I had booked in to Rockpool without completely knowing how much it had turned towards the Chinese flavours that Perry so loves. I incorrectly figured that with Spice Temple as Perry's outlet for all things Chinese, that Rockpool would have more of a modern Australian path. So it is with these misguided expectations that I dined at Rockpool one weeknight evening.
|Bramble cocktail from Rockpool, George Street, The Rocks|
Presented with the cocktail and aperitifs list, wine list and 4-course menu (a few days before they started offering 2-, 3,- or 4-course options recently) all at once was a little daunting, but eased by the fact that the restaurant feels old and familiar, although rather quiet this particular night.
We break into white tablecloth territory with cocktails to start: a Bramble of gin, lemon juice and Crème de cassis – a blackcurrant liqueur that contributes the dramatic colours of the cocktail.
|Honey spelt sourdough bread and butter|
|Queensland spanner crab, toast, tabasco mayonnaise, peach leaf jelly|
At this point I still wasn't aware of the oncoming influx of Chinese flavours. We'd made our selections from the three savoury courses and while I'd picked dishes like congee and roast pigeon, I was expecting a modern and western take on these very traditional Chinese dishes.
|Blue swimmer crab and corn congee, almond tofu, star anise scented peanuts, |
fried bread and chilli oil
There were so many familiar flavours and so much going on: small hits of blue swimmer crab flesh, sweet kernels of corn and very traditional additions of peanuts, shallots and shredded lettuce to the congee.
However, there was an oiliness to the dish, not helped by the yau ja gwai fried bread pieces nor the chilli oil, somewhat overshadowing the delicate crab and almond tofu.
|Glazed pig's head, hot and sour gluten, confit sweet potato, vanilla and hazelnut|
The accompaniments of sweet potato balls and crunchy hazelnuts weren't mind blowing, while the stark presentation of cauliflower cross-sections was intriguing.
|John dory, scampi, paprika, macadamia and basil pistou|
The pistou was more delicate than its hue suggested, though weighted with bits of macadamia nut - a rather full-flavoured and oily nut to pair with the so-delicate-it-almost-wasn't-there John dory. I liked the barely-cooked scampi best, together with the rouille-like sauce on bread that had some serious char flavour to it.
There aren't any wine matches to the dishes as such, but just asking the sommelier for recommendations by the glass worked well for me. The Spanish Paco & Lola Albariño was a superb match for the clean seafood flavours of this dish.
|Mao po doufu with hot and numbing beef, nori curd and bone marrow xiao long bao|
The dish was surrounded by a spiced chilli oil, as per the traditional dish, and completed with pieces of meltingly tender beef spiked with Sichuan pepper for the numbing effect. The tiny xiao long bao filled with bone marrow, cute as it was, didn't quite have the usual quiveringly rich, swoony impact of bone marrow.
|South Australian lamb, black eyed beans, tea smoked mussels and salted wombok|
Cooked to medium-rare, the lamb played second fiddle in flavour terms compared to the tea smoked mussels, which might have been the true feature of the dish.
|Chinese roast pigeon, smoked eggplant, black mushrooms and cucumber pickle with |
black bean sauce
Served medium-rare (which would never be the case in Chinese restaurants), the dazzling sheen of the burnished skin was the highlight, closely followed by the impressive flavour infused into the bird and black bean sauce and the heavily smoked eggplant puree.
As wings are about my favourite part of a bird, there was no way I was letting it go to waste. It was all fingers on deck (well, two and two thumbs at least), and noticed by the staff as a handtowel made its way to the table shortly after.
The Parker Estate 'Terra Rossa' Cabernet Sauvignon was the recommended wine with my pigeon, which was bold enough to match the slight gaminess of the pigeon.
|Passionfruit soufflé with passionfruit ice cream|
I understand that I'm a slow eater and that this dessert was probably prepared way before I'd finished my main, but it was nontheless highly unexpected so soon. But not one to let an early soufflé deflate the experience (although post photos it had already started to sink), I dug in to the centre of the golden top and tasted sweet passionfruit air - close enough to air anyway.
The waiter's recommendation is to make a hole in the centre of the soufflé and add the passionfruit ice cream to it, with amplifies the fruit flavour while melting and melding the two aspects.
|Chocolate terrine infused with ginger, almond sorbet|
|Birthday surprise chocolate slice|
This treat from the kitchen garnered a few stares and slightly embarassed the birthday celebrant who quickly blew out the candle, although not before it started to melt the spun sugar cylinder.
The square of cake within was rich with a creamy, thick chocolate component on a cake base, and I thought it blew the former chocolate dessert out of the water.
|Petit fours to take home|
Rockpool was undoubtedly a special evening out with near impeccable service (I drank too much water simply because it was constantly filled). Some dishes missed the mark for me and it wasn't the atmospheric experience that Rockpool Bar & Grill can be, but Rockpool was a different and unexpected affair that started at a point, veered off towards China then came back rapidly - and all without a passport.