Rockpool, established in 1989, is one of our iconic Sydney restaurants and was for the bulk of its 25 years located in George Street, The Rocks. I can be a bit conservative, and so with my fondness for that original location, I’ll admit it took me too long to make the move. But, I finally got there. To the new hallmark Hunter Street location. And I have to admit, Rockpool just keeps getting better and better.
The Bridge Street location comforts with a squarer and cosier room, and a view for all to the open kitchen. Despite dark walls the room is warm with the patina of old timber, and continues the Rockpool high end tradition of well spaced tables and professional, knowledgeable and attentive service.
Now on to the food and wine…
Lunch started with the presentation of the Champagne trolley – always a good thing in my book, anytime of day, so we started with 2004 Pol Roger ‘Extra Cuvee de Reserve’ and a generous portion of amuse bouche caviar wondrously topping hunky batons of fried bread that were just crisp enough to contrast the salty goodness of the roe. Eggs on toast anytime of day – you betcha!
Because I had been seated across from Rockpool Executive Chef, Phil Wood at a Kochi Yuzu dinner at Tetsuya’s on the previous evening I’d been given a bit of a heads up on what I should order. But (blush) I chose instead to start with fresh tofu. Now, I’m not usually a tofu lover – of the supermarket packaged variety – but knew this would be different, special. And it was. Freshly made in the Rockpool kitchen, the tofu was ethereally light. The traditional Chinese Mapo Doufu was presented and the cover of the dish removed at the table. This allowed me to capture all those marvellous delicate aromas as I first sited the food. I stuck my head down into it, as I am want to do, and sighed.
But what came next took it even further. Incredible sea urchin atop the tofu layer with contrasts of avocado and “eight precious herbs”. Purely divine.
No fancy outdated smears, no unnecessary bits and bobs, no silly molecular rehash, to my mind this kind of presentation is the work of art that I want in my food. Thank you Chef, this is new to the Rockpool menu, and deserves its place – a truly incredible dish.
But Chef had suggested I should try the Crab and Corn Custard so a mid course was in order. Yes, it ended up a long and leisurely lunch.
A fairy floss of fried garlic covered the plate. Then I understood. The crab was cured, preserved, metamorphosed somehow. With braised peanuts, and a rose and crab dressing, the crab and corn and fried garlic, the texture and flavour contrasts were like a feather down pillow fight. Wonderful fun. I understand why this is his personal favourite on the current menu.
With this kind of exceptional food, its always a good idea to provide wines by the glass as your companion. My ethos, also, when there are specialists about, is to leave the choice of wines to the restaurant expert. The Rockpool sommelier chose to extend my wine knowledge with a couple of Austrian wines and a Mosel from Germany.
First with a fruity 2012 Wenzel Sauvignon Blanc, Burgenland. I pushed back at first; I don’t like Sauvignon Blanc, I said. Too empty. Yet what I got, was totally unexpected. The Wenzel was full and generous and textural and long. Rounded above grassy green with ripe fruit and complexity. What a lovely suggestion, which worked well on its own, and with the tofu dish.
I was also struck with the 2012 Amdorfer ‘Vorgeschmack’ Zweigelt Blend Kamptal, Austria which was spicy enough to hold up the pidgeon but light enough not to overpower.
Chef wouldn’t divulge the secrets to what is called on the menu, a “strange flavour dressing”. Deep. Rich. Complex. Spicy. It married the prawn stuffed with eggplant well. Again the regional Chinese influence embraces. Pigeon Zheng Shui Dan owes its starring role to the farmed pigeon, clean and rare, tender with just enough chew. It reclaimed my embrace with Rockpool, with the culinary excellence of this kitchen, with the restained innovation of Phil Wood, and the stewardship of Neil Perry.
There always needs to be a little something to finish however. Something sweet. The original Date Tart has been on the Neil Perry menu, pre-dating Rockpool, since 1984. Now, its contemporary form is as Petit Four. But first a dessert: Green Tea Ice Cream with Banana, Pineapple, Coffee, Chestnut and Tofu.
And that was lunch…
Rockpool Est. 1989
11 Bridge Street, Sydney NSW Australia
+ 61 2 9252 1888