Turning 30 worries some of my friends, but for most of us it’s a reason to celebrate. We celebrated Dylan’s 30th with a group of friends at our beloved buzo. Em’s shindig was at her favourite, Sepia. My birthday, which falls at the end of January, has been booked in at Quay for many months now. But the question was where would Doully choose for his birthday celebrations?
Many options were thrown around but in the end Doully couldn’t pass up an opportunity to return to Rockpool (now called Rockpool on George) two years after our first visit, and a few months after they regained their third chef’s hat.
Two courses – $100.00 per person / Three courses – $135.00 per person / Four courses – $155.00 per person
Phil Wood has done away with the degustation menu, there is now a choice of two, three or four courses. Naturally we were going the whole hog. And I knew 3 out of the 4 dishes I was having before we stepped inside the restaurant.
Honey spelt sourdough with Rockpool butter.
A sourdough boule was brought to the table while we were perusing the menu. It was refreshing to see the boule cut into 8 wedges rather than the traditional slices of bread around town. With a faint hint of honey and a lathering of the whipped butter, the house made bread and butter was a great start to the meal.
Queensland spanner crab, broccoli and Jerusalem artichoke.
Although the degustation menu is no more, the evening still kicks off with a canapé. A creamy puree of Jerusalem artichoke and broccoli with soft notes of spanner crab. Soothing and light, I reached the bottom far too quickly and wanted more. In an instant memories came flooding back of our first dining experience at Rockpool and I was keen to see where the rest of the menu could take us.
Blue swimmer crab and corn congee, almond tofu, star anise scented peanuts, fried bread and chilli oil.
Crab is not something I eat at home and I’m always drawn to it when dining out. I’d heard incredible things about the congee at Rockpool, so it was a no brainer for me. Em also made the brilliant decision of this dish for her first course.
At first I was struck by the heady aroma of star anise and gorgeous rich red chilli oil. As I dug in I discovered a dish of varied flavours, textures and aromas; with every mouthful I discovered yet another level of complexity. From the sweet meat of the blue swimmer crab to the even sweeter corn kernels and everything in between I loved every part of this dish.
These were the kind of flavours I was hoping for when we dined at Spice Temple earlier in the year. Big hitting and complex. It’s a big call but the congee was quite possibly my favourite dish of 2012.
Caviar, soft poached egg, crispy potato, Allemande sauce ($50 supplement).
Dylan surprised the rest of us by ordering a dish I never thought he would. But Dylan being Dylan, he wanted to go for something he wouldn’t normally go for. An impeccably cooked soft poached egg with an extremely silky golden yolk followed by a big chive hit in the Allemande sauce. The crispy potato was the only contrast in texture and ‘crispy potato’ is definitely the right description and exactly what was required with the soft poached egg, creamy sauce and decadent caviar.
Butter poached Hawkesbury calamari with broad beans, oats, bone marrow and ham.
Doully is one of those who adores bone marrow and he couldn’t go past the calamari purely for this fact. I didn’t try any of this on the night (I was too engrossed in my bowl of congee), Doully informs me it was the best dish of the night as far as he’s concerned.
Tasmanian lobster, scrambled eggs, lobster essence, shaved kombu and seaweed.
I was in a seafood kind of mood and followed the spanner crab canapé and blue swimmer crab first course with lobster for my second course. With so much beautiful seafood I feel blessed to live in a country with such amazing produce.
Truth be told I could eat scrambled eggs at any time of the day, many times a week. But when the eggs are scrambled with lobster and lobster essence, it’s an eye opening experience. Finished off with pork croutons, shaved kombu and textural coral tenax I loved every aspect of my second course, except that it was indeed my second course. Delicate in flavour, I felt it couldn’t follow the heavy hitting crab congee yet as a standalone dish it was absolutely stunning.
Quail filled with eight treasures, daikon, tong ho, nori and chilli condiment.
I was curious to see what the eight treasures were hiding in Dylan’s quail. But I never did, oops. Once I got stuck into my eggs I lost all focus on the others. Dylan seemed rather taken by his choice though with perfectly cooked quail (which I did sample) taking centre stage. The quail tea egg has a rather unusual appearance for someone unfamiliar with traditional Chinese food but the tea adds another aspect to the egg which is undeniably good. Although Dylan may not have thought there were 8 treasures hidden in the quail, the quail itself was more than enough to make up for it.
One thousand layer pork with chicken parfait tartlet.
Chicken liver parfait. Need I say any more? Without a doubt Doully’s number one and two foods of 2012 were chicken liver parfait and pork. The Rockpool team ingeniously combined the two to produce a cute looking tart. Super smooth parfait and a layer of pork in a buttery tart shell.
Red braised pig’s head, stir fried milk, red pepper and white sesame, Hervey Bay scallop and candied pine nuts.
Second course for Em was the red braised pig’s head. Another dish with Chinese influence, Phil Wood is obviously as interested in Chinese cooking at Neil Perry. I didn’t try any of this and unfortunately it wasn’t an Em kind of dish. But at the end of the day I’m standing by my scrambled eggs. I think my dish beat all the others.
Chinese roast pigeon with king prawn, smoked eggplant, black mushroom and cucumber pickle with XO Sauce.
The hardest decision I made all night was what to have for my main. I pretty much knew what I was having for courses 1, 2 and 4 before we arrived at the restaurant (yes I like to read the menu before dining out). In the end I decided to choose something a little different… pigeon.
I’d never had pigeon before and was a little nervous as it was to be served medium rare but I knew I’d be safe in the hands of the Rockpool crew. The best way I could describe pigeon meat is to say it is much like the darker meat of a chicken but gamier like quail. Smoked eggplant and mushrooms were earthy and held their own against the pigeon but overall it was the XO sauce that really made this dish shine.
Darling Down’s beef fillet, fennel, mint, green olive and potato.
Surprise surprise, guess who ordered the beef?! Yes that’s right, Dylan. And Doully. And Em. Original, I know. It was a mind-boggling experience tasting the beef half way through my pigeon dish as they were from opposite ends of the flavour spectrum.
A rather impeccable cut of meat from one of Australia’s premier beef regions, the Darling Downs. It seemed this one might just steal the show. Although cooked nearer to medium than medium rare (which suited me just fine, but Dylan less so), the pure beef flavour was incredible. Deep fried potato puffed up into a gigantic ‘crisp’ was the perfect textural accompaniment and I just loved the salty flare it brought to the party. A beautiful piece of produce allowed to sing.
Date tart (original since 1984).
Original since 1984. How can you go past that? I was upset the tart wasn’t on the degustation menu at our previous Rockpool dining experience so there was no question about it, I was having the date tart. I’ll admit I was expecting an old school, granny style date tart… like a sticky date cake kind of thing. Oh how wrong was I. Clearly Neil Perry was cool back in 1984. It had everything you’d want in a tart – buttery biscuit base, light custard filling and just enough date not to overpower the dessert. Doully and I devoured our desserts in a very short space of time. I can now see why it has been around for so long.
Vacherin of pandan custard, coconut parfait, jasmine sorbet and lime granita.
Dylan’s dessert took him to a completely different place than my date tart. As the special was described “pandan… kaffir lime…coconut…” it was impossible for him to go past this as it featured some of his favourite cocktail and dessert ingredients.
Initially Dylan was wowed by the upfront lime granita which gave the silky custard, with a familiar yet distinct flavour of pandan, a great partner. However, after a few mouthfuls the granita really began to overpower everything except the jasmine rice sorbet, which was the single most mind blowing component of the year for Dylan. I can see where he’s coming from; it’s incredible to see how something as basic as jasmine rice could be turned into something so complex and amazing.
Em did have dessert, but dug in too quickly and we missed the photo opportunity.
A plate of petits fours and coffees rounded out the meal. Someone could almost write a whole blog post dedicated to the gorgeous jellies that are found around town; these mandarin ones were particularly good. The pistachio nougat wasn’t really my thing but I loved the ginger and chocolate pastry.
Phil Wood and the team at Rockpool on George are doing an incredible job. Service is informed and efficient and the sommelier led us down a magical path of wine matching for the various dishes. The food of course was exceptional.
The variety of dishes meant the normal flow experienced in a degustation was a little lacking and it would perhaps be helpful if the wait staff guided menu selections to help with the flow of the courses (I would have preferred to start with the lobster and then move onto the congee if that was possible).
Rockpool is more accessible than ever and I’ve got to get back before another two years fly by.
Happy 30th Birthday Doully!
Rockpool on George
107 George Street
The Rocks NSW 2000
(02) 9252 1888
Rockpool on George Website