I think it is safe to say that Rockpool on George is Neil Perry’s flagship restaurant. It had been on the list for a long time, and J and I finally got there on a weekend trip to Sydney.
As it was a bit of a last minute trip for me, and therefore a last minute booking, I could only secure an 8:30pm reservation using the online booking system. A quick call to the restaurant and that was changed to 8pm.
After a couple of beverages at bars along the way from our hotel we were warmly greeted by the hostess and shown to our table, directly across from the pass.
The space is deceptively small at first glance. It looks long and narrow, with seating all down one side until opening up at the back. But there is also tables upstairs, and another room to the left past the kitchen.
We were offered a wine list, and while I did not look at it, J said it was extensive and after a bit of discussion we spoke to the Sommelier. J asked the Sommelier for his advice on champagne and we decided on a bottle of Cristal. This is one champagne that neither of us have had more than a taste of, and I, for one, was pretty excited about trying it properly. J was pretty set on this champagne but wanted the Sommelier’s advice in regards to the vintage (2005) compared to other champagnes listed. Personally, the Sommelier could have sold me anything with his divine French accent!
On a quick photo note before I show you the liquid gold that Cristal is, this is my first full post with my new camera. My old point and shoot decided it didn’t want to work properly anymore the morning of this dinner (while we were at Din Tai Fung!). Thankfully we were in a Westfield and there was a JB Hi-Fi upstairs. And while J would have preferred to do a bit more research, and also buy something online as it would be cheaper, he knew I wasn’t going to get through the weekend without a camera (and my iPhone doesn’t count). So we got the slimmest camera with the best low light functionality, which was one of the Sony Cyber Shots. I had a play with it during the day (those photos to come in a later post), but its first real test came at Rockpool. J showed me the different settings for lower light and I think I am getting the hang of it, but more practice is required. I actually need to remember that there are different settings that need to be changed depending on what I am doing. But, so far, I am pretty happy with it. I had light coming from in front of me from the kitchen at Rockpool, but overall I think I did alright for my first effort.
OK, enough babble, you want to see the good stuff!
Now some food maybe?
Rockpool offers the choice of two courses for $100pp, three for $135pp and four for $155. A six course tasting menu is available on request for $180pp. I assume wine matching is also offered but I can’t recall seeing anything about that, but then again, I wasn’t looking for it.
We started with three savoury courses. The menu is split into five sections; canapé (which is complimentary), first course, second course, main course and dessert.
We both selected one item from each of the three savoury courses, but I presume that they are flexible, and you could double up if you wanted and have two courses from the first course section, and one from the main course section for example, but don’t quote me on that.
Freshly baked bread was served, with a salted butter.
It had a beautiful crusty outside, with a soft fluffy inside. We had to restrain ourselves from scoffing the lot all at once.
This was followed by the canapé; Queensland spanner crab, parsley, egg, fennel fondue for J.
And for me, an apple and grape concoction with a broth poured over table-side.
We were off to a great start, my canapé was light and delicate and the perfect portion size.
J’s first course was the sushi (chirashi zushi of kingfish, tuna, bonito, prawn and squid).
I loved the colours in the dish and it was very different looking from the usual sushi offering.
I had the chicken parfait (inside a one thousand layer pork tart).
I did notice the waitress start to bring our first courses out, realise our canapé plates were still on the table and discretely turn and head back to the pass where she got another waitress to clear the plates and she was then able to serve us our first courses. It was all handled very smoothly, and it was only because I was facing the right direction that I even noticed that it happened.
My dish was lovely, the parfait was so smooth, and the flavour was spot on, not too strong, but not too mild as to not be noticeable. And the crunchy pork layers were a great contrast in texture but did not take away from the parfait flavour. I used a piece of bread to scrap up every last bit of parfait!
Now, I don’t normally comment on fellow diners, but I have to mention the couple sitting next to us. She was in her forties and completely trashed. She was so loud, practically shouting at her dining companion (and to someone on the phone) throughout the evening. Thankfully, we knew we wouldn’t have to listen to her for too long (or so we thought) as their petit fours arrived around the time we got our second course. However, they had just ordered another bottle of wine, so that needed to be finished before they left. It was more amusing than annoying but I am glad they left about half way through our meal. I went to the bathroom at one stage, and the woman leant over to speak to J and told him she had just gotten engaged (presumably to the gentleman she was dining with), and that she had also broken her wrist, and there was something else in there about Melbourne but J said she was slurring so bad he couldn’t understand her! They got up to leave, she still with a full glass of wine in her hand (which her presumed fiancé did an excellent job of extracting from her), and she then hugged and double cheek kissed both the Sommelier and the hostess. Bahahahaha. We had a laugh about it with the couple to the other side of us, and commiserated about how she would be feeling in the morning.
Here is a couple of shots from when I was playing around with my camera.
Back to the food….
J had the pigs head (combination fried rice, king prawn and pine nuts) as his second course.
I think that is an egg on top.
I had the goat’s cheese (lasagna, apples, lavender scented kipflers, pangrattato and broccoli sauce).
Loved this dish, it was my favourite of the night. The lasagne had the texture of a soufflé and the other ingredients provided acidity and substance.
I think it was around this time that J had another look at the wine list. He was looking at half bottles of white and was keen on a Fontaine Gagnard chablis, however the Sommelier didn’t recommended it based on its year, saying it was too young and would be too acidic. J concurred, as we had a half bottle of the same wine at Vue de Monde and it was a bit too acidic for our liking. The Sommelier recommended a Shaw and Smith chardonnay, and we were happy with that as we have sampled this fine wine on many occasions and believe it is one of Australia’s best chardonnays.
Moving onto the last savoury course, J chose the lamb (from South Australia, rolled saddle, bossam shoulder, celery, wheat infused soy beans and tea smoked mussels).
I had also been eyeing off the lamb but when I asked if it could be done without the mussels I was told it could, but there was a fish stock involved, or the lamb was stuffed with a mussel(?) (sorry can’t remember) and that couldn’t be changed. That was OK, I still got to try a piece of J’s lamb (which was excellent) and I had already chosen my backup dish, the beef (sirloin with celeriac, onions, grated daikon and sauce vierge).
I was told that due to the cut of meat that is used, chef cooks this dish either rare or well done, I chose to go with rare.
A fourth course, dessert, was definitely required, but we did ask for a small break before it came out.
There was never any doubt (is there ever?) what I was going to order, chocolate (grand cru from Valrhona with peanut butter and jelly). Due to the savoury elements, J was also keen on the chocolate dessert, but he instead chose the tart (Date tart (original since 1984)).
How simple and elegant does that slice of tart look? J personally would have liked a bit more date in there, but he raved about the pastry, and how well cooked it was.
My dessert, like my main, came with a choice. I could choose between three percentages of coco level, the highest being 70%. Despite it being my dessert, J picked 70%.
How beautiful does this dish look?
And of course, it tasted amazing.
We ordered teas, which came in clear teapots and were poured by the waitress. We were totally stuffed by this time, so asked for our petite fours to go.
We enquired about a taxi, and the Sommelier (who had come over to chat to me about champagne while J was in the bathroom!) said they didn’t have a company on the books but it was easy to flag one down outside, which he then offered to do so for us.
We left the restaurant, without kissing anyone, and bid farewell to the Sommelier, who had indeed got us a taxi, opened the door for us and shook our hands as we left.
As I am sure you would have guessed, we had a brilliant meal at Rockpool on George, the food was of a very high standard, as was the staff. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this restaurant to anyone, and while I thought our foodie experience couldn’t get any better on this trip, it might have been pipped by our lunch the next day…