Rockpool on George was Neil Perry’s first baby from which his empire spawned. It was one of Sydney’s early fine diners, and has had its ups and downs. Three hats, lost hat, gained hat, closed and re-opened as a “casual” place, Rockpool Fish café (I went, didn’t like it, neither did everyone else apparently, it closed), back to being fine dinner, back to three hats.
I’m here with a dear friend, my food soul-mate, and neither of us have been here for a good few years. Like me, she’ll drive across the Sydney metropolitan just to get that one key ingredient needed for a recipe, or go to a restaurant just to try that one special dish. And I’ll admit I’m here tonight to try a particular dish, the layered pork tart with the chicken liver parfait (Rockpool doesn’t do takeaway, or I would have ordered it to go).
It’s a simple pricing structure at dinner, two courses, $110, three courses $135, four courses $155. This is seriously expensive three hat dining, if you compare it to Est’s nine course degustation for $175. Or Claude’s eight course $140 menu. And Momofuku’s 14 courses for $175. Or Marque‘s ten courses for $160. But I digress.
The menu is divided into four sections, but they are totally flexible about how you choose your courses which I really like. So even though you go the four course option, you can choose one dish from section 1, two dishes from section 2, and one dish from section 4, or whatever other combination you prefer. This worked well because ‘section 2’ had the biggest hit rate of what we wanted to try. What I also liked was that our charming waiter said he would tell in each section what was the ‘signature’ and what was the ‘most popular’ – interesting the divergence between the two.
So would you walk out of here and say this is a worthy three hatter? I really think it depends on your luck with the ordering. Some of thedishes were just outstanding, some ok, and some had one particular element of the dish (I hate saying ‘element of the dish’, sounds like one of the used-to-death Masterchef phrases but I can’t think of an alternative at the minute, so forgive me – incidentally, what’s with that whole “boys versus girls” Masterchef thing? Really? It appeals to my 8 year olds, but not sure of the demographics beyond this) that was outstanding and the rest so-so. So if you got pot luck and ended up with all the outstandings, you’d walk out pretty impressed. Overall I think the Asian inspired far outweighed the others so go down that path if you end up there.
I also noticed a little card when they gave us the bill - they have a 3 classics dish Friday lunch for $65 – this is great value if you want to give the place a whirl.
To start we were given a canape of Queensland Spanner Crab, parsley, egg and fennel fondue. A nice little introduction but not particularly memorable. (Please excuse my photos, had my old camera which was on its last legs).
Then onto what we chose:
Blue swimmer crab and corn congee, almond tofu, star anise scented peanuts, fried bread and chilli oil (section 1 signature). Wow. What a start. This definitely fell in to the totally outstanding category. Try this dish.
Goats cheese lasagne, muntries, lavender kipflers, pangrattato and broccoli sauce (section 2 signature). This was the ‘outstanding elements’ rather than overall fabulous. The actual lasagne itself was a bit of a shoulder shrug. But those potatoes. And that sauce.
Quail with daikon, tong ho, nori and chilli condiment (section 2). Beautiful quail and the chilli underneath – again flavour. Neil knows his Asian flavours. Almost had a Julia-Roberts-slippery-little-sucker-Pretty-Woman moment with the radish though.
Chicken parfait inside a one thousand layer pork tart (section 2). The dish I came for. The pork layer – fabulous. But something was going on with the parfait. It was overpowered with something acidic, I couldn’t quite tell what, but I could not taste the parfait just an acidic tang – it was really disappointing. It was also a runny parfait compared to most I’ve eaten, and goodness knows I’ve eaten a few.
Lamb rolled saddle, bo ssam shoulder, celery, wheat infused soy beans, tea smoked mussels (section 3 signature). Bo ssam shoulder, mussels, magnificent. Lamb saddle nice and tender, but soy beans too hard.
Whiting grilled over rushes (Japanese weedy things), squid, iceberg lettuce, pearl balls, onions and red date infusion (section 3). Squid, pearl balls, lettuce yum, beautifully cooked fish, a well put together dish. [Here's the recipe if you want to have a go at it http://www.foodservicenews.com.au/news/coorong-yellow-eyed-mullet-grilled-over-rushes-squid-iceberg-lettuce-pearl-balls]
Date tart (section 4 signature) – a lovely tart, and apparently its Neil’s 1984 original. My first attempt at making it was ok, with practice it will be stellar.
Vacherin pandan custard, coconut parfait, jasmine sorbet and lime granita. Wow. I thought it was in a little ceramic dish but it was actually in a edible feather light meringue bowl. There were flavour explosions going on everywhere here. Loved it.
Petit fours to finish!
Rockpool on George, 107 George St Sydney, ph (02) 9252 1888