!

3 joey@FoodiePop May 4, 2011 at 5:07 am

The marron looks fantastic.

4 nic@diningwithastud May 4, 2011 at 9:09 am

Glad you had a fab spoiling evening :) you deserve it!
I’ve never had steak tartar but Im dying to try this one!!
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5 Adrian (Food Rehab) May 4, 2011 at 9:09 pm

Still haven’t made it down to Rockpool. There are far too many great eateries around my wallet can’t keep up!!! Can’t complain though
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6 chopinandmysaucepan May 4, 2011 at 11:34 pm

The Wagyu chuck must have been meltingly tender?!
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7 Tori (@eat-tori) May 5, 2011 at 5:23 am

Happy birthday! You’ve made me all homesick with this post- the touch of Gotham city, the Riedel and ‘that’ steak tartare- all the things Ilove that place-. I also love that you can have a good meal without going the whole hog and blowing serious cash on the top shelf steaks. Actually, the thing I remember most fondly is a side they sometimes have of roast pumpkin with yogurt and burnt butter. Was so good it rendered me mute. For a long time.
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8 Gaby May 5, 2011 at 8:23 pm

I can see why you didn’t have belly room for dessert at the restaurant. The steak tartare looks delicious, it’s been ages since the last time I ate it.
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9 Conor @ Hold the Beef May 5, 2011 at 10:43 pm

Well done on choosing your meals ahead of time 😀 The danger of this though, is when you finally get to order the dishes you’ve been dreaming about and the waiter looks solemn and tells you they’re out of it. Or.. the website is old and it’s not even on the menu any more.

We’ve got a new Rockpool in Perth now and I’ve balked at the prices, but perhaps for a birthday I could recover from my stinginess.

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10 Tina@foodboozeshoes May 6, 2011 at 9:14 pm

Wow – a DNA test…! That certainly tops the list of most intriguing present I’ve ever heard of!

Love the plating of the marron dish – and of course, lovely to meet you the other night :)
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11 angie May 8, 2011 at 1:23 pm

What a fantastic birthday dinner you had! Definately enjoyed our eperience here too and the food was so filling we had to miss out on dessert as well. Happy Belated Birthday to you =)
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12 Sara (Belly Rumbles) May 9, 2011 at 2:30 pm

You may have stayed home, but what a great birthday. Food looks great, stake tartare is a fave of mine.

Happy Birthday :)
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13 Forager May 24, 2011 at 6:13 pm

Hey Mark – perfect description! Cute and freaky. And I have to hold back my immature side from saying “like you”.

Hey Helen – I did, thanks Helen!

Hey Joey – It was – so very plump and juicy.

Hey Nic – Oh I love steak tartare and if you haven’t tried it before – this is a good version to start on.

Hey Adrian – Couldn’t agree more! So many places on the “to try” list – my wallet can’t cope either! But yes, the tastebuds are happy!

Hey chopinandmysaucepan – So rich and so tender.

Hey Tori – Haha, you can’t complain! You must be eating up a storm in London! Ooh, must look up that side and see if it’s still available – sounds ‘breathtaking’ 😉

Hey Gaby – Oh their steak tartare is to die for. Wish it was closer, I’d pop in for lunch all too often!

Hey Conor – Thank you!! I agree, for a normal meal it’s pricey – but a special occassion is worth the splash!

Hey Tina – And great to meet you too! Yes, the DNA test – in progress currently I’m told..

Hey Angie – Well – it wasn’t just us then! The food was very rich wasn’t it? Might have to starve more next time beforehand.

Hey Sara – Thank you!

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