I had very high expectations for Rockpool, one of Sydney's legendary fine-dining establishments, although many friends have mentioned that the food didn't live up to the hype. I had to see for myself what the fuss was about in any case, and made a lunch reservation last Thursday.
In relation to the decor - rather impressive; as the picture shows, high ceilings, starched white tablecloths, paintings, in the vein of a luxury European ballroom. Quite exquisite. The service was great as well; in typical Australian warmth, you are greeted with a smile and made to feel at ease and welcome. Can't fault neither the ambience nor the hospitable service.
I opted for the set lunch pre-fixe as a way of gauging what the kitchen had to offer. Along came the bread which was quite good: crusty on the outside and soft on the inside and paired well with their range of butter and olive oil roasted tomato.
There wasn't any choice for the set lunch: the first dish I had was a linguine with crab. The linguine had the consistency of a risotto, warm and creamy, and topped with some roasted roe and a herb reminiscent of coriander albeit more tangy (suggestions?). I guess it was comfort food but I wasn't impressed - this wasn't a 3-hat worthy entree. It made me rather full (jerlak). 6.5/10 at best.
I hoped the mains would fare a little better - it was a duck confit. This was decidedly Asian: the duck was cooked with star anise and cloves and perhaps a hint of Hoisin sauce (I'm guessing). It was paired with rice wrapped in an omelette. It was competently done, but the flavours were far too familiar: I felt like I was eating cai fan or something like that, or like something my mother would make. Also not impressed. 6.75/10 (this was marginally better than the entree).
The best dish BY FAR had to be the date tart - this is Rockpool's signature and has been on the menu for at least 20 years. Superb and sublime, I can see why. Creamy custard with dates, encased in a buttery crust. Delicious. (8.5/10). Too bad the rest of the dishes were not up to par.
Truth be told, I would have wanted to book Quay or Est - I decided on Rockpool because I didn't want to pay the amounts that they were charging at Quay or Est. I guess the oft-quoted phrase "you pay peanuts you get monkeys" may have applied in this case. Ah well.