Recently I've been getting into visiting restaurants that have a cheaper alternative, ie. Cafe Vue @ Vue De Monde, breakfasts @ Pearl, Gingerboy ala Ezard and now Rockpool Bar @ Rockpool Bar and Grill.
For years I've been wanting to visit the culinary home of Mr Neil Perry in Sydney - Rockpool. It seems that every time I saved my pennies and made plans to make my way up to Sydney, something would come up and my plans would fall through. That's when Mr Neil Perry got sick of waiting for me to visit him and decided to come to me!
A couple of weeks ago, Mr Perry opened Rockpool Bar and Grill at Melbourne's Crown Casino. The Casino is normally a place that I would avoid at all costs, but for the opportunity to visit Rockpool, I would happily make an exception. Before visiting I had a quick look at the menu on the Rockpool website. The food choices looked great - but there was no way I was going to be able afford to eat in the proper restaurant without taking out a loan, so we decided to go and sample the bar menu, which was considerably cheaper and looked just as tasty!
Rach and I decided to head down to Rockpool quite early (6:30) to make sure we got a table.
As we walked through the doors and down the hallway towards the restaurant, we passed a couple of windows which showed off their freshly shucked Mussles laying on ice and also a few large chunks of ageing meat.
When we arrived, there was only one other table with people on it. The waitress showed us to our table, which was right next to the main restaurant. The bar itself was actually out of view to us and where we were seated was basically a classy little restaurant all of it's own. The restaurant was very dimly lit, quite large and has big windows which look out over the Yarra, at the Queensbridge St end of the Casino.
Our menus were printed with the picture of a cow on one side, a cow which Neil seemed to be quite fond of, as there was a large picture of it, when you walked through the main entrace. The bar menu was small, but consisted of a couple of pastas, a cheese plate, a burger and some other things, that I've already forgotten. Rach and I both decided on the Best Ever Wood Fired Burger with house made Aioli ($15), plus a serve of chips ($7) share.
The burger arrived with a leaf of lettuce a couple of pieces of tomato on the side - I don't know why, because most people I know prefer their fillings inside their burger. Unlike the burger at Cafe Vue, this burger was the real deal - a full sized meat pattie, in a bun which you need your two hands to be able to eat. Which by the way, I kind of felt weird doing - eating with a burger with my hands in such a posh restaurant. But hey, who has ever eaten a hamburger with a knife and fork?
As Rach and I began eating our burgers, the years of anticipation of wanting to eat at Rockpool were replaced with feelings of disappointment. The burgers weren't great at all. The buns were overcooked and dry, as was the meat. It was meant to be Wagyu, but it was nothing special at all. The burger was cooked in a wood-fired oven, which gave the outside of the meat a nice charcoal crunch, but that was the only positive to this burger. I know we only were spending $15 on a meal at a restaurant who's average prices for a proper meal are about $40, but either way $15 is an expensive hamburger. Give me a $9 Urban Burger or a $6 Danny's Hamburger anyday!
The plain old fries we bought to share were a different story. These golden fingers of potato were cooked to perfection! I'm guessing that they were parboiled and finished off in the oven, rather than the deep fryer, as they were not greasy, yet soft inside and delicately crunchy outside - yum! The tomato 'ketchup' that we asked for, was by no means your standard Heinz tomato ketchup, it was house made and more like a smooth Napoli Sauce - delicious!
As a fan of Neil Perry's books and TV shows, I was pretty disappointed about my meal at his new restaurant. I can only hope that the proper restaurant can cut the mustard a little better than the bar food. Bar food is meant to be simple food and you'd think that a restaurant with a reputation like Rockpool could serve up something a little better than this. Maybe if someone paid for me, I'd head back to try the Rockpool Restaurant, but at the moment, I'm going back to keeping my distance from the casino.