Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Rockpool B&G - Grass fed: 1, Wagyu: 0

I’m no beef snob. I don’t have minimum marble score standards or necessarily need to know how long meat as been aged. I have a preference for grass fed only because in my imagination cows are on grassy, daisy-laden hills beneath blue skies, not munching about a wheat field. I even enjoyed a Maccas cheeseburger recently (they taste better when scoffed in just a few mouthfuls).

Rockpool Bar & Grill, Bligh Street, Sydney
But it’s hard not to feel a bit posh about it when I’m at Rockpool Bar, a near institution for beef and beef eaters. I calm the nerves and the end of week relief with cocktails while seated at the bar, which is actually prime seating for watching bar action and even kitchen interaction.

Action seated at the bar
And did you know that you can order from the full restaurant menu from the bar? Indeed, you can slice into your three-figure wagyu steak while sitting at the bar, perhaps with some mac and cheese on the side, and follow it up with dessert too.

Cocktail coupe glasses
All the cocktails seems to be served in classy, dainty coupe glasses; slightly taller and more slender than those used for champagne at 80’s weddings – and perhaps still today. It seems to be the cocktail trend at the moment, even replacing the martini glass here.

Pouring and straining a cocktail
The range of cocktails at Rockpool Bar leans towards old school – no Cosmopolitans on the menu here. It’s educational whilst also showcasing some of the custom liquors created by the bar and of course, some skilled shaking and mixing service.

The Logistics Cocktail
I picked the Logistics Cocktail for its tame alcoholic content (London dry gin, rather than any sort of rum or whiskey), which is apparently a blend of two 20th century cocktails.

Mixed with mirto, grapefruit bitters, crème de cacao and lemon juice, the pink hued drink was a bit of a confusing flavour for me, with initial sour notes followed by a slightly bitter, chocolatey nuttiness that was quite strong.

Almond Sidecar
I actually preferred my companion’s Almond Sidecar, which was completely unexpected. I normally shy away from almond flavours as I really don’t like the weird taste of artificial almond (marzipan included, and same goes for artificial banana), but the pleasant surprise was that it wasn’t here – I shouldn’t have expected any less from Rockpool.

Here, toasted almonds are infused with beurre noisette (brown butter) and Hennessy VSOP, cooled overnight to let the fat separate from the spirit, leaving what’s called ‘fat washed’ Hennessy – a technique by mixologist Eben Freeman of Tailor in New York City. Impressive stuff.

With the addition of orgeat, what results is a soft nuttiness all over the palate with sweetness from the Cointreau balancing the lemon juice.

Drinks sorted, it was time to look at the fairly substantial bar menu. There’s a huge variety of options, from fresh seafood and cured meats to empanadas and roasted goodies. The main plates section is where the burgers reside along with sandwiches, pasta and steaks – sounding a little like a pub menu but really not.

David Blackmore’s full blood wagyu hamburger with bacon,
gruyere cheese and zuni pickle
I started with my half of the wagyu burger which, like the other burger too, is rather tall, making it a little difficult to get around. But it’s worth the effort for the salty, crisp bacon rashers, melted cheese, zucchini ribbons and pickled Spanish onion.

And the pattie. Cooked to my chosen medium (though it was hard to see in the dimness) as I’m not so sure about bleeding burgers, the David Blackmore’s full blood wagyu pattie was thick and bulky, well seasoned and agreeably meaty. I wouldn’t go as far as calling it juicy, but there was a definite richness about it that was much more noticeable after trying the Greenham grass fed beef pattie.

Greenham grass fed hamburger with bacon, gruyere cheese and zuni pickle
The grass fed burger pattie with all the same toppings was admirably on par with the wagyu, if not better – depending on preferences. I found the pattie, also cooked to a medium, of a more robust, meaty flavour which I quite liked, rather than the rich, buttery flavour of the wagyu.

Onion rings with house-made ketchup
To have with our burger halves, we had the onion rings which I remembered so fondly from a previous visit to the restaurant. They didn’t seem as crunchy as I remembered and a little more oily, but still so good dunked in their house made tomato sauce. The serving tongs are so dainty and not quite befitting of a burger and onion rings, but I suppose that’s part of the charm.

Rockpool Bar is a casual alternative to the restaurant next door and fills up swiftly on a Friday night. But turnover at the bar seats is fairly quick, with mostly duos staying for no more than two drinks generally. Being so well staffed, speedy service helps move drinkers along, but you never feel rushed nor ignored.

In the battle of full blood wagyu versus grass fed, in my opinion, the Greenham grass fed burger emerged victorious; but not everyone will share the same opinion – of the burgers and the grassy, daisy-laden hills.

Rockpool Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon


MelbaToast said...

What a good idea to sit at the bar - is the food any cheaper than the restaurant, or the prices just the same?

Angie Lives to Eat (and Cook)! said...

Took the boy here for his b'day last year but we dined in the restaurant. I really wanted to try the wagyu burger though. Eating at the bar (from the bar meny) would be sooo much better for the wallet.

susan said...

I keep hearing how those are the best burgers in Sydney by all the food writers. Are they right?

Richard Elliot said...

I'm pleased to see one for the grass fed!

I've got mixed feelings about the wagyu trend going round Sydney at the moment. There's no way you can sell a decent wagyu burger for $10. However, that is what you see a lot of pubs trying to pass off.

I'm sure Rockpool use a good grade of wagyu and I was lucky enough to have some very expensive wagyu a friend brought recently. The texture was fabulous, but there wasn't too much flavour. I think if you want flavour in your meat you are probably better going for an animal that has done some work and not sat around getting massages and drinking beer all day!

Helen (Grab Your Fork) said...

I do like the idea of being able to order from the a la carte menu when sitting at the bar. We found the onion rings are little oily last time too.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I love grass fed meat and the flavour but the texture is quite different and sometimes you just want some wagyu too :)

Tina said...

Hi MelbaToast - Same prices I'm afraid. The bar menu has some cheaper options though.

Hi Angie - It is a little better as long as you don't go overboard on the cocktails :)

Hi Susan - They're pretty darn good! But I haven't tried the Lotus one yet ;)

Hi Richard - Cows that drink beer and get massages :D Sounds like my kinda life!

Hi Helen - Yes, will have to try next time

Hi Lorraine - There's always some in each camp ;)


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