AND IN THE BEGINNING…
It’s February 2, 2009 and Neil Perry writes in a blog on the Rockpool website…
All the beautiful doors are on upstairs and are just waiting for the glass. The carpenters should finish up there tomorrow. Barry, Sam and Andy, the foremen on the floor are working miracles with the contractors who are all putting in fabulous efforts. Even Jason who is managing the contract seems to think it may get there. Bill from Stoddard’s, the kitchen contractors is doing an amazing job trying to keep in front of the game, not easy with the pressure they have all been under. Friday is looking huge at Spice Temple and I’m doing the 20 year anniversary dinner at Rockpool on Saturday night. Then on Sunday I have to get stuck into the Rockpool Bar & Grill menus to make sure they are all perfect. I feel there are a couple of dishes that need to come off and a few more needing to go on. The last of the ground floor carpet is being laid tonight and the furniture will begin arriving on Saturday. The kitchen is getting closer to finish and the bar is starting to take shape. How wonderful it was to see some of the stone going on the front of the bar. The cool rooms for our wine have the viewing panels cut out and the large glass doors have gone in, just after they pushed the BBQ through the only hole it would fit through in the building. This area has changed dramatically in the last 4 days since they started putting the ceilings in. Tomorrow the wood-fire and charcoal grills move into position. It is thrilling at the moment as things change daily. The builders are doing a fantastic job, every trade is pushing as hard as they can to get changes happening not just daily, but hourly. We have an ambitious plan, a dining room menu of over 70 items, a wine bar menu (home of the Wagyu burger) with 40 items and a function menu upstairs with two gorgeous private rooms. No doubt there will be times over the next few weeks where I will wonder why I have done this. Lots of drama to come, staff training starts in a week and a half, I can’t believe this dream is becoming a reality. One week after we open I have to put together the Ultimate Dinner; to have 2 super-star international chefs, in the form of Heston Blumenthal and Thomas Keller coming in to work alongside our own great chefs Tets, Guillaume and Peter in the Rockpool Bar & Grill kitchen – its daunting! We will do it – we have a great team, but what a hell of a couple of months we are all in for.
Neil was barely pausing to draw breath as the build of the iconic Rockpool Bar & Grill came to fruition, and he wrote as he lived and breathed at 100 miles an hour. Spice Temple downstairs had opened a short time before and was cranking – Rockpool down on George St was celebrating it’s 20th year and somewhere along the line it was decided that we should hold The Ultimate Dinner for Starlight in our gorgeous new dining room. So…open, breathe, prepare for Tests, Guillaume, Peter, Heston and Thomas and teams. Sure. Why not? It’s the way we roll!
A little while later, sometime in early March, Neil said to Simon Thomsen of the Sydney Morning Herald…
” The terror and excitement are the same “You’re always pushing, you always need more time and you’re struggling to get the builders out. First night comes and you wonder why am I doing this? It can be painful, frustrating and scary. I must be insane!”
The Ultimate Dinner, about 3 minutes after opening, and a lovely letter from the CEO of The Starlight Children’s Foundation
Dear Starlight team and National Board members,
Last Wednesday night our Starlight Luminary Neil Perry raised $200,000 for our kids and families at the opening of his magnificent new restaurant, Rockpool Bar and Grill, in Sydney. Neil and his fantastic team organised the most amazing evening called The Ultimate Dinner – the very best food and wine experience you can imagine in his beautiful new restaurant. Our wonderful friends Qantas , Vittoria Coffee and the Park Hyatt Sydney were the major sponsors.
Qantas flew in Thomas Keller from the French Laundry in the Nappa Valley and Heston Blumenthal from The Fat Duck in the UK and our own Australian chefs, Tetsuya, Guillaume Brahimi, Peter Gilmore, Catherine Adams and of course Neil, gave us a food and wine experience the guests will never forget.
Our incredibly generous friend Stuart Gregor conducted a fantastic auction and Neil’s guests rose to the occasion.
Please join me in sending our thanks and appreciation to Neil, Sarah and his fantastic team, all the generous chefs, Qantas, Vittoria Coffee, Park Hyatt Sydney and Stu Gregor for ensuring many more children and families will receive Starlight’s love, laughter and support.
AND THUS BEGAN…
Rockpool Bar & Grill Sydney, celebrates its 5th birthday. Here’s a look at a little of what makes the girl tick.
Housed in a building of extreme art deco finery designed by Emil Soldersten and built in 1936, it was the home of City Mutual until all came crashing down in a financial crisis of years gone by. The building itself is surely one of Australia’s finest of the art deco ear. Architects Bates Smart stepped in, took a look at the ceiling heights in excess of 11 metres and thought…yes, we know just the thing. The room became a rich and indulgent collection of leather, marble, steel and stained oak. All fittings were custom-designed, and soon the smells of the wood fire grill and superbly dry aged beef was wafting up Hunter St distracting all those financiers at Deutsche.
Jeremy Courmadias, General Manager
John Lethlean of The Australian wrote of Jeremy in 2009…
”Jeremy Courmadias was never going to struggle for a restaurant job back home in Australia. The only issue was going to be the right job. With a total of seven years at London’s Caprice Holdings, operators of institutions such as The Ivy and J Sheekey, including three as general manager of the company’s flagship restaurant Le Caprice, the Melbourne-raised one-time waiter had a CV and skills earned in one of the world’s most sophisticated and buoyant restaurant markets. Any local restaurant operator would kill for a manager of his experience”.
Enough said. Five years n and ‘JC’ is firmly ensconced as living, breathing Rockpool furniture.
Tom Sykes, Restaurant Manager, Maitre’D
Tom was always going to be the familiar face at Bar & Grill. Restaurant Manager at the flagship on George St for many many years, he is much loved by all who work with him and all those he looks after in the course of his daily grind. This is a man who truly loves what he does and it shines through. In 2010, Australian Gourmet Traveller awarded our Tom the Maitre D’ of the Year award.
“The unflappable nature and good grace of Tom Sykes had long been one of the original Rockpool’s grounding elements. Now, at the new Bar & Grill, he is both front-of-house and field marshal, attending to the personal peccadilloes of instant regulars just as he coordinates coverage of one of the city’s most formidable dining rooms.”
Michaël Engelmann, Head Sommelier
A native of Alsace-Lorraine, France, Michael has been the Head Sommelier at Bar since November 2010. To us, Michael is the caretaker of the ‘vault’, the protector of ‘the list’ and the leader of the team of 8 passionate and talented wine professionals. Michaël’s CV pre-Rockpool is filled with restaurants of legend and more than the odd Michelin star. His accreditations are even more impressive, including being named the American Sommelier Association’s Best Sommelier in America 2009 and being voted one of the five Best New Sommeliers of 2009 (rising stars) by Wine & Spirits Magazine. In July 2011, in one of his personal and career highlights, Michaël passed the highly regarded Master Sommelier examination (there are only 200 master sommeliers in the world) on his first attempt with the highest exam score overall. A rare feat for which he was named the coveted Krug Cup winner, a designation shared by only 14 other Master Sommeliers worldwide. Lucky to have him? Oh yes.
Corey Costelloe, Head Chef
Corey nurtured his instinctive love of food as a teenager by taking high school jobs as a kitchen hand and helping his uncle at Flemington Markets on Saturday mornings, hiring out barrows and trolleys. His cooking career in earnest began at the age of 18 as an apprentice chef, eventually earning hs chefs whites at Catalina Rose Bay, the place he also first worked with ex Bar & Grill Head Chef Angel Fernandez, a mentor to this day and a man he credits with teaching him how to love food and “eat like a chef”. With years of great experience behind him and an innate love of seafood, Corey reunited with Angel for the opening of Bar & Grill in 2009 and his Rockpool career began, initially as a fishmonger, but before long he was back in the kitchen. After 4 years, Corey took over the reins of the Bar & Grill kitchen in early 2013 and has made his mark in short time with his uncompromising attitude towards quality produce and food.
Of course, anyone will tell you it’s the staff who make the place, any place and there are multitudes of them in this great building, from the reservation team busily booking tables and liaising with clients, to the incredible team in the bar who run the bar like clock work and never lose their sense of humour, and through to Atif in the dock loading and unloading the hundreds of kilos of produce that move through the doors, up the lifts, into and out of cool rooms and wine stores. Waiters, bus boys, apprentice chefs, accounts, admin, reservations and beyond, these are the working parts of the precision ticking clock.
THE BEEF AGEING PROGRAM
Our beef is sourced directly from the producers and dry aged on our premises. That means we have total control over the quality of the beef.
The dry aging process is important as it brings a better flavour to the beef than that of the more common wet aging in cryovac, which in essence is really preserving the beef. This however takes a big commitment as we have many tonnes of beef aging at any one time.
We believe that the four types of beef we have are representative of the best of their type in Australia. Blackmore’s Wagyu, Greenhams and Rangers Valley all fit into the strict Rockpool philosophy of humane treatment to the cattle. There are no growth hormones used and no antibiotic feed supplements. This is a rare thing in Australia today, particularly with the standard lot fed cattle. It is why we feel that Rangers Valley is the only grain fed cattle we could fit within our Rockpool philosophy.
Our extensive menu has many a signature. Yes, we are all about the beef – but don’t forget the phenomenal seafood that the Rockpool Group is famous for. Don’t forget the incredible mac and cheese, duck fat roasted potatoes, octopus in pesto and prawn cocktail. Whatever you do – don’t forget the passionfruit marshmallows and the pavlova and for god’s sake do not forget the Wagyu burger!
It is multi-award winning, stunningly designed and a place of worship, of sorts. Be sure, whatever you do, to abide by the house rules though…
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 quite, 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
The team in our bar are supremely talented, born of patience and great attitude and the ability to our a cracking drink! The cocktail list is almost as much fun to read as it is to drink.
There’s those stirred with love….
Presidente ~ Solera Rum and Sweet Vermouth lovingly stirred with Cacao and orange Bitters
Those with cute names…
Play it again Pierre ~ 18 year old Whiskey stirred down with Grand Marnier and a lick of Campari and Cacao
Those that describe a state we really don’t want to end up in later…
Zombie deluxe ~ Blend of 5 Rums, Lime, Grapefruit, Grenadine, Pernod, Falernum and Apricot Brandy served with flaming aromatic lime husk
And our section for ‘cocktails for revelry’ states this…
‘Boat Drinks’, or cocktails for that ‘just released from prison feeling’, for those who see in the bottom of a punch bowl a horoscope of gaiety, joy, revelry, carousing and happy madness.
The Young Chefs Dinner, The Ultimate Dinners for the Starlight Children’s Foundation, The Great Gatsby Sydney launch party and too many to list; Rockpool Bar & Grill Sydney is a place of entertaining beauty and grandeur. It is hard not to impress here, whether it is the greatness of ‘the rom’ itself or one of the beautiful, intimate and very individual private spaces.
THE WINE LIST
To say we are proud of this list and its many great achievements and awards and the love and thought that has gone into it is an understatement. Australia’s most awarded list, it boasts Sydney’s most expensive bottle of wine – the 1945 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti at a slight the $89, 510.
Director and wine guru David Doyle describes the drop as ‘beyond spectacular” and suggests you splurge on a $39 free range chicken cooked over the wood fire grilled to accompany it, along with a Tuscan bread salad. Indeed.
The Wine Spectator Awards
A selection of quality producers along with a thematic match to the menu in both price and style. Their wine lists also display vintage depth, with vertical offerings of several top producers from major regions, or excellent breadth over several winegrowing regions. They also typically offer 400 or more selections, along with superior presentation.” We nailed that one early on, then we really stepped up to the plate.
In 2010, we took home the big one. Rockpool Bar & Grill Sydney was names as the first ever recipient in the Southern Hemisphere to receive a Grand Award in the Wine Spectator Restaurant Wine List Awards, ‘the’ list honouring the world’s best wine lists. Held by only 75 restaurants worldwide, the Grand Award is given to restaurants that show “an uncompromising, passionate devotion to the quality of their wine program. These restaurants all have passed rigorous evaluations, demonstrating that their wine lists, service, cuisine and ambience are worthy of the program’s highest honours.”
In our year of inception, Time Out named us Bar of the Year and the following year the bar was vote one of the best bars in the world by Food & Wine magazine.
We’ve taken home 2 hats, Restaurant of the Year, Favourite Burger, Best Steak, Wine List of the Year (a few times!), 2 stars, 3 glasses, Best Aperitif List, Best Digestif List…to name but a few.
October 1st, 2011. The Rockpool Bar & Grill cookbook is released. It’s a beauty.
They are many and of course, varied. Here are snippets from a few we love and treasure…
April 2009, Franz Scheurer, Australian Gourmet Pages
The food at Rockpool Bar & Grill is excellent and never comes across as too worked or too fancy. It’s substantial comfort food and the portions are generous. Desserts are outstanding and leave you sated and satisfied…
When Rockpool Bar & Grill first opened it had an appropriate wine list with a decent selection of wines by the glass. The team at Rockpool Bar & Grill has been working on a wine list, which should be implemented in the next few days, that is without a doubt, one of the world’s most extensive and interesting lists. I had the privilege of seeing the lists and they’re amazing…
This is a huge restaurant and I expected the service to struggle in these early days, but I was wrong. Service was smooth, professional and attentive without being overbearing…
All in all: Rockpool Bar & Grill is a fabulous venue…and be clear that this is, in my opinion, Australia‘s most beautiful dining room!
May 2009, Pat Nourse, Australian Gourmet Traveller
With its Art Deco glory and soaring atrium, Rockpool Bar & Grill is probably the grandest restaurant Sydney has ever seen. It’s a steakhouse, but not as we know it…
Yes, it’s breathtaking. Combining Citizen Kane-like scope with detail-work befitting Mad Men, it’s probably safe to say the new Rockpool Bar & Grill is the grandest restaurant in Sydney – and by extension the nation – has ever seen.
Rockpool Bar & Grill does not aspire to challenge or provoke, but to please and assure: it’s a steakhouse. But what a steakhouse. The retro-corporate luxe look of the place, admirably executed by Bates Smart, doesn’t really place it high in the date-restaurant stakes, but it’s already a magnet for the great and good of the moneyed world. Chef and co-owner Neil Perry is one of the trail-blazers of today’s Australian dining, but just to be clear, this isn’t a restaurant dedicated to advancing the cause of gastronomy. Here they take the simple concept of grilling a piece of protein over a fire and burnish it with care and skill until it shines anew. At the original Rockpool back on George Street they’re confiting suckling pigs and creating clouds of mandarin and poaching swordfish sous-vide with anchovy and jamon. At the Bar & Grill, they’re shucking oysters, creaming silverbeet and charring meat. They’re making drinks and grilling stuff which, at a bar and grill, seems fair enough.
May 2009, Simon Thomsen, Sydney Morning Herald
Let’s get the obvious out of the way. This is Sydney’s most beautiful dining room. A breathtaking, thrilling, dramatically gorgeous mix of art-deco panache and sleekly understated modernism with clever lighting, soaring three-storey high columns, shiny dark leather and sculptural towers of thousands of Riedel glasses. They simply don’t make ‘em like this any more, especially in a city too eager to trash its heritage for a developer’s next shiny bauble.
Even in the open kitchen, the wood-fired grill has an ethereal shimmer as spotlights cut through the smoke.
Thankfully, Neil Perry’s multi milliondollar roll of the dining dice has the brains to match its beauty. Rockpool Bar & Grill is the expression of a mature wisdom. It’s about uncompromising excellence, wealth and discernment – perhaps a touch of braggadocio, too.
May 2009, John Lethlean, The Autralian
Is it a Sydney restaurant? A Melbourne restaurant, lost? Or a Sydney clone of a Melbourne restaurant, conceived in Sydney in the first place? The answer, of course, is all three.
Rockpool Bar & Grill, Sydney, is the spin-off that just became the main game. The monster threatening to eclipse the justifiably famous little place in The Rocks that gave Australia’s most recognisable chef, Neil Perry, his first bouncy springboard.
If a sense of awe doesn’t clobber you passing through the magnificent glass and metal doors and into this cathedral of food, wine and the beau monde of Sydney, you’re quite possibly comatose. The effect is profound.
May 2009, Guy Griffin, the (Sydney) magazine
Neil Perry is a poster boy for Sydney optimists. Just as we’re getting our dose of Old Testament punishment, he shows us the promised land: a place called Rockpool Bar & Grill . This is how the milk and honey will taste after we’ve swallowed our gruel.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO US
And so it goes…
It is Rockpool Bar & Grill Sydney’s 5th birthday this month.
To celebrate Neil and chef Corey Costelloe have designed a four course menu of signature dishes, such as a selection of Dry-Aged beef and Catherine Adam’s famous passionfruit pavlova. This special 5th Anniversary Menu will give you the opportunity to dine on a selection of the restaurant’s best-selling and most popular dishes over the past five year sand is available now until Saturday March 29.
We do hope you will come one, come all…and come celebrate. We are so immensely proud of this beautiful, glorious beast and look forward to the next 5 years and all the great food and wine adventures that lie ahead, all the great memories yet to be created. Good work team! High five!