8 Whiteman St
Southbank VIC 3006
+61 3 8648 1900
Ahh! So now that my uni exams are done and dusted (ditto Essendon’s season *sad face*), I have all the free time in the world to do all the things that I’ve had to put on hold for a month. Stuff like, y’know, restaurants, bar, friends, exercise and Glee. And blogging. Oh yes, there will be lots of THAT coming your way, readers. You all should be so lucky… or not. So anyway, let’s cast our minds back to April this year. A time when the weather was not as dreadful; a time when the Bombers were actually top-eight contenders and a time when facebook told my friends that I was still in a relationship with Adam. Fast forward two months later and things have changed — but that’s another story for another time (though if you were to ask me to ‘elaborate’ on the Bombers point, I will just tell you to STFU). Tonight, however, the story is bovine-loving* Adam’s birthday dinner at Rockpool.
*pun intended. I AM, after all, a Taurean.
Although we’ve both been here before, it felt like we were walking into Neil Perry’s first Melbourne restaurant that Friday evening in April. Having had the famous Rockpool wagyu burger two years ago – and thinking it was good – we were keen to nibble on Perry’s meat all over again – the uncut, the un-minced and ungarnished version (ooh-er, that sounds dirty!). Although Rockpool will forever be a classy restaurant embossed with tinges of masculinity by way of mahogany, leather and dark wood, it still retained an air of typical Melbourne casualness during the lunch hours. At night, however, it’s a whole new story. The music is dimmed and the lights are turned down substantially, to the point where you can only just see what the words on the menu say which is never a good thing. It does, however, produce the intended effect – the restaurant is cool, sexy and very New York-like. Okay, so the above photo doesn’t particularly portray it very well, but you can blame the Metro train that just so happened to be whizzing by when I took the shot. And my crappy low-light photography.
I ordered a glass of Telmo Rodriguez Tempranillo ($12), bold and fruity and smelling as sweet as this season’s ‘in’ perfume, while Adam opted for a Campari ($9). ‘Are you sure you guys ordered the right drinks?’ asked the friendly-but-somewhat-smart-arsey waiter who was a Swedish traveller, having just hopped off the plane from Canada. ‘No,’ I said, with a slight giggle, ‘I hold the pants in this relationship!’ which somehow segued into a lengthy conversation about the differences between fine dining cultures in Canada, Europe and Australia. Once Mr Sven left, Adam and I then sat in comfortable silence (with random bouts of frantic Supercoach score-checking on our smartphones) while we sipped our drinks.
First there was butter. A solid, slab of slightly warm butter. Mmm.
And then there was bread. Okay, so not the best bread but whatever, I’ll take it from the front, from behind and from the side… just as long as I smothered it with lots and lots of the aforementioned butter. Mmmm.
We shared an entrée of Hand Cut Linguini with Spanner Crab and Spicy Prawn Oil ($30), which arrived evenly divided into two plates. Let me start by saying that this has got to be one of the most unusual pasta dishes I’ve ever tasted (and this is not including the random sht I concoct at home). The first thing I thought when I popped a strand of pasta into my mouth was, ‘this tastes like pad thai!’ It really did. It was a delicious mix of chillies, lemon, hot oil infused with the flavours of prawn heads, fresh spanner crab meat, tomatoes and thin shreds of kaffir lime leaves. It was like, Italy, meet South-East Asia. So, so good.
For our mains, we decided to share two different types of steaks from the ‘beef from the wood fire grill’ menu so we can see if we can taste the difference between a BLING BLING 38-day David Blackmore full-blood wagyu (9+ marble score, yo!) 200g rib-eye ($115) and a peasant (well, relatively-speaking anyway) Cape Grim dry-aged 36 month old grass-fed fillet ($55). We were presented with plates, containing four pieces of moo-cow and initially, we had no idea what the hell was happening – someone on my facebook even commented on the similarities between the second piece and a penis (man, I have such mature friends!). Then ‘Sven’-the-waiter explained. Basically, they chopped up each steak into quarters so both of us got two pieces of ‘bling bling’ and two pieces of ‘grass,’ each. ‘Sven’ told us which piece was which but neither of us paid attention because we were both eyeing our steaks with ferocious intensity, not listening to a word he was saying. If you didn’t know a thing about steak, you’d think that all four pieces were the same … but you’d be wrong.
The ‘bling bling’ (above), for example, was super-soft thanks to the heavy duty marbling of delicate fat tissues. Every time my knife made contact with the steak, the meat would tear off easily – kinda like tearing apart a piece of tissue paper – and literally melt in your mouth. It had a rich, nutty flavour that melted into nothingness as you chewed, with only the slightest hints of ‘beefiness’ coming through once you’ve swallowed the morsel. This was the first time I’ve had 9+ score wagyu and to be honest, I didn’t think it was OMG-WHOA-WHOA-WHOA! good. I’m a bit of a health freak myself (which is somewhat funny, given I’m a self-confessed foodie and all, but WHATEVER, there’s nothing that says that you HAVE to be one or the other) and at the time, I had become accustomed to eating grass-fed beef because it’s better than grain-fed beef from an environmental as well as a health perspective. Plus, it tastes cleaner and ‘beefier’, so you can understand why I preferred the Cape Grim. The flesh was clean, like it was hand-plucked by fair maidens from the luscious pastures of Tasmania and even though it had nowhere near the levels of fat the ‘bling bling’ contained, it was still lovely, tender and full of flavour – even more flavoursome than the ‘bling bling’ which is supposed to be the flavoursome of all beef. Bah.
You may be wondering why the plate looks so spartan, with only a lone lemon wedge on the side. The plate of steak(s) may not have looked pretty but believe me when I say that the steaks were flavoursome on their own that you really didn’t need anything else on top. We were, however, given some Béarnaise sauce on the side to dip our steaks in and a roving waiter (not ‘Sven’) came around with tubs of condiments to choose from, including hot mustard and a very lovely
hannis harissa paste which was deliciously sweet and spicy.
Even though the steaks were enough to fill our tummies up (might not have looked like much but trust me, we were pretty full), it didn’t feel right to order steaks without some sort of vegie side. We ordered the whole organic carrots with garlic yoghurt and dill ($9) which were nice enough – I really like the cacik-like yoghurt sauce – but probably the wrong side to have with steaks. The mushy peas with slow-cooked egg ($12) sounded a lot better, as did the ‘mac and cheese’ but ordering the latter would have defeated the purpose of eating relatively healthily…
… Okay, I lied. We also ordered onion rings ($9). What?! Don’t look at me like that! We HAD to.
And of course, we couldn’t leave without ordering dessert. Never mind the fact I wasn’t a big dessert person and never mind the fact that Adam initially wanted to leave quickly so he can catch the last quarter of the Brisbane-Carlton game. We decided to split a coconut macaron with custard apple ice cream sandwich ($14) because 1) Adam likes coconut, 2) I like custard apples and 3) we’re both Melburnians and therefore, like macarons by default. I was expecting a hella epic dessert but to me, it was just ‘okay.’ The ‘macaron’ shell was hard, crumbly and did not taste even vaguely like coconut. It was all sugar, sugar, sugar. Ew. Having said that, I did like the refreshing and slightly tangy custard apple ice cream filling – it was almost sorbet-like in texture but with a little bit of creaminess. Yum.
I can certainly see why Rockpool is a favourite destination for the steak-lovers in Melbourne: the service is impeccable and while the prices are high, high, you’re getting quality to match. I would tell you to only order the ‘bling bling’ steak, only so you can see what a $115 steak is like, but personally I’d recommend going for the grass-fed cuts just because they’re better. Yeah.