Having respect for every venue under the Rockpool umbrella and great admiration for the man behind it all, I have recently found myself becoming a bit of a fanboy of sorts. So when news hit that there had been a fire at Rockpool Bar & Grill Sydney with extensive damage I was a bit sad. Well, that and of course the fact that my birthday booking was only 29 days away.
I have eaten at the RB&G bar more times than I can count, and written about it too, but never actually sampled their steaks – the whole reason the place exists. It was an easy choice for my birthday dinner but when the fire threatened my booking (and let’s not forget those in the kitchen and dining room) I was gutted. Not wanting to pour salt in the wound I made a backup booking at Rockpool just in case they were unable to repair the damage.
Fast forward 20 days and the team had miraculously repaired the damage and re-opened. My birthday dinner was on and I was excited. Cancelling the Rockpool booking was bittersweet but it had to be done and I felt better knowing it was still well in advance so they could hopefully fill the booking.
Bread and Butter (Complimentary).
Arriving first to nibble on while we drank our pre-dinner drinks was some complimentary house baked bread with a golden pat of butter served on a rustic wooden board. The bread was crusty and crunchy with a softer centre. Smothered in butter and finished with a sprinkling of salt.
Warm Salad of Wood Fire Grilled Quail with Smoked Tomato and Black Olive ($32.00).
The evening was all about the grill so it seemed only natural to order the wood fire grilled quail. Suitably smoky the tomatoes started the dish off with quite a subtle smoke and favourable acidic touch, then came the olives oozing their salty charm. Medium rare and ever so perfect, cooking the quail over a wood fired grill enhanced every nuance that quail brings. This was all kept in check by the unusual combination of mint and dill. I loved every bit of this dish and it suited me to a tee.
Seared King Prawns with Goats Cheese Tortellini, Burnt Butter, Pine Nuts and Raisins ($35.00)
Having known well in advance what she would order Lex was patiently awaiting the marvels of a dish we had heard very good things about. While never sceptical about the calibre of a dish that would come out of the RB&G kitchen I did wonder how well they could do pasta. Naturally the dish was stellar from the very first mouthful. It began with king prawns cooked so deftly they were bursting with flavour, then the combination of goat’s cheese encased in al dente pasta paired with sweet raisins, creamy pine nuts and the addictive nutty burnt butter sauce made for a gorgeous dish we both adored.
Domaine Tempier ‘La Migoua’ 2010 ($205.00).
Entrees finished it was time to finish our ‘pre’ drinks and get into the serious stuff – red wine. At home I buy local wine with the occasional NZ red slipping into the ranks now and then. I love our new world wines and love even more to support local producers in their craft. That being said when it comes to special events I love talking to the sommelier in the hope of expanding my wine horizon even further.
Steak was the benchmark, so the wine needed to hold its own without being too heavy or overly tannic to spoil it. Our concerns of high tannins were noted and we were suggested a wine that, while made primarily of mourvèdre grapes known for their mouth puckering tannins, was actually very well balanced and would be a suitable match for our mains.
My tasting revealed quite a complex wine. On the nose there was a great freshness nearing that of a well-aged balsamic vinegar but mellowing with a good fruit base. Tasting was even better, the freshness in the nose translated to a wine that offered up sharp berry sweetness to finish with super short and dry tannins and a very textural mouth feel. Perfect.
David Blackmore’s Dry Aged Full Blood Wagyu, Rib-eye 220gm 47 days ($115.00).
I do not tend to look at a menu before going to a restaurant (unlike Lex) as I like to order however the mood strikes me or completely left of field. But when it came to RB&G I had known what my main was since the place opened – and even a bit before when the menu was first previewed.
It just had to be the uber steak on the menu; the most expensive and over the top cut they had to offer. Dry aged for 47 days the David Blackmore full blood Wagyu rib-eye comes in at 220grams and tops the menu for price. What does a steak of this calibre offer? For me it is the mouthfeel that immediately stands out, the marbling of fat combined with this specific cut makes for a steak that is juicier than imaginable and so silky you only need to pry it apart with a fork.
Cape Grim Dry Aged 36 Month Old Grass Fed Rib-eye on the Bone 350gm 66 days ($60.00).
As much as I love Wagyu beef and the epicness that it holds, the entire ethos of the steakhouse that is RB&G is to try more than one cut of beef, try other producers and sample every kind of steak you can. With this in mind Lex’s choice of steak was polar opposite to my grain fed cut of Wagyu.
Opting for the rib-eye on the bone we had a grass fed steak from Cape Grim, dry aged for 66 days and coming in at 350grams. Cooking on the bone unlocks a flavour profile that is hard to explain with just words but what can be explained is how good this steak was. Beautiful is the easiest way to say it. It was ever so lean and incredibly tender. Nearly no fat to sully the pure beef that grass feeding ensures, it was easily the best steak of the night. Having said that, when it comes to pure decadence I would have the Wagyu hands down, but if I wanted something pure it would be the grass fed every time.
Sebago Potatoes Sautéed with Wagyu Fat, Garlic and Rosemary ($12.00).
What is a steak dinner without sides? Well it would be awesome but you can always improve on awesome. So we did. Potato fiend Em made sure potatoes made an appearance. Cooked in Wagyu fat made for some rather crispy yet fluffy and addictive spuds with a few garlic cloves and rosemary leaves thrown in for good measure. These were adept at soaking up all the steak juices.
Mac and Cheese ($9.00 / $12.00).
As there were four of us it seemed logical to order four sides, and we were all able to choose something. For Lex it was the mac n cheese. I will say that, although I am no expert, at first it looked overly dry (and it was penne) but as soon as the crust was lifted I found a silky cheese sauce coating the penne and I was hooked.
Onion Rings ($9.00).
Third up were onion rings but it seemed they came in first in everyone’s eyes. Amazing is not a strong enough word to describe how good these were. Perfect may come close but it is still hard to describe just how good they were. Mega crunchy without being soaked in oil. After the initial bite you were met with an ethereal sweetness from the onion and that was it – the best onion rings on the planet. What makes this even better was that we were told ANY side on the restaurant menu can be ordered at the bar!
Radicchio, Cos and Endive Salad with Palm Sugar Vinaigrette ($9.00).
Ok so nobody makes friends with salad but I love it all the same. Any salad with bitter elements seems to be a winner in my books and radicchio is at the forefront of this love of bitter salads. Each time the Rockpool salad has arrived at the table I have enjoyed it so it seemed only logical to sample the RB&G version. Tweaked to add some sweetness via palm sugar and a few cos lettuce leaves to stop it from being overly bitter. This is an exceptional salad and just what you need to cut through the heavy steaks.
Birthday cupcake (Complimentary).
Mains were done and everyone was happy to say the least. For me it was everything I had hoped and I really don’t know how it could have been any better. Dessert menus were distributed and we mused over what to have. Mr O couldn’t decide so he opted for two desserts just to be sure. Shortly after we ordered out came a birthday cupcake, candle and all. Embarrassing but in a good way. The cupcake was great. Dark chocolate mud it needed to be shared to ensure I had enough room for the main dessert.
Mandarin Sorbet with Brioche Tuile and Mandarin Compote ($12.00).
Having such a full on evening of food the mandarin sorbet was just what I needed. Light and invigorating the citrus was a real pick me up, I couldn’t get enough of it. The compote was the sweet element but not too much to ruin the soothing nature of the sorbet. Adding some much needed crunch was the tuile of brioche in all its buttery glory.
Warm Rhubarb, Strawberry and Almond Pudding with Vanilla Sauce ($23.00).
Probably the one thing that was not premeditated for Lex was dessert. She chose the pudding and was ever so glad she did. The vanilla sauce was incredible, exquisite vanilla, creamy and the perfect consistency. Almost like a soufflé the pudding was as light as anything and the rhubarb and strawberry proved a great partnership in the compote. Both fragrant and textural the almond crust was immaculate. I believe the term ‘heaven on a spoon’ was used.
Never before had I studied the menu (or wine list) so much but I really wanted to be confident in my choices of both food and wine and it certainly paid off. There was not a single thing to dislike about the whole night. Great company with great food & wine made for the best night out and a birthday that I loved.
Rockpool Bar & Grill Sydney
66 Hunter Street
Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 8078 1900
Rockpool Bar & Grill Sydney Website