If you told me in 2013, that you could get a 3-course meal at one of Sydney’s top-tier, three-hatted restaurants for a mere $79, I would have laughed in your face, realised how offensive I was, contained myself to avoid offending you, but then sneak out a few more giggles because it’s just that unbelievable.
Well, this would be one of those times where I don’t mind giving you the last laugh. Indeed, Neil Perry, of Rockpool fame has, in an effort to corral more of the burgeoning and lucrative lunch trade, has begun offering a three-course lunch menu for just $79. Two courses run you $69, while one, $52. You know where the value is ladies and gentlemen, get on it.
Further to this, Rockpool is no longer at the Rocks, having moved to the more CBD-friendly Bridge St, taking over what used to be Steerson’s Steakhouse. When we’re talking about one of Sydney’s best restaurants serving up sub-$100 fare at a location I can briskly walk to, it was no question that lunch, is indeed served.
Date Last Visited: 30/5/14
Address: 11 Bridge Street Sydney, NSW 2000
Recommended Dish(es): rangers valley rib eye, chirashi zushi
[Update] Unfortunately, it would appear that the $79, 3-course lunch is no longer applicable as they have moved onto an a la carte menu. Three courses will run between $80-$100 depending on your choices, which does dampen the value proposition somewhat.
Rockpool doesn’t change up the old decals very much, and the restaurant is still reminiscent of the steakhouse that preceded it. That said, the dark wood has been turned to black, with islands of white-clothed tables delivering some serious noir. I’m actually not a fan of the decor, but at the same time it’s not a real problem for me.
On the downside, our seating and the non-reflectiveness of the walls mean that the pictures in this post aren’t as good as they could be – bear with me!
Rockpool’s lunch menu is by no means limited – there are only a handful of items you can get at dinner that you can’t for lunch, so you’re spoilt for choice. That said, the menu is elegantly constrained to just one page, so all dishes are unique – none of that “five variations on the same dish” kind of business. Thank goodness.
No matter how many courses you choose, you will start with some warm bread. The differentiator is in the provision of ricotta w/tomato reduction. You know, if butter isn’t your mojo.
The ricotta is creamy and sweet – it’s good, but I’ll stick to old fashioned butter any day. It’s great when you get the choice!
Ever since its establishment in 1984, Rockpool rose to fame on its modern interpretation of classic Asian cuisines, notably Chinese and Japanese. Thus, it comes as little surprise that one of Rockpool’s classics is actually a chirashi zushi. Quick lesson: chirashi zushi is essentially deconstruted sushi – the ingredients of sushi in the bowl, or in this case, on the plate.
It’s basically all the good stuff about sushi, but artfully plated to be a thing of beauty. It’s very delicate, very subtle, but tastes amazing. Those who have a thing for good sushi are with me here. A highly recommended order, unless you’re not a sushi fan.
My only one gripe is that the rice is served a bit colder than normal, which resulted in a bit of hardness in the grains. Not the optimum temperature, but otherwise a solid performance (accidental pun only realised as I finished this sentence).
For some context, Rockpool Bar & Grill (Neil Perry’s 2-hatted restaurant, not to be confused with this 3-hatted Rockpool) sports a 200g David Blackmore rib eye for an eye-watering $115. $25 extra doesn’t seem so bad all of a sudden, does it? That would mean this course could at most, cost $77 ($52 for a single course), which is a relative bargain. Steak connoisseurs can really get behind a fabulous rib eye in a way that even I cannot, and I’ve had some pretty incredible heart attack meat before.
You don’t really even need me to tell you how good the steak itself is – Rockpool just cannot stuff it up, and they don’t. There is a reason the restaurant is almost always featured in any article that talks about the best steaks in town. It’s no accident. Juicy, soft, succulent and cooked literally perfectly. This is what steak is meant to be.
At least, in texture. The big problem with running a Modern Australian restaurant with a heavy Asian bent is that often, flavours can work against you – a Western-style steak with Asian-style hoisin and black vinegar…
The combination didn’t work out so well – the hoisin overpowered the steak and, in fact, any other seasoning that was there. The result? A dish that was very difficult to finish, despite how tasty it was.
Still can’t fault that steak though – it’s perfection. Now, introduce an option with some bearnaise or peppercorn and just take my money.
Are you thinking what I’m thinking? I’m thinking that this dish doesn’t look like bass grouper at all.
The herb crust is what throws you off, but that’s the element that gives the dish its texture. It’s also where the seasoning is – crispy and delicious, this sharply relieves the buttery soft bass which is faultlessly cooked, but is a little under-seasoned itself. Be sure to get a little bit of everything before you take in a forkful.
If you’re sharing dishes, I would not recommend eating the aforementioned hoison rib eye and then this, because the former will completely overwhelm the latter’s subtlety.
Moving onto the sweet things, we start off on a chocolate note with a Valrhona chocolate & macadamia “cake”.
I didn’t have the passionfruit soufflé but by the accounts of my dining companion – A+. It’s pretty easy to stuff up a soufflé, but if it didn’t fail, the results are spectacular. I’m looking forward to trying this one next time.
A dish whose plating screams “classic Modern Australian” takes form as a ricotta parfait w/strawberry compote, crème chantilly & sparkling wine. It’s every bit as refreshing in taste as it looks, with the added bonus of crisp, carbonated notes from the bubbly.
Since I don’t drink, I found the inclusion of the alcohol a bit jarring, especially with regards to its bitterness. The rest of the dessert was however, outstanding – especially the icy-cold parfait. Like a block of sweet, sweet cheesy goodness. It tastes better than my ability to describe it, for sure.
Champas lovers will totally dig this one.
With food as good as this, priced as it is, Rockpool’s attempt to snag a piece of the lunch market is definitely a good move, for both the restaurant’s business, as well as for our wallets. Now, time for some long lunches.
What are your thoughts on this initiative by Rockpool? A smart move?
- Quality food from one of Australia’s best
- …but not with a matching price tag
- You’re going to have to justify why you’re away from your desk for two hours
- Asian flavours can be quite unbalanced with Western cooking
I have a new scoring system! Read all about it here.
Most important takeaway – three separate scores for food, service and ambiance to give the final score. The new system is not compatible with any score given prior to 11/11/2014.
F7 | S5 | A2