Tucked away in the heritage Burns Philp building in Bridge Street Sydney, Rockpool would be one of Sydney’s hidden gems, except that it is Rockpool. Rockpool has a list of awards that just keeps going. Australian Gourmet Traveller has proclaimed it as Australia’s no.2 ranked restaurant, it was awarded three hats by the Sydney Morning Herald and in 2014 the Weekend Australia promclaimed it Australia’s no.1 restaurant. Rockpool is Neil Perry’s flagship restaurant in Sydney and this was where I took my mother to celebrate her 70th birthday.
I loved the interior of the building. The tall ceilings and elaborate moudlings give a sense of elegant extravagence, yet the dark colours manage to ensure you still have an intimate feeling. Although, at first thought a heritage listed building may not be where you would expect a restaurant to be located, it makes sense when you realise that Burns Philp, the building’s namesake, was once invovled in the production and distribution of food products. But I also think the juxtaposition of locating the flagship restaurant of one of Australia’s trailblazing chefs makes sense in that he has managed to marry traditional ideas about food with a modern understanding of flavours. Taking the best from the old and bringing it into modernity. And with two staff members simultaneously pulling open the grand doors for you as you enter, you certainly make an entrance which sets the tone for the rest of your experience.
We chose not to have the degustation menu, instead relishing the opportunity to choose what we prefered from the menu – many of the ‘hatted’ restaurants in Sydney only offer their degustation menus if you dine on Friday. Regardless of what you choose, your meal begins with sourdough served with kombu infused butter as well as a portion of ricotta cheese lightly covered in a roast tomato and chilli jus. I’m not really a fan of kombu but it gave the butter such a unique flavour that I was really quite taken with.
Like many Sydney restaurants, Rockpool has an extensive selection of seafood available. My mother chose to eat the Moreton Bay bug with strozzapreti and crustacean butter. I’m ashamed to say that I really don’t like a lot of seafood, so we’ll have to trust my mother’s opinion on this dish. Whislt she commented that the Moreton Bay bug was cooked perfectly, she was most impressed with the depth of flavour that came through in the crustacean butter.
I chose the Pork Belly “Ceasar”; Parmesan and roast lettuce. It was really interesting. For a start, as to be expected, it didn’t look anything like a traditional Ceasar salad. The pork bellly was so incredibly moist. I’ve never eaten pork belly this moist before. However, what took me by suprise was the sauce. It was sweet and reminded me of Maple Syrup (I’ve probably mortally offended the chef now who would be insulted that his sauce was compared to something I’d smother my pancakes in), but it was delicious! I’d never think to roast my lettuce but my mother quickly informed me that it’s quite the done thing now. Obviously I’m not as fashionable in food as I thought! I’m defintiely going to try roasting lettuce at home as it changed the flavour of the lettuce slightly which, just like the sauce on the pork belly, was quite unexpected but really quite pleasant.
Our dessert choice was unanimous. Passionfruit souffle with passionfruit ice cream. Let me just say, well worth the twenty minute wait. It seems redundant to say this, given we are eating at Rockpool, but the souffle was almost exactly like a textbook souffle except that it was better. Souffle comes from the French word souffler which means ‘to blow’ and Rockpool’s souffle had indeed risen to lofty heights. It was like eating air that was made of passionfruit. It was so light that if you were so inclined, I could swear that you could almost breathe it in. Do I sound like I’m raving about this? I am. It was ridiculously delicious. Our attentive and knowledgeable waiter, Hans, suggested that we might like to gently part the top of the souffle and drop the passionfruit ice cream inside. That idea was magic.
Before I finish, I must compliment the wait staff. Although they seemed a little aloof when we first entered, it quickly became apparant that they were professional, knowledageble and had the uncanny ability to predict what you wanted before you thought to ask. Your water glass never managed to approach empty, you barely had to look for them and they were beside you, and there was none of that annoyance when you struggle to get the attention of the waiter so you can order your meal. I’ve eaten at many expensive restauarants and I can easily say that Rockpool, hands down, has the most professional and attentive staff. It did not escape their attention that it was my mother’s birthday and at the end of our meal, while we sat sipping our coffee, they brought out a cake for her complete with a candle. Of course, being Rockpool, this cake was surrounded by a tower of spun sugar. The cake itself, about the size of a petit four, had a crushed prailine base, next with a layer of chocolate cake, then a layer of chocolate mousse, and then this was all covered in a fine layer of chocolate. All of this is what I can ascertain as, understandably because it was a suprise, it was not on the menu. If that alone had been my dessert, I would’ve been happy.
Rockpool is located at 11 Bridge Street in Sydney. At the time this was written, the Moreton Bay bug with strozzapreti and crustacean butter cost $40, the Pork Belly “Ceasar”; Parmesan and roast lettuce cost $45 and our dessert, Passionfruit souffle with passionfruit ice cream cost $25. They have a large selection of wines from all over the world, as well as many Australian wines. They even had both a white and red wine from the Canberra region (which I was secretly very imrpessed with).