Rockpool Bar & Grill
This is a guest post by kicci, my visiting friend from Singapore.
Being quite the unabashed and self-proclaimed carnivore meant that a visit to Rockpool Bar & Grill was in order. According to Boo, Rockpool was a “Melbourne institution”, which apparently meant that the experience there might potentially border on mostly overpriced hype, and little quality. In a nutshell though, I thought Rockpool actually lived up to its hype for the most part, even if things were a little bit on the pricey side, at least according to Melbourne standards.
The setting itself was very warm and did not actually feel overly formal – the latter being something which you might think was typical of such a place. This was perhaps achieved by the copious use of wood and mood lighting in the décor. Unfortunately, this almost meant that where photography was concerned, Boo felt instantly suicidal. But to be honest, given the very talented photographer that he is, the photos were still beautiful. Trust me.
Hendrick’s Gin & Tonic $12
We initially dismissed gin and tonic as an appropriate aperitif when our server suggested to us. But just as we were pouring through the massive wine list, both of us thought that the prior mention of gin and tonic started to sound really palatable and inviting. Weird huh, given that it was a cold winter night, and gin and tonics are usually summer drinks.
The gin used was Hendrick’s, and instead of the conventional lime garnish, a slice of cucumber was used. Now, while I’m a fan of gin and tonics, I can’t claim I’m a gin connoisseur, and thought initially that the cucumber garnish was odd, or even incorrect. But Boo let me in that cucumber was the garnish of choice for Hendrick’s gin. I loved it. The slightly herbal notes from the cucumber and the Juniper berries from the gin, combined with the fizziness of the tonic meant overall a very refreshing drink with a clean and crisp finish. Got my appetite whetted too actually (aiya, you don’t really need much to whet my appetite.)
Sourdough & rye bread
Freshly Shucked Oysters with Mignonette Sauce
Pacific – Coffin Bay $5.00 each (background) | Sydney Rock – Clyde River $5.00 each (foreground)
For starters, we chose a Coffin Bay and a Clyde River oyster each. These came really tiny (but Boo likes it small). Nonetheless, the lack in size was compensated for the quality of these shellfish. Slightly briny, but wonderfully mineral in taste, these oysters were really fresh with none of the fishy aftertaste one sometimes get when gorging on oysters in buffets. Both oysters tasted different – that much was discernible. However, I could not really taste how exactly they were different. Let’s just say that I’m equally open to having more of each kind. Heh. The mignonette sauce was avoided by both of us though. The onion taste was way too strong, and I’m not a fan of sauces for most things. So I was really afraid the mignonette would ruin and not enhance the delicate taste of the oysters. Boo thought so too.
Charcuterie Board with Pickles $37.00
We also had a Charcuterie board to share. I was never really into cured meats, but for some reason, having Iberico and Serrano from The Ritz Carlton’s Millenia Singapore’s Superbrunch in 2011 and 2012 made me started falling in love with the complex tastes of these cured meats. The Fratelli Galloni Prosciutto Di Parma and San Daniele Prosciutto tasted very similar, with the sweet and salty notes tasting in a manner not unlike bacon, though on a more complex plane. The flavors were concentrated mostly in the meat, and while there was quite a bit of fat on the side, the fats were not as flavourful.
From Top: Fratelli Galloni Prosciutto Di Parma, Joselito Jamon Ibérico, Siete Hermanos Serrano Jamon, San Daniele Prosciutto, Rodriguez Chorizo
The Iberico and Serrano, relative to the aforementioned Prosciuttos tasted even more nuanced with a very distinct sweetness and nuttiness. These flavours were most pronounced in the more expensive Iberico. The Iberico was also more well marbled, which meant an oilier, though not greasier taste. This was not the first time (hardly) I’ve encountered Ibericos and Serranos, and so comparisons between past tastings of these cured meats are inevitable. While this platter was certainly not inferior in any way, the Ibericos and Serranos somehow lacked the level of complexity, especially in the aftertaste department which is actually what makes these meats so highly coveted. It could be because that this platter featured in Rockpool’s was from Iberico pigs that were not acorn-fed (“Iberico De Bellota”). Nonetheless, this is just me nitpicking. At a price of AUD$37 for a really sizeable platter, I have no complaints. Just me being annoying! For a quick comparison, MoViDa features Iberico De Bellota at AUD$50 for a mere 50grams…
Rangers Valley Dry Aged 300 Day Grain Fed Rib Eye on the Bone 440g 63 days $75
Both our steaks were ribeyes on-the-bones. Yet, my Rangers Valley Dry Aged 300 Day Grain-Fed (440grams) tasted quite differently from Boo’s Cape Grim Dry Aged 36 Month Old Grass-Fed. My Rangers Valley’s rendition had sweeter and more buttery tones permeating the entire piece of meat. My steak was also almost more fork-through tender. Yes, this meant that I would have commented alternatively, that my steak almost tasted like Wagyu!
Cape Grim Dry Aged 36 Month Old Grass Fed Rib Eye on the Bone 350g 56 days $60.00
In comparison, Boo’s steak tasted more robust and beefy, with less fat interspersed with the meat, as opposed to mine which was definitely fattier. We both ordered our steaks medium-rare. Thankfully, both arrived as requested, pink in the middle and with juices still flowing when cut through (I wouldn’t have expected anything less to be honest at such a place) . The char on the steaks was meant that the surface of the meats had a BBQ-like texture, although I thought that the char was a little bit too much, with some bits being tasting quite burnt and starting to obscure the meat flavours. But overall, the steaks delivered, and both of us were happy with our cuts.
Horseradish Cream, Béarnaise
The complimentary dressings of Horseradish Cream and Bearnaise tasted all very home-made, nothing out of a bottle or mass-produced. The horseradish cream even had bits and pieces of horseradish inside, which made eating it texturally very interesting. But if you know me, you would have known that I’m never a fan of sauces for meats. When I do my steaks at home, all I do is to sear them or pan-fry them with the slightest amount of butter. They’re then finished with a bit of fleur de sel, and nothing else. And so I ate my steak more or less entirely without touching the sauces. Boo waxed lyrical about both sauces though, and couldn’t stop himself from scooping spoonful after spoonful of each. To each his own I guess.
Roast Parsnips and Eshallot with Chard and Ginger $12.00
Baby Kipfler Potatoes in Wagyu Fat with Garlic and Rosemary $10.00
I had mixed feelings regarding the side dish of Kipper Potatoes sautéed in Wagyu fat with garlic and rosemary. Because some of the potatoes were halved or even quartered, there was not enough starchiness from the potato to counter the rosemary and the salt. Some pieces suffered from a rosemary and salt overdose and were not so enjoyable. The larger pieces though were actually quite nice to munch on.
What fared way better was the other side dish of roast parsnips and shallot with chard and ginger. The natural sweetness of the parsnips shone through, and was nicely balanced with the warmth stemming from the chard and ginger. Really good, couldn’t help but keep gushing over dinner about this side dish. When will vegetables in Singapore ever be so sweet?
Singleton Whisky Prune Crème Brulee $23.00
Because the food fed (read: stuffed) us so well, the ordering of dessert was actually more obligatory than necessary. Our choice of Singleton Whisky Prune Crème Brulee for the most part worked, with the richness of the custard nicely counterpointed by the sweetness of the liquored prunes. What would have made this dish even better was if the custard itself was also infused with the whisky. At times, it felt as though there were just two separate elements of the dish not really working in harmony. But the custard was not overly eggy or sweet, so it was still enjoyable.
Dinner for two came up to be about AUD$260. By Melbourne standards, this was actually quite pricey. But the food was good, the service professional and warm, and the ambience was beautiful. I’m happy.