If this was a review out of 20, the original Rockpool would score 19. I'm not one for giving a perfect score - to anybody - so this 5 out of 5, is really a 4.75 - okay? As we all know, even the best restaurants have their moments. But, consistently excellent, Rockpool the original just keeps getting better and better...
It's hard to go past this iconic place, now relocated from its original and long time premises in George Street, as a top Sydney restaurant pick.
Now housed in an historic Bridge Street building more centrally located in the CBD, the Rockpool room is all that you would want it to be, dark walls softened by the warm patina of old timber, with well spaced tables, pressed white linen cloths, and heavy hallmarked silver ...plus a Champagne trolley to get things started. This is high end dining at its finest, yet with an innovative modern menu that spells Sydney dining now, in capital letters.
At the helm, Executive Chef Phil Wood - under the guidance of fleet commander, restaurateur Chef Neil Perry - is inspired by Chinese regional cuisines and flavours and presents stunning paradoxes of complex yet simple, Eastern meets Western food. Always seeking the most marvellous fresh ingredients and artisanal produce and new inspiration, the plating allows his dishes to shine, with no extraneous bits and bobs, no silly patterns, yet he still exhibits works of art.
New to the menu on my last visit was the inspirational Mapo Doufu. Fresh tofu, made in the Rockpool kitchen, was heavenly in itself. Then add incredible fresh (blood temperature) sea urchin and a melange of divine accoutrements including eight precious herbs. The definition of mesmorising.
Or, the current favourite of Chef Phil Wood: Crab and Corn Custard. A fairy floss of fried garlic covered the plate. The crab was cured, preserved, metamorphosed somehow. With braised peanuts, and a ethereal rose and crab dressing, the cornucopia of crab and corn and fried garlic, the texture and flavour contrasts, were like a feather down pillow fight. Wonderful - and tasty - fun.
Rockpool service is professional, knowledgeable and precise, yet warm. There are all those little things in place that take a restaurant to the top: the door is always opened for you, both on entering the restaurant and most importantly, as that last impression, when leaving the premises. That crumbing thing happens easily, and not too often, and with a little wry comment and smile that I am "a tidy eater". Just enough. Not too much. Those little thoughtful things are the extra marks, the defining moments.
Rockpool - the original - est. 1989 - is a must do Sydney dining experience, whether its once in a lifetime, or if your budget can afford it (and I wish I could) every day of the week.
This stunningly beautiful, space, food, wine list and service rates in our top five Sydney Scoop restaurant picks.