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Friday, February 22, 2008
Rockpool Bar and Grill
A few weeks back I had the privilege of having dinner at Rockpool Melbourne. It was a last minute decision and wanting to spoil myself I decided that Rockpool was the perfect restaurant.

Entering Rockpool one can easily be overwhelmed by a number of things. The sheer size of the restaurant is amazing, seating 150 patrons, in addition to the bar space. You are also immediately confronted by hanging carcasses in a cool room near the entry and soon walk into a large room awaft with smoke coming from the open grills. Initially a turn off but you soon realise that it just adds to the ambience. From the moment you walk in it is apparent that Rockpool is a serious steak restaurant, and not withstanding the price it would be difficult not to consider one of the fine cuts of meat on offer.

As a restaurant Rockpool looks really good. It is comfortable with large, leather topped wooden tables, and leather lounges as seats. All clever reminders that you are in a steak restaurant. This continues when the menu arrives, which is presented as a single sheet of paper with a large picture of a cow in the background. The theme is clear. Look around and nearly everyone is eating steak. With all this in mind it must be noted that Rockpool Melbourne is not just about the steak. Like the original Sydney establishment seafood plays a big part on the menu, with freshness being paramount. All shellfish is kept live in a tank until ordered and fish is dry filleted to maintain quality and integrity. You can read all about the Rockpool philosophy on their website. There is a true passion for produce and excellence. Not just gimmicks.

On the night I contemplate the menu for some time. I decide to start with a couple of oysters ($4ea). These are freshly shucked at a station at the front of the restaurant, and are served on ice, along with muslin wrapped lemon and a wonderful mignonette dressing. Not in your ordinary style though. The dressing is translucent and pink, but all of the wonderful flavours of egg, onion, caper and herbs are present. There is great care taken in the preparation and presentation of such a seemingly simple dish. Care, which is strongly appreciated on my part.

Next up is my entree. One of Rockpool's signature dishes: "Four raw tastes of the sea" ($26) - an excellent dish comprising four different morsels, each with their own condiment. From left to right these include: kingfish with a minced cos and smoked oyster topping, ocean trout with finely diced preserved lemon and harissa, tuna topped with julienne ginger and cilantro and a ceviche of squid with an intense citrus dressing. Each is amazingly fresh and beautifully presented. A great way to start the meal, as are a number of the seafood offerings.

To follow is the steak. A decision, which I contemplated for some time. I ultimately decide upon the Wagyu Sirloin, at a hefty $110. For this price you don't just get any old piece of steak, but rather some of the best meat that money can buy. It is grade 9+ wagyu (the highest grade available in Australia); bread by Blackmore wagyu and only available at a select few restaurants across the country, with most of the limited meat being reserved for export. The fact that you are getting the very best therefore justifies the need to pay such a premium.

I am surprised when I first receive the steak. It is served "minute style", flattened out like a sandwich steak. This is not what I expected when ordering "rib eye", but I soon get over it. To accompany it are Rockpool's usual accompaniments of horseradish cream and béarnaise, in addition to a condiment service, which offers a range of mustards as well as a house-made harissa or barbecue sauce, which I opt for. The steak is something special and is amazingly tender. The marbling is present throughout, as you can see in the picture below. I must say though that this was not the best tasting beef that I have eaten. That honour has to go to an incredible piece of meat, which I consumed at Vue de monde, but this was still very good and was worth it for the experience. Eating good wagyu really is a different experience to your ordinary piece of steak; something you must try to understand. To go with my steak I am obliged to order sides. I opt for some excellent chips ($8) and amazing mushrooms ($12), which have been wood-fire grilled and sit in a bowl with their incredible juices. They help to conclude an excellent, albeit expensive course.

To finish this fine dinner I ask my waiter for some help in choosing dessert. This was not an easy task as it depends on what I like. I ultimately go for the Strawberry Soup, served with mango sorbet. In a bowl sits a wonderful broth made from strawberries, which have been marinated in citrus juices and then pressed and extracted to create a translucent liquid. This is served, along with some diced strawberry, pineapple and melon pieces and finished with three small scoops of mango sorbet. The dish works well as a light refreshing dessert. The "soup" is bitter-sweet with the freshness of the fruit pieces contrasting along with the sorbet, which tastes intensely of fresh mango that just melts away in your mouth. A fitting end to a great meal.

Service at Rockpool was good, but not great. The staff are very visible, dressed in white jackets, which doesn't quite work for me and despite the massive volume of them, a level of finesse seems to be lacking. Simply depositing a $110 steak on a guests table with “your steak” and quickly moving off seems less than one should expect in this level of restaurant. Adding to this I had to return to the restaurant for my coat as it was not retrieved by staff. The second time this has happened at this restaurant. I mention this mostly because it is in stark contrast to the amazing service I have received when visiting Rockpool Sydney, where the whole experience is far more polished and a lot more magical.

Overall Rockpool is an excellent restaurant, but I feel that some service refinements are needed if it is to be considered one of our best.

Rockpool Bar & Grill received a score of 17 out of 20 in the 2008 Age Good Food Guide and was awarded two chefs hats.

My Rating: 16.5/ 20 - Food: 9/10 Ambience: 4/5 Service: 3.5/5


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  posted at 9:25 AM  

At March 19, 2008 at 4:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello! I too am an avid Melburnian foodie and am enjoying reading your blog :)

I must admit, my thoughts of Rockpool are echoed in this post of yours. I went there last year for dinner and to be absolutely honest, the steaks did not blow me away at all (was expecting them to of course!). My dining partner and I have attributed it to perhaps ordering the steak medium as opposed to medium rare but then again, the waiting staff should perhaps have guided us on this decision as a 3-figured piece of meat surely demanded some serious contemplation!

Keep those reviews coming!

At March 20, 2008 at 8:41 AM, Blogger Jon! said...

Thanks for your comment Cat. Glad you are enjoying my blog - plenty more reviews to come. And yes, high marble score wagyu should never be cooked past medium rare, and steaks this expensive should blow you away.

Happy eating,

At October 21, 2008 at 2:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was kind of reading with interest your review of Rockpool B&G Melbourne as well as another food reviewer who commented on the Wagyu being served flattened, minute style.

Although in theory you would expect such a good piece of steak to be served nice and thick (as they do serve the other steaks), I think its because traditionally Wagyu and Kobe steaks in Japan are meant to be served at 1cm thick. Their theory is that the outside should be seared ever so slightly but since the marbling melts at lower temps for 100% full blood wagyu, the best way to cook it is minute style. I think Neil Perry did this deliberately somehow?


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