Rockpool is one of those places I had long meant to visit and just never got around to. So recently GG and I decided to line up a special “date night” and Rockpool came to mind. To snag a Saturday evening we needed to book about a month out but having it in the calendar gave me something special to look forward to. Our booking was for 6.30pm but we decided we’d arrive at 6pm to enjoy a pre dinner drink. Another place at Crown I had been keen to visit was the new addition of La Vie the champagne lounge, so we headed there.
Located in the heart of Crown Metropol, you can escape to La Vie’s opulent and sophisticated interior and indulge in an unparalleled selection of Champagne, fine wines, and spirits. All the finest names in French Champagne feature on the extensive list, including the world’s very first House of Champagne, Ruinart, with its exquisite taste and famed reputation it’s our first pour at La Vie. As well as Dom Pérignon, Bollinger, Perrier-Jouët and an elegant cocktails list to impress.
It was indeed very plush as we wandered inside! Warm red tones, gilded with gold and with a splash of glitter from the fancy chandelier. We were shown to a cosy table for two and brought drink menus. Given we were heading next door to dinner soon enough, we just stuck with a glass of sparkling each, the Arras Brut Elite Cuvee, Tasmania, $17. It felt a little bit fancy to be sipping on sparkling in such a luxurious setting with my special someone. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Would be a nice spot to head back to one day for a few drinks and to sample a few of the choice nibbles items they have on their menu.
One day maybe, but for tonight it was my chance to finally open the large wooden doors of Rockpool – I was excited! And what an entrance it is! Feels more than a bit special to wander down the candlelit hall way, especially as you near the dining room door and can see into the fridges where some very impressive cuts of dry aged beef are on display. The restaurant itself is really beautiful. Dim lighting gives it a warm feeling and I was quite impressed with the size of the place. As it was my first visit it had always been a bit of a mystery to me about how big it actually was and it was definitely larger than I expected.
We were shown to a lovely table for two and another positive was that there was a decent distance between us and other tables. Intimate dining at its best when you feel like you are in your own little world.
Water along with thin slices of fresh lemon was presented and we enjoyed those while we looked through the food menu. It is incredibly extensive, almost overwhelmingly extensive, as so many choices sounded amazing! After carefully considering our options, we finally made up our minds. I was going to go with the Warm Salad of Wood Fried Grilled Quail with Poached Quinces, Watercress and Pecans ($33) for starters and the Wagyu Bolognaise with Hand Cut Fettuccine ($39) for mains. Across from me GG ordered the Charcoal Roast Squid, Smoky Chilli and Pork Belly ($28) entrée and couldn’t go past the Cape Grim Dry Ages 36 Month Old Grass Fed Fillet 250g ($55) for mains. Now with steaks at Rockpool you get just that. Sure there is a sauce on the side, but you also need to order sides, so we locked in a few of those also. We went with “Mac and Cheese” ($9), Sautéed Mixed Mushrooms ($25) and Radicchio, Cos and Endive Salad with Palm Sugar Vinaigrette ($9).
Now once the challenge of what to order on the food front was sorted, we turned our attention to the beverage list. And if the food menu was long then don’t even get me started on the wines. It’s a big file worth of choices, plus a separate book with spirits if they take your fancy. It has long been established that I’m partial to a glass of white wine, while my handsome dining companion prefers the rouge. So we stuck to wine by the glass, which helped to narrow our choices. Another pleasing aspect of the Rockpool experience is that they have several sommeliers at the ready to assist with any queries on the wine front. Having previously enjoyed a wine dinner where Singlefile Estate was the star at Petite Mort a few years back I couldn’t go past a glass of the Singlefile Estate Family Reserve Chardonnay ($23) to start with and GG decided to join me in the experience. Amazing drop!
While we waited for our entrees to arrive we were brought some delicious slices of fresh sourdough baguette with amazingly creamy butter. We enjoyed one slice and were offered a second. Just too hard to say no to really good bread. We just finished our second slice when our entrees made their entrance. We both thought our starters were quite generous in size and were beautifully presented. I really enjoyed the flavour combination in mine. The pink quail, the crunchy endive and pecans, the peppery watercress and the pleasing sweetness from the poached quinces – it was magic in a mouthful. Yes, it was a $34 entrée but there was ample quail and for a salad it was definitely larger than I had expected.
Similarly across the table GG had been impressed with the size of his starter. I was lucky enough to try a mouthful and it was quite a contrast to my dish. My entrée had quite delicate flavours, whereas GG’s was distinctly more bold. Now the squid was cooked to perfection, melted in your mouth and the pork was entirely delicious, but the strongest flavour was the charred onion. I didn’t mind it and am a long time fan of pork on my fork, but I think of the two I preferred mine.
It wasn’t an overly long wait until our mains arrived and the only slight blemish on the service front was that we had tried to order a glass of red for GG at this time, but it took slightly longer than expected to get someone’s attention, so the wine, Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Shiraz ($13), didn’t end up arriving until after he’d started his steak. Our mains arrived with another flourish. My pasta dish was presented and I was offered parmesan and then reminded myself that I need to get one of those cool Parmesan graters as the waiter grated a generous dusting atop my plate. It looked appetizing, smelled divine and the pasta did appear as though it had been rolled in house. I eagerly twirled some pasta on my fork. No complaints on the pasta front, it was beautifully fresh. But the flavour of the bolognaise disappointingly left a lot to be desired. It was just a little bland and needed some extra kick. I had expected that a Wagyu bologanise would be more memorable. For a $39 pasta mains I was left wanting. Had really hoped it would be up there with one of the best pasta dishes I have had and for me, it wasn’t.
Across the table from me GG looked pleased with the lofty height of his fillet steak. He sliced into it and it was medium rare perfection.
I was lucky enough to try a slice and couldn’t fault it. The sides however were a little hit and miss. Wish I had more complimentary comments for the Mac and Cheese because I am a big fan of both components. Unfortunately though I just didn’t like the flavour and by our powers combined we only put the smallest dent in this dish. Now the mushrooms were the most expensive side we had ordered and I had expected it to shine. It did not. Nothing particularly wow about them at all. Another disappointment. The final side was actually my favourite. The mixed leaf salad was wonderful refreshing. It was only towards the last few leaves that the palm sugar dressing got a little overwhelming. Despite this I liked it and of the three it was my favourite.
So we’d eaten our mains and partaken in the sides and I had really hoped to be more wowed. I pondered this while our plates were cleared and we were offered dessert menus. Now I like desserts and was tempted by a few selections but wasn’t feeling overly inspired and and declined. Before I had arrived someone had described Rockpool to me as an “expensive disappointment”. I had arrived hoping that this wasn’t the case but it wasn’t far off the mark for my first visit. The service, by and large, had been efficient and friendly, but when I think about coming back to Crown there are numerous other restaurants I would rather head back to. I’d had high hopes and sadly, on this visit, Rockpool hadn’t nearly lived up to my expectations.