For A and I, Christmas 2011 was our third Christmas together. Each Christmas, we have a Christmas dinner for just the two of us and exchange a small gift. For our Christmas dinner of 2011, A and I decided to book Rockpool for dinner on the 23rd of December. Since the Gourmet Traveller Masterclass Dinner in May last year, we have been looking for a special occasion to venture back to Rockpool. We both really enjoyed our night which featured amazing food, wine and Neil Perry.
As always, Rockpool is stunning from get-go. Even from the outside it is superior with its heavy door and grand exterior. Inside is not too shabby either, as walking down the candle-lit corridor feels very surreal and unique. A and I were once again blown away by the enticing features.
We were quickly seated to a beautiful table in the centre of the restaurant. The décor inside the restaurant is as stunning as its exterior. It is elegant but also very simplistic. There are a lot of neutral colours, natural elements and dim lighting throughout the restaurant.
To begin, we both ordered a glass of the 2009 Honey Moon Vineyard ‘Brut Rosé’ ($15) while we nibbled on the complimentary bread and butter. I told A when it arrived at the table that we shouldn’t eat it as we didn’t want to fill up too quickly (as I had big plans of a three course dinner). Both of us tried having a single bite but it was too good to resist and before we knew it the whole slice had gone.
For our entrées we ordered the Wood Fired Grilled Fremantle Octopus with Hand Pounded Pesto and Fennel ($24) and Traditional Garlic Prawns ($24). We had planned to swap half way through so we could both taste each dish. I had the Octopus first and I was a little perplexed with the flavour. I knew that it was wood fired but there were little bits of char throughout the dish which was mutilating the flavour. I mentioned it to A before we swapped dishes and A agreed. When asked how our entrées were, we mentioned it to the waiter. After taking the dish away, I could see the waitstaff and chefs picking at the plate at the kitchen pass. Later in the night, we were apologised to and told that it would be extracted from the bill.
The Traditional Garlic Prawns was a lovely entrée and came in a little ramekin with a piece of crusty bread on the side. The dish came with 8 prawns and had a lovely garlic sauce that was thin, oily and full of garlic. The prawns were cooked brilliantly and tasted very fresh. The little crusty piece of bread was used to lap up the juices at the bottom of the ramekin which seemed to be its intended use.
Ordering at Rockpool is quite a difficult task. The wine list won the Gold Plate Award for Best Wine List in Perth 2011 and is one of the biggest wine lists in Perth. If you were to read each category you would be there for a while. The food menu isn’t too big, however it is hard to order something from the menu as it all looks so appetising. Rockpool focuses on fresh, local produce and you will often see local products mentioned on the menu. Seeing as though I have been to Rockpool previously and tasted the Cape Grim aged steak, I decided to try something different. I was extremely tempted to try a pasta but thought I’d order something a bit more meaty, seeing as though I was at a steakhouse. So, for mains I ordered the Spiced Rubbed David Hohnen’s Arkady Farm Lamb Leg ($35), while A ordered the Rockpool classic, Cape Grim Rib-eye on the Bone (350g, aged 80 days) ($60). To accompany her Rib-eye she also ordered a glass of 2007 Alpha Box & Dice ‘Blood of Jupiter’ Sangiovese Cabernet Sauvignon ($13).
My Spiced Rubbed David Hohnen’s Arkady Farm Lamb Leg was beautifully presented and was a huge serving. The meat was a lovely light pink and there was no fat evident. I didn’t need a steak knife or too much effort to cut the lamb as it was pleasantly soft. The corner of the slices was covered in the spice rub which was delicate and flavoursome. Overall, I really enjoyed the lamb and it was a perfect main.
A was looking forward to having the Rib-eye on the Bone again, as we had both really enjoyed it during the Masterclass Gourmet Traveller dinner. A ordered her steak medium rare, which is her preference but also a suggestion from Rockpool chefs, as mentioned on the menu – “Dry Aged Beef does not benefit from cooking past medium rare”. She really enjoyed the steak and happily gave me some to try. I really like the Rib-eye served at Rockpool and it is a definite must try.
For our sides, we decided to go classic French style with Potato and Cabbage Gratin ($9 / $11) and the Radicchio, Cos and Endive Salad with Palm Sugar Vinaigrette ($9). We both loved these dishes when we first tried them during the Masterclass dinner and the decision to order these dishes again was a very quick one. We also ordered the “Mac and Cheese” ($9 / $11) as a few people have recommended me to try it. When we ordered the sides, the waiter told us that we would only need two sides however I couldn’t choose which one not to get, so I made the executive decision to get all three in the small serving.
The Potato and Cabbage Gratin is amazing. As I am writing this sentence, my mouth is watering at the memory of this dish. The brown, crusty top is my favourite bit as it is an indulgent mouthful of breadcrumbs and melted cheese. The texture of the potatoes and cabbage is soft and the enveloping sauce is rich but light. This dish was a perfect accompaniment to our mains as it contrasted the meat very well.
The Radicchio, Cos and Endive Salad with Palm Sugar Vinaigrette side is another show-stopper. Funnily enough, I don’t normally like a lot of radicchio in salads, however the Rockpool version is a converter. The dressing seems to manipulate the strongness of the radicchio with the palm sugar and blends to make a harmonious flavour. I ate this happily mixed with the gratin (I have a strong love of mixing my flavours and textures).
My friend has raved about Rockpool’s rendition of “Mac and Cheese” so it was highly anticipated. A and I don’t really know much about Mac and Cheese. I’ve never had it (as I grew up with primarily Middle Eastern food) and A couldn’t remember the last time she had it. At my first try of the dish, I wasn’t quite sure as it had a very interesting flavour. I was persistent though and kept trying it. This dish is very rich and the taste of the individual cheeses does come across on the palate after a few mouthfuls. The mixture of gruyere, parmesan and cheddar cheeses, as well as the dijon mustard is extremely rich and usual. I did like it though however 3/4 of the dish remained at the end of our meal and I would probably not order it again.
By the end of our mains, A and I were quite full. We sat for a while talking to each other, as well as the table on the left who were visiting from South Australia. There was a little debate over which region produces the best wines as well as the usual small talk. A also enjoyed talking to the Sommelier about the Sangiovese she ordered to accompany her main. I happily sat back and enjoyed the lovely atmosphere, as it feels very comfortable in Rockpool.
The table to the right of us left soon after and stopped at our table. The lady handed us half a bottle of the 2009 Michel Torino Estate ‘Don David Reserve’ ($65) from Argentina. They said that it was a lovely bottle of red that shouldn’t go to waste. I happily accepted the donation and thanked them for their genorosity. We asked the sommelier for two glasses and had a bit over a glass each. I thought that the waitstaff and/or sommelier would look down on us for taking the bottle but instead they were very kind and seemed genuinely ok with the fact we were riding this wine-train for free.
When our donated bottle of vino was empty, we decided to look at the dessert menu. A and I were contemplating sharing a dessert, as I can’t say no to dessert at Rockpool. Luckily for us, Rockpool have a range of Petit Fours on offer. A ordered a Fruit Mince Pie ($4) and I ordered the Red Velvet Cupcake with Marshmallow Cream ($6.50).
I’ve never had a Red Velvet Cake and I have been looking forward to trying it out. Rockpool’s version did not disappoint and it will be very hard to match it. The cake was a lovely deep red and was very moist. The marshmallow cream on top was extremely rich and it had little bits of meringue sticking out of the cream. A was a bit jealous as she didn’t particularly like her Fruit Mince Pie however I was kind enough to share.
The service is seemingly seamless at Rockpool. You don’t really need to think too much while you are here, as it all seems to get done around you. The real bonus is that even though Rockpool is a posh restaurant, the waitstaff are not snobby or rude. They are definitely professional, but do not come across as cold and unwelcoming. It is an amazing mix that is something that Perth has not seen before and is especially enticing.
For the night, our bill came to $209. For me, it was quite reasonable for the food, wine and service provided to us. A and I enjoyed our night and Rockpool is a definite staple of favourite restaurants in Perth.