Restaurant group supremo Neil Perry may well be the culinary head of a nationwide hospitality empire (the result of Rockpool Group merging with a large Australian hospitality enterprise to create a 60-restaurant mega-group) but it’s clear his dedication to customer experience has not been lost in a big business model.
Rockpool Bar & Grill’s extraordinary attention to detail in sourcing produce, first-rate cookery and old-school service has not waned. The large menu rarely changes. The “cold bar,” salads and hot starters account for 25 items and that’s before you get to the celebrated steaks, sides and main courses.
Rockpool’s staff-to-customer ratio is one of the best in the country and its dishes are a simple celebration of superb produce. You’ll find no foodie fashion, fads or bizarre, left-of-centre dishes on the menu.
Start with sautéed West Australian marron, crispy duck, beetroot and crispy onion; White Rocks veal sweetbreads with almonds, orange and rosemary; or tea-smoked ocean trout with finger limes mint and nashi pear – all banging with flavour and cooked with impeccable timing.
Meat and fish dishes express the restaurant’s devotion to freshness, breaking down whole animals and having the best aging program in the country. Many of the fish dishes are cooked in the fiercely hot (500C) charcoal oven for just minutes, locking in sweet and juicy flesh under charcoal-blackened skin.
Steaks are the best in town – no one comes close.
There are 10, ranging from full blood Wagyu cuts to larger, on-the-bone steaks across a range of ageing regimes, breeders (David Blackmore and Cape Grim) and genetics.
Service is delightfully old school, without being reverential or stuffy. The wine staff in particular are highly informed and happy to recommend a title from a list of hundreds. Rockpool may have faced stiffer competition in 2018 from new, more fashionable and equally clever restaurants but for an increasingly rare, full-service experience and extraordinary produce, it is still at the top of its game.