No less than a 2,682 stylish Riedel glass chandelier illuminates the intimate Bar that is housed adjacent to the magnificent art deco chamber of the former CMLA building (c1936) that now accommodates Sydney’s Rockpool Grill. This association provides the trademark culinary and service philosophy that is the hallmark of Neil Perry’s rapidly expanding Rockpool Group. It’s the point of difference that has you contemplating your next visit even before you leave, especially when your status has equal currency with the investment banker on the next table. How more egalitarian can you get than tradesman enthusiastically tucking into wagyu burgers next to weighty corporates closing an important deal?
Almost as sophisticated as Emil Sodersteen’s building, The Manhattan ($19) is given a little extra kick with a dash of absinthe and depth of complexity from the house marinated cherry. The grilled pineapple trembler ($19) is far more playful, with the lime and smoky wood-fire element nicely offsetting the sweetness of the passionfruit and condensed milk. For those not feeling so indulgent, a thoughtful selection of craft beer is available. The White Rabbit White Ale ($10) at 4.5% with subtle honeyed background notes is quite approachable for most occasions whilst the 550ml Samuel Smith Taddy Porter at 5% ($16) is unapologetic in both body and style by comparison. The cult 550ml Timothy Taylor Landlord Ale ($17) is surprisingly lighter than both at 4.1%, but superbly balanced. An impressive spirits list also covers every conceivable need whilst providing enough boutique listings to bring a sense of renewal to some old favourites.
The food menu is an intelligent and diverse selection of dishes, either influenced or sourced directly from the Grill that are practical in a bar environment whether in a small or main format. Whether it’s the perfectly seasoned cured ocean trout ($4) on toasted brioche or deeply rich beef empanadas ($10 for 4) all tastes are catered for, but at least one visit should include the iconic Wagyu burger ($22) that showcases David Blackmore’s distinctively flavoured full blood beef. Throw in some bacon, gruyere cheese and zuni pickles for background notes and it’s as close to burger perfection as you’ll get. The hand cut chips ($12) may seem a bit pricey, but they’re that good it isn’t really an issue when there’s enough to be easily shared between two. However, the unctuous fried spiced lamb ribs with lime and chilli salsa ($12 for 2) is pure bar food heaven, which makes reloading almost mandatory.
I’ve got to love a bar that for all intents and purposes throws in two hat service, with industry heavyweights Sophie Otton and Tom Sykes occasionally passing through to make sure the high standards of the main chamber are maintained. How many bars provide a full sommelier and dining service that would make most restaurants pale in comparison with full access to David Doyle’s award winning wine list? Neil Perry successfully combines proven multi-faceted dining elements with the benefits of research gained from renowned world class bars to provide a flexible but uncompromised experience. Trust me, one look and you will be back.
On a lighter note, for those of you who were wondering:
Rockpool Bar and Grill House Rules
Best manners and temperance are expected at all times
Don’t look fiercely at people, or talk loudly or harshly, but cultivate a smiling countenance and a quiet, but firm tone of speech
Gentlemen, don’t approach ladies; and if you are so lucky to have one approach you, endear her as you would your mother
No hooting, no hollering
Don’t bring yourself into prominence before a crowd at the bar. Be polite and approachable, but let them advance to you
Gentlemen, don’t interrupt or join any conversation, but if it is general you may seem interested
Leave your attitude, with your hat at the door
Back slapping after six drinks should be tempered with mercy
Remember, nothing is on the house but the roof