Rockpool Bar & Grill, Melbourne

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Category: CBD, Dinner, Lunch, Modern Australian, Steakhouse

The first time I dined at Rockpool Bar and Grill was the year I started at my first full-time job. Cashed up, carefree and childlike, I strode into the restaurant with my two high school friends, past the open-plan kitchen and through to the equally grand dining room resplendent in plums and browns. I remember being seated at the table in one of those comfortable leather chairs and being greeted by the image of a proudly posing cow on the menu in front of me – all the while feeling as if I was crashing a party made for wealthy businessmen.

On this night, the proudly posing cow had the last laugh. My friends unwittingly chose ‘My steak tartare with chips’ and were stunned to find that it was a dish best served cold. As they alternated between gagging and giggling at the prospect of eating this uncooked delicacy, I couldn’t help but savour every bite of my delectable duck ragu. It was sublime.

Rockpool Bar & Grill
Crown complex, Southbank VIC
(the last restaurant before Queensbridge St, right next to Crown Towers)
http://www.rockpool.com.au/melbourne/rockpool-bar-and-grill.html

Rockpool is a gem that springs to mind when a special occasion is on the horizon. The prices are on the high side at this headlining act in the Crown complex but competitive next to the cream of Melbourne’s fine-dining crop, with great food and tight-as-a-drum dining experience worth paying for. The service is as slick as the restaurant’s interior – attentive and almost intimidating efficient – best illustrated when my white napkin was immediately replaced with a black one to inconspiciously cover my black dress. 

It is hard to choose one main course from a menu studded with mouth-watering combinations, but my intense need for a potato puree fix meant the decision was made slightly easier on my last visit, a birthday celebration for Tubbymaster last month. I originally opted for the wood-fired rotisserie free-range chicken ($39), only to find that it was sold out by the time we ordered at 6.45 on a Saturday night; instead, I consoled myself with the very large Rangers Valley dry-aged, grain-fed rib-eye on the bone ($75), a 500g monster with a drool-inducing aroma that just about assaulted my senses when it was placed in front of me. Accompanied by half a lemon, and a dab of barbecue sauce from the waiter, it was a juicy, perfectly cooked medium-rare beast, so big it almost filled the large plate it was presented on, so magnificent I wondered why I ever considered chicken in the first place.*

Unless your name is Tarzan or Fred Flintstone, or you’re content to coddle nothing other than a big, fat steak, a couple of side dishes are a must as the steaks are served without any sides unless listed otherwise. We chose the onion rings, a crispy and sweet, generously proportioned side dish, and the soft-as-silk, gloriously calorific potato puree. I’m not sure of the ratio between potato and fat in the puree – suffice to say the dish wouldn’t appear in the Bigger Loser’s Masterclass next season for it would be more likely to appear as a contestant – but it was so, so good, I felt sure I wouldn’t look at good ol’ mash the same way again. (We also chose the braised green beans, which offered at least some pretense of nutrition.)

There are a lot of sweet treats to choose from on the Rockpool menu, but few that compel me to say ‘yes, please’ after devouring two courses. Perhaps it’s how they are worded on the menu, perhaps I don’t want to fork out an extra $20, I’m not quite sure. We finally decided to share the passionfruit marshmallows with caramel and peanut chocolates, unaware that the waiter was about to bring out a cupcake with orange blossom fairy floss in honour of Tubbymaster’s special day. The marshmallows and chocolates were exquisite, the former filled with an intense passionfruit taste that perfectly captured the tart sweetness I so love about this fruit; the latter imbued with an intense creamy nuttiness, the kind you can only fantasise about when breaking open an Asian-manufactured Easter egg to sate a chocolate craving on a cold May night. Yum. Tubbymaster says that the cupcake was nice; at least, it was pretty to look at, topped with a dreamy haze of orange I felt like swiping and shoving oh-so-elegantly into my gob the moment his attention lay elsewhere.

No, Rockpool is not a place you’d regularly frequent on a weekday night. It’s a high-end establishment that’s worth indulging in occasionally, if only to be treated like the king and queen of your castle. With entrees that swing towards the price you can expect to pay for mains at some restaurants in the Crown complex, and sides that can add more than a few extra dollars to the bill, it’s very easy to rack up the change. But, if you choose wisely – and refrain from ordering raw meat when you’d prefer it to be cooked – you’ll be rewarded with some beautifully cooked produce that won’t braise your credit card.

TIP: The bar is an excellent, slightly less intimidating entry point, for those who like it a little more casual.

Rockpool Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon

* I’m unsure why anyone would pay $110 for a steak twice if they weren’t pleased with the fat content the first time around. It seemed that the fat on my rib-eye contributed to its outstanding taste, so I was content to simply cut around it.

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