In an effort to capture more of the lunch trade, many of the fine diners around town offer some fabulous lunch deals. Often dinners at these toqued establishments are degustation menus in the $150-$200 per person range, and beyond, and if this isn’t in reach, the lunch is a great alternative. Come noon, Rockpool offers one course for $52, two courses for $69 or three courses for $79. Similarly places like Aria offer $46 for one course and $74 for two, and Est three courses for $95.
I had been to the original Rockpool on George a few times, but this is my first visit to the new digs on Bridge. We are celebrating the birthday of my friend at A Tea with the Queen. The “new” Rockpool has a different feel to it – darker, more sophisticated, a little bit like it has now grown up and come of age. I actually met Neil Perry last week, and he talked about his evolution as a chef – from wondering why he was running a restaurant serving French provincial food on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, to his immersion and connection with Asian cuisine. This is a man who is very passionate about what he does.
The staff are polished and on top of their game (except for one waitress who does a runner towards the end of our meal with our not yet empty wine glasses, but this is quickly rectified) and we feel warmly welcomed. There is plenty to tempt on the menu, and I opt for the Asian influenced dishes, as in my opinion this is where Neil Perry’s cuisine shines.
But first we are bought some bread, with butter and also some ricotta. The bread itself I don’t find anything special but this is butter like no other. It has a caramel like consistency and a slight sweetness, I want to smother my bread in it (the only other butter that rivals this is Tetsuya’s truffle butter, which I think I could live on). Similarly the ricotta is magnificent with a smoky undertone and creamy.
My first dish is the scallop cake with herbs, peanuts and prawn broth. The seafood is beautifully fresh and I scoop up every drop of that divine broth. This rivals the crab congee on the dinner menu.
I then move onto the smoked Burrawong chicken hotpot with braised fungus, chestnuts and dragonwell rice. The rice is bought out first, dragonwell tea is poured over it and it is left to infuse. Shortly after the chicken arrives and I know I have ordered very well today….so well that I dig in and forget to take a photo of the actual chicken!
Most of the table opts for the short rib with creamed spinach, hoisin and black vinegar for their main course. This is a $10 supplement and no wonder – it is enormous. Some find it a little salty; I’m kindly offered a little to try and it is meltingly tender with a beautiful smokiness.
None of the desserts tempt me that day (I have a different agenda anyway) but the popular choice at the table is the chocolate gran cru of Valrhona with peanut butter and jelly.
Instead I opt for one of the best deals around town – a petit four of Rockpool’s original 1984 date tart for $3, which Neil developed and Lorraine Godsmark perfected; she sells a full slice at her patisserie for $15.
Fancy a lunch at Rockpool? You won’t be disappointed.
Rockpool on Bridge, 11 Bridge Street, Sydney ph (02) 9252 1888