Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Rockpool bar and grill - a piece of Gotham City in Sydney

The exterior of the art deco building, which the restaurant is situated in, is somewhat reminiscent of Gotham City Hall from Batman. When we entered inside, the grand marble columns and the elevated ceiling, along with the striking display of shimmering Riedel glasses made us lift our heads up high in admiration (meanwhile quietly reminding ourselves to not let our jaws drop, at least not until we met the food). Yes, this is Rockpool bar and grill – crowned Sydney’s Best New Restaurant in 2010 and has held the two hat status since.

Tonight we dined in the semi-private dining area. First thing I noted, despite how extravagant the surroundings are, is the darkness in the room which meant reading the menu may be a challenge for some (also meant sorry for the quality of the photos). The menu was thankfully printed on A3 paper (with a stylish female silhouette on the back of the menu). It contained an extensive list of cold and hot starters, salads, pastas, charcoal seafood and wood fired meat. The prices of mains on offer ranged anywhere between $25 and $115. I had quite a few recommendations of the 9+ marble score wagyu, however at $115 a dish, it almost had to be backed up by a special occasion. So given tonight was just a catch up dinner, we decided to forego the wagyu... actually we gave up beef entirely – the attitude of “if we can’t have the best, we won’t settle for the rest” :P

Rockpool Bar and Grill House Rules
Found at the very first page of the drinks menu
As soon as our order was taken, we were served baguette-like bread, which had a nice crunch, a chewy texture and a great depth of flavour. And the butter, did I mention that butter, it was gooooood :)

Complimentary bread and butter served on a block of wood

Alaskan King Crab Cocktail

Warm Salad of Wood Fire Grilled Quail
with Braised Dried Figs, Walnuts and Fresh Herbs
The quail is broken down to pieces and hidden amongst the salad, figs and walnuts. Unfortunately I found the braised dried figs to be a tad too sweet for my liking and buried the flavour of the not-so-tasty quail. 

Milk Fed Pure Suffolk Lamb with Fried Artichoke and Aioli 
While the quail is tender but lacked the burst of flavour, the lamb had good flavours but is dry and slightly overcooked. Maybe we should have ordered beef after all…

Rock Flathead

Spicy Mussel and Saffron Stew with Wood Fired Seafood and Aioli

Duck Ragu with Pappardelle

The duck is succulent and pappardelle pasta is mellow and slippery. While the main dishes are pleasant, nothing is remarkable. To me, the side dishes delivered more surprises. The braised winter greens is indeed a hearty winter dish – I can imagine tucking into this in front of a fireplace at home. The sautéed mixed mushroom had an enticing aroma and is packed with earthy mushroom and garlic butter flavours. It is the most expensive side dish on the menu ($25), but I would definitely recommend it, especially if you are a mushroom fan like me!

Winter Greens Braised with Garlic, Chilli and Anchovie

L Loves... Sautéed Mixed Mushrooms
Moving on to desserts, I must first comment on the lovely service we've had, up till this point. The waiter who had served us provided sleek and professional service. However the waitress who served our desserts completely turned this around. When she came with the dessert my cousin had ordered, I tried to be helpful and gestured that it was for my cousin, who was sitting opposite me. It happened that she was placing the dessert where my hand was moving to and before I knew it, she said out loud “I hate it when people do that!!” 
“ @#%!&#? Excuse me?” I said in my mind… But before I recovered from this astonishment she had disappeared (smart move)!

So how are the desserts? They are delightful! I loved the refreshing blood orange sorbet and the slightly sour yoghurt cream inside the crisp candied brandy snaps. They are just wonderful. Mr M, being a true Aussie, who not only checked the footy scores throughout dinner, but also ordered the good old pavlova which he thoroughly enjoyed (as it comforted his broken heart from Aussie's loss to NZ- interestingly everyone at the table was Kiwi except Mr M)!  

L Loves... Blood Orange Sorbet with Yoghurt Cream Brandy Snaps

Passionfruit Pavlova

Passionfruit Marshmallows

Macchiato and complementary caramel popcorn
L's Verdict:
  • Taste: 7.5/10 
  • Ambience: 4/5 (would be a 5 if it wasn't so dark!)
  •  Value: 3/5
  • Service: 3.5/5 (I'd like to think the desserts waitress had a bad day)
  •  Creativity and other WOW factors: 3/5  

Overall rating: 21/30

Rockpool Bar and Grill
66 Hunter Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Ph: (02) 8078 1900
Lunch: Mon to Fri 12pm to 3pm
Dinner Mon to Sat 6pm to 11pm

Visited August 2011

Friendly advice: Try the Wagyu burger at the bar – awarded by Time Out as the best burger against the likes of Four In Hand and Charlie & Co.
There are no reservations for bar tables and an all-day bar menu is available Monday to Friday from noon to 11pm and Saturday from 6pm till late.

Rockpool Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

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