It was around ten years ago I first had the urge to go to Rockpool, back when I was still at Uni and this vision was only a pipe dream. My admiration for Neil Perry only grew over the years and when I finally realised I was a foodie it dawned on me that I needed to get to Rockpool!
Cabbing it out to The Rocks we hit a bit of traffic but were looking good for our 7pm reservation. With everyone paying little attention to the road (including the taxi driver) we ended up taking the scenic route over the bridge and back making us a little late. Mr O had already arrived and was admiring his glass of South Australian Pinot Noir as we were seated and handed our menus. We had decided on the 8 Course Grand Tasting Menu with matched wine some time before we had even booked as we felt there was no better way to experience Rockpool.
The 8 Course Grand Tasting Menu – $195.00 per person / with matched wine $290.00 per person
- Sterling caviar with prawn toast (NV Agrapart ‘Terroirs’ Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs, Avize, Champagne, France)
- Queensland spanner crab with heirloom tomatoes, avocado, celery and lemon verbena (2008 ‘i’ range Arneis, Mornington Peninsula, Vic)
- Chirashi zushi of kingfish, bonito, prawn and squid (2007 Plozner Moscabianca Friulano, Venezia Giulia, Italy)
- Green lip abalone, red braised thirlmere goose, chicken crisp and fine noodles with xo dressing (2008 Josmeyer Le Fromenteau Pinot Gris, Alsace, France)
- Pan fried whiting with crisp melanda pork belly, swiss brown and nameko mushrooms, saffron potato fondant (2010 Spinifex Rose Grenache, Cinsault, Mataro, Barossa Valley, South Australia)
- Macleay valley rabbit with sweetbread pie and “laphroaig” whisky sauce (2005 Pizzini Nebbiolo, King Valley, Vic)
- Rangers valley beef fillet with old skin stir fry, snake beans, soy milk skin and hakka nam yee sauce (2008 Coriole Sangrantino, McLaren Vale, S.A.)
- Coconut sorbet with coconut jelly and strawberries (NV Deseado Late Harvest Sparkling Torrontes, Patagonia, Argentina)
- Baked alaska; pear sorbet and spiced mousse (2006 Baumard Carte d’Or Chenin Blanc, Coteaux Du Layon, France)
- Coffee and petit fours
Sterling caviar with prawn toast (NV Agrapart ‘Terroirs’ Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs, Avize, Champagne, France).
It had been a very long time coming for my first taste of what Rockpool was all about, and our first course had me impressed from the very start. The dark caviar delicately spread atop of a piece of prawn toast and presented on a short spoon. Our first real thoughts after the initial admiration was how do we tackle this. Should we take our time with small nibbles or indulge in a single mouthful. Regardless of method the outcome would have been the same, an explosion of taste, the prawn toast was impeccable, offering an insight into what it ‘should’ taste like while the caviar was so soft and creamy and its slightly salty essence matched the toast perfectly.
Queensland spanner crab with heirloom tomatoes, avocado, celery and lemon verbena (2008 ‘i’ range Arneis, Mornington Peninsula, Vic).
Sitting prominent in the nice looking bowl was a good portion of spanner crab resting on top of the heirloom tomatoes and surrounded by the avocado jelly. The powerful tomato flavour really got my taste buds going and the avocado was such a nice compliment to the tomato. The crab was light and cooked so delicately it was hard not to be pleased with the dish. The marriage of tomato and avocado really suited the clean taste of the spanner crab, truly a wonderful dish.
Chirashi zushi of kingfish, bonito, prawn and squid (2007 Plozner Moscabianca Friulano, Venezia Giulia, Italy).
Chirashi zushi is scattered sushi and we were presented with just that. Visually the dish was stunning, the sushi rice was mixed with the prawn and squid with a dab of hot red bean paste one end and a little pile of kimchi at the other. An utterly flawless brunoise of yuzu jelly in the middle with the kingfish and bonito on either side. The kingfish was silky and soft, the bonito was a wonderful change from more common yellow fin tuna. Adding each of the accompaniments in turn gave each bite its own unique taste. The kimchi packed a great fiery zing, the yuzu jelly gave a mellowing tart citrus flavour and the bean paste whilst not as spicy as the kimchi added another layer of spice.
Green lip abalone, red braised thirlmere goose, chicken crisp and fine noodles with xo dressing (2008 Josmeyer Le Fromenteau Pinot Gris, Alsace, France).
The amazing crisp of chicken skin had instantly caught my eye as the dish arrived. The noddles with xo dressing sat at the base with the piece of goose and the abalone in thin strips on top. Cracking through the chicken crisp was quite satisfying and the flavours and textures in the dish were spectacular. The abalone had a quality similar to calamari but with a much more subtle edge and the goose was rich and tender. The noodles in their xo dressing were understated but matched well with the prominent taste and texture of the other elements.
Pan fried whiting with crisp melanda pork belly, swiss brown and nameko mushrooms, saffron potato fondant (2010 Spinifex Rose Grenache, Cinsault, Mataro, Barossa Valley, South Australia).
While the whiting is definitely the star of this dish it was the crisp pork belly I was really looking forward to. A flawless fillet of whiting with crispy skin and velvety flesh took me by surprise and I was mesmerised by this simple piece of fish. Mushrooms gave a nice solid base of flavour and their succulent texture was a great contrast to the flake of the whiting. The potato fondant when cut open oozed the saffron butter with a definite wow factor. Leaving the pork belly to the end was intentional but probably a mistake, the taste was great and went surprisingly well with the fish, but sadly the crispiness had faded leaving me wonder if I had missed out.
Macleay valley rabbit with sweetbread pie and “laphroaig” whisky sauce (2005 Pizzini Nebbiolo, King Valley, Vic).
Lex and I had only recently been talking about ingredients we’d never tried and sweetbreads was one of them. Before becoming foodies things like sweetbreads never seemed to pique our interests but we were both really looking forward to trying this dish. Reminiscent of our Sapore Veal ‘Osso Buco’ the pie looked much like a jacket potato. Breaking into it revealed a rich filling that smelt totally amazing. The first bite was a show stopping experience for everyone at the table. Numb glares of utter amazement took over and we all just could not believe how brilliant this dish was. My mouth went into overdrive trying to admire every little nuance in the dish, the sweetness of the whiskey sauce, the crusty pie casing and the sumptuous filling I just could not get enough.
Rangers valley beef fillet with old skin stir fry, snake beans, soy milk skin and hakka nam yee sauce (2008 Coriole Sangrantino, McLaren Vale, S.A.).
Both a beef course and a stir fry in the one, this dish definitely kept within Neil’s vision of texture and flavour being paramount. The stir fried beef was quite tough and salty with almost a beef jerky quality about it. Hidden beneath the milk skin was a gorgeous beef fillet which in stark contrast was supple, moist and heavily complemented by the creamy milk skin. Hakka nam yee sauce and the old skin (dried citrus peel) finished the stir fry essence and tied everything together with their ability to sooth the richness of the beef with distinct flavours.
Coconut sorbet with coconut jelly and strawberries (NV Deseado Late Harvest Sparkling Torrontes, Patagonia, Argentina).
After watching Iron Chef Australia and Neil in a coconut battle I had high hopes for this dish. Very unique in appearance I tried the jelly first and felt it was a little lacking in the flavour department, with my second bite I got a piece of candied kaffir lime leaf and it was sensational. The sorbet like the jelly was pleasant yet missing something, again it was the kaffir lime flavour that really boosted the sorbet. The Thai essence did not seem to be a complete match to the strawberries so I was a little underwhelmed with this dessert.
Baked alaska; pear sorbet and spiced mousse (2006 Baumard Carte d’Or Chenin Blanc, Coteaux Du Layon, France).
Our waiter arrived with the baked alaska then proceeded to light a dish of brandy to spoon around in the essence of a flambé. Sadly it may not have been our waiter’s night as Lex’s dish got the best treatment but yet still only managed light flickering of flame. I tend to find myself a little picky of meringues but this was a nice mix of the crunchy outer with a slightly chewy inner. Under the meringue was the pear sorbet which I found to be quite hard but packed with flavour. A very large dessert that we all felt could have been half the size and still enough to satisfy.
Coffee and petit fours.
Five hours later it was all over. The time felt as though it had slipped away as we all enjoyed every minute of our time at Rockpool. Although it had been ten years in the making for me I was glad to have waited this long so I could really savour the experience and share it with everyone. One the best outcomes of the evening was missing out on the Date Tart (which is not included in the tasting menu) because now we MUST return again to experience the 1984 wonder that Neil’s Date Tart is said to be.
A big thanks to Em and Mr O for an awesome evening and all of the staff at Rockpool for making it worth the ten year wait. We will be back again sooner rather than later.
107 George Street
The Rocks NSW 2000
(02) 9252 1888