Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Review : Rockpool

107 George Street

The Rocks

612 9252 1888

Lunch Friday & Saturday
Dinner Tuesday to Saturday

It has been many, many years since we last dined at Rockpool. It was certainly before it’s ‘renovation’ and long before we started this blog. We have visited both Rockpool Bar & Grill and Spice Temple many times, yet we have never made it back to Rockpool.

We both still talk about the highlights of that meal. For me it was the ‘Best ever bacon and egg sandwich’; individual components of that dish escape me now, but the flavour and its impact on my emerging palate will never be forgotten. I long to sample that dish again.

For Buggles the highlight was the Passionfruit Souffle, finished at the table with a generous pour of a lush, passionfruit sauce, or was it an anglaise? She can't remember... she just recalls it as one her best dining experiences.

It was this first visit to Rockpool, along with an earlier visit to MG Garage (it was the fanciness of the mini table cloth carpet sweeper that had us agog on that occasion!) that set us on this fine dining adventure…..and we haven’t looked back since.
So it is with much excitement and a little trepidation (will it be as good as we remember?), that we head out to lunch this Saturday afternoon.

The room now has a sleek, contemporary edge to it. The layout however, is basically the same, so it is new and familiar at the same time.

We kick things of with a cocktail each, while pondering which of these amazing sounding dishes to order.

On Friday & Saturday lunch Rockpool offers a three course lunch menu. Entrees are $35, mains $45 and desserts $20.

Orders taken and this marks the arrival of a large round of sourdough and generous serve of Rockpool butter. We so prefer butter to olive oil and this butter is rich, creamy and salty…perfect with this wonderful sourdough.

John dory, scampi, paprika, macadamia and basil pistou tickles Buggles' tastebud radar today. While this dish doesn't perhaps look quite as prettily composed as mine, it is full of vibrant colour. Ohhh... the scampi! Buggles is in love with how tender and plump it is and the macadamia and basil pistou has great flavour and texture. The lone anchovy sitting on the crouton scares me... but Buggles proclaims to not taste it specifically. One complete mouthful of every element is perfect and tastes amazing.

My Goat’s cheese lasagne, beetroot, leek, endive and roast eschalot is a light and creamy taste sensation. The delicately layered cheese does not overpower, its lively, tart flavour is still very evident though – and once combined with the sweet beetroot it makes for a glorious mouthful. I also love the slight bitterness of the endive along with the subtle sweetness of the roasted eschalot. A really lovely dish.

Buggles’ Chinese roast Queensland pigeon, smoked eggplant, black mushroom and cucumber pickle with black bean sauce arrives all crisp and glossy.
We have a leg, a wing and a plump breast served a perfectly pink, medium rare. The mouthful I sample, along with the intensely smoky eggplant is truly divine. The pickled cucumber and black mushroom work alongside the smoky eggplant really well.

My David Blackmore’s Wagyu beef short rib, black sesame, parsnip, enoki and pear, I have to admit, is not what I am expecting. I have visions of sticky, fall off the bone, melt in the mouth fatty beef - this is not to be. Instead I am presented with 3 smallish portions of perfectly medium rare wedges of beef. It is tender with great flavour, but it lacks the butteriness and richness that I have much enjoyed from Wagyu in the past. The nuttiness of the black sesame works exceptionally well with the meat as does the sweetish pear. Oh and the tempura - my god, spectacular.
If I have one complaint - it is one that stems from utter greed – a diner at a nearby table seems to be feasting on a somewhat larger portion of beef and let’s face it - I am envious! I have seen enough Masterchef episodes to know how important consistency is!

There is no choice of side dishes at lunch, and the food is served with a leaf salad with a palm sugar vinaigrette. Light and lovely. We do like to select our own sides - but we grudgingly suppose this is better for us and probably all we need... especially considering dessert is on its way!

Five layered variations of chocolate, hazelnut praline, poached quince and
cocoa nib ice cream is Buggles choice of dessert... but she was mightily torn between it and the Passionfruit souffle. I think she wanted to preserve the memory of the original experience in her vaulted food memory!  The dessert is beautifully plated, but certainly doesn't look, or taste, as chocolatey as she had expected from the name.  She enjoys the flavours very much, but it just isn't a dessert that she will remember for much longer after lunch is over.

My dessert of Vacherin of pandan custard, coconut parfait, jasmine sorbet and lime granita is utterly fantastic. The pandan custard is silky smooth, the jasmine sorbet is subtley flavoured & the coconut parfait divine - the real highlight for me though is the intensely flavoured lime granita. The dessert as a whole is fresh & vibrant - the flavours dance on the tongue. Just love it.

We have very fond memories of the petit fours that we enjoyed on our first visit to Rockpool. There was an absolute abundance of passionfruit marshmallows, a large bowl of salted caramels, an array of melting much in fact, that we couldn't finish them all! So to say we are very excited about what we have in store would be an understatement. Sadly, we are a little let down. The current petit fours now consist of a tiny eclair, a passionfruit jelly and a chocolate truffle - delicious they may be, but they pale in comparison to the petit fours of yore.

So lunch is lovely. Good flavours, varied textures and beautifully presented. So why aren't we raving about it?  I think a lot of it comes down to the overall experience. We have long proclaimed that our last dinner at Rockpool was one of our favourite dining experiences as a whole... but this one just didn't get there. Why?

Service is proficient and professional, but lacks warmth.

Another key reason is the seating. It is understandable to limit the tables used at lunchtime, but when you seat each group directly next to each other during a relatively quiet lunch service it just makes everyone uncomfortable and stilts conversation. In the seating section used, there would have been ample seating to allow a table between each.

Would we go back?  Probably.. it was good food. But when we have such good restaurants scattered all over Sydney it may not be the one that calls us as loudly.

Squeak (with a hint of Buggles)
Rockpool on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

Jasmin @Opining, Whining & Dining said...

The petit fours do look a little sad. If you're looking for exciting Petit Fours then certainly Arras might be an option?

The wagyu ribs looks wonderfully presented, I think I'd be a bit disappointed to be given a small serve as well.

I didn't know that they did such reasonably priced lunches here. Looks wonderful. I think our next special occasion might call for a visit.