Alfred told me he was taking me to dinner last Tuesday night and clearly wanted to keep the location a secret since he only revealed two things:
- Its in the city
- It costs $100-200/pp (to give me an idea how I should dress)
During the car ride there I kept throwing guesses at him but failed. He parked at Martin Place which left me clueless because I wasn’t sure what restaurants were around there, I could only think of Est. but that wasn’t it. He made us walk around the block before arriving at THE restaurant, at a building that’s unfamiliar to me. I scanned around for a sign of sorts and spotted “ROCKPOOL EST. 1989”
OMG. Was my first thought, because I’d never guess it especially when I didn’t know where Rockpool restaurant was located prior to this. He pulled off this surprise alright. I know that Rockpool is one of Australia’s top restaurants and has been awarded 3 hats recently but for some reason its never been on the top of my ‘to-try’ list. So lets say I didn’t have any high expectations going into it, I just hoped that more than half the dishes are enjoyable.
The room was dimly lit, not by candles but by small table lamps which I thought is perfect for foodies and their photos. There were 2 set menus to choose from, either a 4 course or 8 course meal, with a difference of $35 – we went with the 8. There were alternative dishes for 2 of the courses which you could replace for an extra $30/ea but we decided to stick with the set.
1. Grilled Scampi with cape gooseberries and cherry blossom dressing
So good when the first course is done well, because it really sets the tone and expectations for whats yet to come. I loved the broth that it was sitting in so I returned an almost empty bowl (oddly shaped bowl made it difficult to clean out).
2. Enriched koshihikari rice with Kingfish, peach cucumber and celery
Japan! Thats where this dish took us 🙂
3. Prawn mousse in squid ink sauce
My and apparently a lot of others’ favourite dish that night! I loved the creamy mousse texture mixed with the deep flavours of the squid ink sauce. The sour dough crumbs added the extra crunch making it even more delightful. Craving this right now!
4. Charcoal grilled Spanish Mackerel with braised grapefruit, bok choi and seaweed
The first and last time we had Spanish mackerel was when we were in Japan from the famous sushi bar at Tsukiji markets which you queue up hours for. This dish reminded us of that time, except this was lightly grilled and accompanied by the sweetness of grapefruit.
5. Roasted Goose from Llangothlin with shiitake and leeks
I’m not sure if I’ve ever had goose before but I can’t say that I enjoyed this dish a lot. Mixed reviews actually because if you had the goose by itself there is an odd aftertaste (won’t advise trying to taste the flavours of it!), which I imagine is what goose would taste like naturally. However when paired with the shiitake and leeks it disguises the odd taste making it so much nicer.
6. Blue Mountains Wagyu softly grilled with wasabi and lime
The wasabi and beef combination reminds me of a dish you can order from Chinese restaurants but of course this tastes a million times better. The wagyu was really tender and slightly fatty in a good way – the wasabi definitely helps lighten it a bit. Other than the prawn mousse, this is Alfred and I’s favourite from the night.
Side of salad to go with the wagyu
7. Vacherin of Pandan custard with lime granita and mango sorbet
By the last savoury dish, I was already feeling quite full… but thankfully the sour kick of lime flesh mixed into the granita kept me going for another 2 dishes. I’m not usually a fan of meringue but I loved the meringue encasing the lime granita and custard here. The only disappointment with this dish was I felt that the lime overpowered the pandan, I could barely taste it.
8. Valhrona chocolate with macadamia, glazed cherry and cherry stone ice cream
Chocolate dishes aren’t usually my preferred dessert choice so I’ll admit I dreaded this one a little bit especially I was so full at this point. I was pleasantly surprised that this was more of a refreshing chocolate dish rather than heavy. The nutty, sour cherry flavours really lightened the palette for this one.
Photo of Alfred…. well it was mainly to try get a shot of who we think is Neil Perry sitting behind him, on the left of the photo. It was really that dark in there that even my camera (Fuji X100s) struggled. The waitress kind of confirmed that it was him when she told us about the date tart first created by Neil Perry himself *inserts hand/thumb gesture towards ‘Neil’s’ direction* in 1984.
Profiteroles with earl grey tea cream and caramelized white chocolate & Date tart – original since 1984
The last desserts sounded too good to pass up, especially when one of them is a signature dish and could see why its been on the menu since 1984.
The service was very good and we didn’t have to wait too long in between dishes. I tried to keep track and it was a 15min interval but somehow felt less! I’d say a lot of the dishes were inspired by Asian flavours, more distinctly Japanese. Which probably explains why we felt like we were back in Japan a lot of the times. As mentioned earlier, we hoped that we’d like more than half of the dishes at the end… and we did! I’d say we enjoyed 90% of it which surpassed our expectations. If I had to choose one restaurant to dine at again this definitely would be one of them – especially seeing that their menu changes constantly. Its been a long while since our last fine dining experience in Sydney and no doubt this will be one of the memorable ones.
Thank you Alfred for organising this date be it for (an early) Valentines Day or not. You never fail at being best kind of company in these kind of situations 😉