We went to Rockpool Bar & Grill to celebrate my son’s birthday. It was probably not somewhere that would be on the top of my list but he selected it so that is where we ended up.
Overall I think this restaurant is disappointing given the hype it receives. There are plenty of better restaurants in Sydney (both more and less expensive).
Not everything was negative. I think the staff were reasonably attentive (not to Tetsuya’s standard but not bad) and the ambiance was also OK. I had been to the original Rockpool many years ago and found it stark and noisy and had never bothered to return so this was a pleasant surprise.
But in the end you go to a restaurant to eat. The menu at Rockpool B&G is uninspiring. The entrées were OK but didn’t require much skill. My partner and I had the Alaskan King Crab with Crushed Avocado, Jalapeno and Coriander. This was tasty but was just mixed in a pile on the plate. My son had the Charcoal Roast Squid and Pork Belly and his partner had the Sautéed Prawns in Garlic with Farro, Green Olives and Pistachios and while they both said they were tasty the presentation was nothing to talk about.
It was in the ordering of the mains that the disappointment really started. While there were a variety of dishes on the menu other than steak, they were not culinary inspirations and we all ended up choosing the Cape Grim Dry Aged 36 Month Old Grass Fed Rib-eye on the Bone. Interestingly while the menu suggested that the beef should not be cooked more than Medium-Rare, when my son tried to order it Rare he was told that it was better to order it Medium-Rare. So effectively Medium-Rare was the only choice. This was fine for my partner and I as that is how we normally order beef. As it happened it was fairly rare (not inedible, but on the light side I thought). The steaks arrived with nothing else on the plate, which was not unexpected. The sides did not live up to their descriptions. My partner, who prefers not to eat fat (hence our avoidance of the marbled beef choices), ended up leaving half of hers on the plate. My issue was that the beef, while competently prepared was nothing special and I think I could have had a better steak at the local pub. But Rockpool doesn’t charge pub prices (far from it).
The wine list was another story all together. It is more than an inch thick, which was the first sign of a problem. I didn’t even try to read it all and went straight to the Australian Shiraz section which was still extensive. After skipping past the Grange and Hill of Grace (I wasn’t looking to pay several $1000’s/bottle) there was still little on the menu under $4-500. I ended up paying about $175 for a bottle recommended by the Sommelier (that I had never heard of) that was quite nice but no better than $20-30 bottles in my cellar. We resisted the urge to have a second bottle.
The deserts were tasty but again not spectacular as might have been expected from the prices.
A few months ago I was fortunate enough to enjoy dinner in the Jules Verne Restaurant at the top of the Eiffel Tower. It cost about twice as much (per person) as our meal at Rockpool but the 6 course degustation with matched wines far exceeded Rockpool in every category. Probably an unfair comparison, but there are many Sydney Restaurants that do better than Rockpool B&G for less. For elegant food and surroundings try Tetsuya’s. For views and good food try Café Sydney. For good food and excellent wine selection try DeVine on Clarence Street. There are many more.
I think the Rockpool group have outlived their reputation. The food is just plain unsophisticated. Go there if you need an expensive steak.
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