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Rockpool Bar and Grill
Crown Casino, Southbank
Prices: Mains $40+
Style: Steak and meat specialist
25th Apr 2018

Our top 5's:

Dave and Alicia's Best :
  1 : Tetsuya's
  2 : Attica
  3 : Vue de Monde
  4 : Bistro Guillaume
  5 : Rockpool Bar and Grill
Lachie & Sarah's Picks :
  1 : Attica
  2 : Jacques Reymond
  3 : The Lake House
  4 : Pearl
  5 : Matteo's

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Review by Lachie
A steak worthy of the occasion

As with many of the write-ups on this site, Sarah and I had an occasion to celebrate. And Rockpool Bar & Grill in the Crown complex had been on the to-do list when the right occasion came around. And come around it did. It was also serendipitous that we'd recently returned from Japan and had tasted the best beef that Kobe had to offer, so Rockpool was an obvious choice to see if their signature David Blackmore full bred Wagyu could hold its own against the big boys of Japan.

But I'm getting ahead of myself, we turned up for our early Friday night booking (6pm) to find a line of people waiting outside the doors for Rockpool to open. This is a bit of a pet-peeve of mine, I don't really see the harm in opening the doors whenever people arrive and just let them know that service doesn't start until whenever, but give them a table and a drinks menu rather than making them stand outside. At least Rockpool's doors open into the Crown complex so you're not exactly out on the street, but I'd still rather be sitting and waiting. Regardless, we didn't have to wait long and were shown to our table for two, right by the front window. This turned out to be a wonderful source of entertainment later in the evening as Melbourne really turned on it's stereotypical weather and went from pleasantly sunny to torrential downpour with scarcely a clap of thunder as warning, the many people wandering Southbank past our window were comically underprepared for this.

To start Sarah chose a crisp apple brandy cocktail and I a simple gin and tonic, and we spent some time perusing the menu. It's quite an extensive menu, and you could quite easily do Rockpool without completely breaking the bank, with entrees in the mid-$20 range and mains $40-$50. However, once you realise that you're at Rockpool and really should be eating the steak, the cost goes up considerably. Ranging from a $55 dry aged grass fed fillet, right up to the 9+ Wagyu score $110 sirloin or rump. Sarah chose a grain-fed 200g fillet, and I decided I had to go the whole-hog (or perhaps whole-cow) and go the full blood Wagyu rump. Of note on that point is when asking how I wanted my steak cooked and I replied rare, the waitress informed me that as a secondary cut getting the best texture out of the rump would be difficult cooking to rare and she would consult the chef. I was particularly impressed with this part of the service (I just replied that I would have the steak however the chef recommended cooking it, which turned out to be medium-rare).

I broke out of my usual routine with entree, and rather than going for the wood fire grilled quail chose the "breakfast for dinner" route or Grilled Bacon with Braised Lettuce, Peas and Broad Beans with Slow Cooked Hens Egg as it appeared on the menu. I basically chose it because of the slow cooked hen's egg (as opposed to what? a rooster's egg?), and because it was new on the menu and cooked sous vide; I've been aware that since sous vide burst onto the scene that soft boiled eggs became quite fashionable, but I never got around to trying one. Now I have. It's pretty impressive texturally, and the rest of the dish complimented it wonderfully. Although there was still a strangeness of going from a breakfast type dish to a massive steak, it was fun.

Sarah's entree was the Crudo of four sea-food tastes. I'd love to tell you what they were, or what they were like, but due to an unfortunate series of events I've lost the photos I took the night we dined and can't recall what they were. Sarah seemed impressed enough, although one reportedly contained oyster but she's not sure exactly how or where, it was obviously a pretty subtle use of one of Sarah's favourite foods.

Perusing the award winning wine list, we paired our steaks with a Craiglee Shiraz which was, as always, simply outstanding. And the steaks themselves? Well they lived up to the promise. I'm hesitant to go too descriptive in writing about the steaks, people who know me or know the site know that I'm a fan of a big hunk of beef. So I'll simply say this: this was the best steak I've ever Australia.

There, I said it. Sure it approached the steak I had in Kobe, and the price point put it almost on par, but I'm afraid that when you get down to it, the Kobe beef was just better. They were both cooked expertly, and I ate mine mostly without sauces or mustards just enjoying the taste of the beef.

Despite being full of steaks, we still had dessert. I had the chocolate jaffa mousse cake (how could I not?), which was insanely rich and tasted just like it sounds, while Sarah had the peanut, caramel and chocolate tarte with chocolate cream soda. And while the tart was good (if a tad on the small side), Sarah remained "unconvinced" by the soda, but it was interesting.

Basically I'd sum up by saying if you want an amazing steak and don't want to travel to Japan for it, Rockpool Bar & Grill may just be your best bet. They do pretty well on the rest of the meal as well, but I'd be interested to know the percentages of people who order mains from the menu which aren't steak, I'd guess it's pretty low.

We ate:
Fresh tastes of the sea,
slow cooked hen's egg,
wagyu rump steak,
grain fed eye fillet,
Jaffa mouse cake,
peanut caramel chocolate tarte.

We drank:
Gin & Tonic
Apple brandy cocktail
Craiglee Shiraz


Review by Dave
Several months ago we were lucky enough to attend a truffle lunch in the Yarra Valley, where we were seated next to a rather prominent family in the Melbourne food scene. At one stage, the conversation turned inevitably to restaurants, and I overheard a snippet along the lines of "...I can't believe the kind of junk they serve at Rockpool...". I'd already been, and thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Rockpool, but being an unqualified git, I held my tongue and had some more truffle butter (oooh, yummm... Sorry - distracted there!)

Having now returned to the scene of the alleged crime, I can quietly but confidently say that the person who made that comment was suffering from a severe case of faecal encephalopathy. Rockpool's bloody good. And I don't care if that's not the trendy opinion!

If I had to sum it up in one word: "meaty". Thankfully, I can use more than one word. From the moment you enter, you can feel the approaching "meatiness". (I'm also determined to have that word inserted into the OED). The entrance is lined with bottles of red wine, spirits and finally, an illuminated meat case, inside of which hang several large sides of beef. Now that's my kind of "light at the end of the tunnel"!

The menus are presented on a simple A3 page, the back of which is adorned with a large portrait of your impending main course, standing in a lush green pasture. Again, encouraging. One thing to watch out for when booking your table is any kind of time limit. Several of our friends have visited Rockpool only to be rushed through their dinner due to booking a "pre-show" table. Try to ensure that you book a table for the whole evening, as rushing this one just won't do it justice.

You may also need a while with the menu: it offers a plethora of options, and unlike other restaurants in this price bracket, there's no degustation option. Thankfully, all the wait staff are very well informed and more than happy to explain and advise you on your options, so be sure to make use of their help.

Similarly, the wine list is a little scary. (Just what is a "wine list philosophy", anyway?) I'm always a fan of a list that puts Encyclopaedia Britannica to shame in terms of shear mass, but I do get a little apprehensive when faced with a decision that's going to set me back a week's rent. Again, make use of the expertise at hand, and don't be afraid to say "what the hell is that thing I can't pronounce?". I was actually a little disappointed with the by-the-glass options: my plan had been to have a glass of white to start, and then a half-bottle of burgundy (of which the options are numerous). However, there were only a handful of whites available by the glass, and none of them particularly interesting. Instead, we splurged a little on a bottle of 2006 Domaine Bouchard Pere et Fils Les Teurons, a Premier Cru Burgundy, which matched surprisingly well with most of the meal.

Out of the mists of the entrée listings, we chose a simple plate of Joselito Jamon Iberico and then a slow cooked egg with bone marrow with red wine sauce. Many would say that a plate of ham for $50 is a rip-off. They're all chumps. Eat it - you'll get it. Some say it's the best ham in the world. There's nothing I can say that will really explain the flavour of this stuff, but think about a prosciutto with a certain concentrated sweetness to the flavour, and you're starting to get there. The slow cooked egg is another of our favourites: a delectable combination of smooth textures and deep, rich flavours combine to give more of a sensation than a taste. A Neil Perry classic.

For mains, you really have to say "Let there be beef". And Lo, there was Beef. And It was God. I mean Good. No, I think I actually do mean God. Alicia had Mishima beef braised in stout with roasted pearl onions and Dijon mustard. Mishima is the original breed of Japanese beef which was later bred with others to produce Wagyu. It naturally achieves a Wagyu-equivalent 6+ marbling score, as a result of feeding only on grass, so you can imagine the melt-in-your-mouth texture of this slow cooked offering.

I opted for a classic 250gm grain fed eye fillet, wanting to test out the "junk", as it were. Was it the best steak I've ever had? Probably not. Was it the most expensive? Definitely not. Was it awesome? Yes. There's not much you can really say about this dish - it's presented bare, with only a wedge of lemon for company on the plate. Sides of bearnaise and horseradish cream are brought separately, with a selection of mustards and condiments. There's nothing here to distract you from the beef, so don't be distracted: just get into it, as it's bloody good sh*t.

Make sure you don't forget to try a few offerings from the list of sides, too: I particularly recommend the potato and cabbage gratin ($12), served in the pan with a crunchy top I would love to emulate. Watch out for this in the next few podcasts!

Dessert was shared, as is becoming our tradition: a warm rhubarb and strawberry compote with sabayon and strawberry sorbet. I only tried a mouthful or two, as I was still recovering from my "beefattack", but the sabayon was immediately the star of the show, smooth and light without being too sweet. A refreshing end to a wonderful meal.

Downsides? It's pretty hard... Even the patented 'dog' scheme was pushed to it's limit. Service was generally very good, although things did get slower towards the end of the evening (that may also have been the bottle of burgundy!). My main quibble would be the spacing of the tables. It's a very large space so it's easy to feel a bit like the cattle you're eating, crushed into the yards at muster. The distance to the next table is such that conversations are quite shared. I tend to eavesdrop in restaurants (quite accidentally!) at the best of times, so this made it all but impossible to avoid hearing all about the finest details of our neighbour's clothing purchases that day. Riveting stuff. I know, it's petty. But I had to come up with something!?

So should you go and drop a month's rent on a hunk of cow? Unequivocally, yes. (As long as you're not vegetarian!). Is it the best steak in Australia? My uninformed opinion is probably not, but for what you pay, I say it's well above par. With a more modest wine choice, you could probably get out for under $150pp, but if you can afford to splash out, I'd recommend it - you won't find wine list like this very often. And to those sceptics who say it's silly to spend so much on a slab of moo, I say fine. Go save a cow: eat a vegan.

We ate:
-Plate of Joselito Jamon Iberico ($50)
-Slow cooked egg with bone marrow on brioche with red wine sauce ($21)
- Mishima beef braised in Stout with roasted pearl onions and Dijon mustard ($39)
- Rangers valley dry aged grain fed eye fillet ($69)
- Potato and cabbage gratin ($12)
- Satueed mushrooms ($15)
Warm rhubarb and strawberry compote with sabayon and strawberry sorbet ($19)

We drank:
2006 Domaine Bouchard Pere et Fils Les Teurons ($185)


Your Comments...
  Posted by Lachie , 06:48pm Thu, 18th Jun, 2009
    Have yet to go to Rockpool proper. But done the bar menu, including the famous Wagyu burger. Highly recommended:
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