Review: Rockpool on George, The Rocks

For my birthday a few weeks ago, K booked us a table at Rockpool on George as a special treat.

The dishes we sampled were:

  • Chirashi zushi of kingfish, snapper, prawn, squid, scallop, abalone and flathead
  • Tasmanian lobster, scrambled eggs, lobster essence, shaved kombu and seaweed
  • Butter poached calamari with broad beans, oats, bone marrow and ham
  • Chinese roast pigeon with king prawn, smoked eggplant, black mushroom and cucumber pickle with XO sauce
  • Fish grilled over rushes, iceberg lettuce, pearl balls, onions and red date infusion
  • Passionfruit souffle, passionfruit ice-cream
  • Vacherin of pandan custard, coconut parfait, jasmine sorbet and lime granita

I’m sitting here trying to think of ways to describe these dishes. I’m coming up with phrases like “the perfect fusion of Western and Asian flavours”, and “the subtle juxtaposition of different textures”, or “it simply melts in your mouth as you indulge in a little mouth-gasm”, and truthfully, I feel like all these phrases have all been used before. Everyone knows that Rockpool on George is an amazing restaurant – it’s got three chef’s hats and it’s one of the top restaurants in the world!

We had an amazing meal, that really goes without saying. It’s the type of food perfection that everyone needs to indulge in at least once in their lives even if they don’t like fancy restaurants, because it’s a real experience in itself.

What blew me away however, was simply the individualised service. We chatted easily with our waiter for the evening and had some good recommendations from the sommelier. But the real finishing touch was when they brought out a tiny little chocolate cake with a birthday candle in a cylinder of spun sugar as a surprise, to mark my birthday.

The symbolism is far weightier than the actual cake itself. It symbolises their attention to detail, with our waiter taking the time to get to know us as a couple and to find out why we were there that night. It symbolises their readiness to make our special night that much more special. Most of all, it symbolises how they value each individual customer and strive to make them happy. Those are the values that make Rockpool what it is.

Overall, I rate Rockpool on George a 9.9 out of 10…and I only take off that .1 of a point for the sake of my reputation as a reviewer!

Review: Pilu at Freshwater, Freshwater

K and I had dinner at Pilu at Freshwater a month ago to celebrate our one-year anniversary. We originally booked months in advance for Berowra Waters Inn, which has since gone into administration, but had to rebook for Pilu after Berowra Waters Inn closed down.

Pilu is a multiple award winner – consistently earning two chef hats in the Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food Guide, two stars in the Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Guide, and other prestigious awards of excellence in the category of Italian cuisine. It is by far the fanciest restaurant I’ve been to in Sydney – perhaps evidenced by the fact that I had about a dozen pieces of cutlery to contend with over the course of the night?

Upon arrival, we were shown to a semi-private table in a corner of the terrace dining room, with views overlooking the water. While it was a dark night so we were unable to enjoy the ocean views to their full extent, the lights glimmering off the black waves still made for a very picturesque scene. The decor of the restaurant also lends itself to the nautical atmosphere, with a strong emphasis on clean white linen and exposed wooden ceilings in what was formerly a seaside residence.

Having examined the menu online prior to reaching the restaurant, I had a strong idea about what I wanted. For this special occasion, I went all out and had the degustation menu with the matching wines. K had the degustation menu as well, but without the matching wines as one of us had to drive home!

Pesce spada affumicato, cachi, filu e ferru, e condimento al balsamico bianco (Smoked swordfish, with persimmon, grappa and white balsamic)
2011 Mesa ‘Primo Rosato’ – Isola dei Nuraghi IGT (75ml)

 Tender and an amazing blend of flavours. The persimmon was particularly nice, if strong-flavoured.

Fagiano in brodo, fregola fatta in casa, pecorino stagionato (Glenloth pheasant in a pheasant consommé, hand rolled fregola and one year aged Pecorino)
2000 Contini – Vernaccia di Oristano DOC (60ml)

I’ve never had fregola before, and found it quite interesting. The smaller size meant that the flavour really seeped into the fregola. The consommé was amazing – particularly clear and tasty without being overpowering. It was a good segue into the next dish, which had more flavour.

Malloreddus, polpa di granchio, guanciale croccante e pane carasau (Malloreddus with Queensland Spanner Crab, guanciale and crispy Sardinian bread)
2010 Santadi ‘Pedraia’ – Nuragus di Cagliari DOC (75ml)

Mmmm, crab. This didn’t fall into the trap that many other crab dishes stumble upon, with the other ingredients being subsumed by the crab. Instead, the flavours of the various ingredients blended really well.

The most interesting part about this dish was actually the wine. The Santadi Pedraia was very aromatic, and smelt like a strong sherry. While full-bodied on the first sip, it didn’t leave a cloying stickiness in my mouth, which a sherry can do.

Granita alle arance rosse e panna acida al timo (Blood orange granita and thyme crème fraiche)

A nice crisp palette cleanser in-between courses. I have a bit of a love affair with blood oranges at the moment, so really fell in love with this. I could have quite easily given up the cream for more granita.

Filetto di salmone alla Vernaccia di Oristano e olive verdi (Salmon fillet with Vernaccia and green olives)
2011 Contini ‘Karmis’ – Bianco Tharros IGT (75ml)

This was K’s favourite dish of the night. The salmon was done perfectly, with a crispy skin and soft flesh that melted in your mouth. Paired with a simple butter-based sauce and olives for a flavour contrast, the salmon was clean, simple, and delicious.

Porcetto arrosto (Free range roasted suckling pig, served on the bone with condiments)
2010 Santadi ‘Antigua’ – Monica di Sardegna DOC (75ml)

Suckling pig. Seriously one of my favourite dishes ever – suckling pig can do no wrong in my eyes. Served with sides of mustard, apple, and salsa verde, the pig was done perfectly though the crackling was not as crispy as I have had elsewhere. The accompanying roast potatoes were well done.

This was the second Santadi wine of the night, and when compared to the previous heavy sherry-like wine, was very much clean, crisp and unpretentious.

Seadas ripiena di ricotta con miele di corbezzolo (Sardinian fried pastry filled with fresh ricotta and sultanas, served with warm corbezzolo honey)
2009 Dolianova – Moscato di Cagliari DOC (60ml)

The dessert was quite plain and simple – something I actually found quite surprising. While the warm honey was a revelation as it was more bitter than sweet, and the filling was well done, the pastry itself was nothing in particular to write about. It was quite underwhelming.

Overall

The food and wines were really perfectly matched, and the sommelier really knew what he was talking about. We spoke with him for a few minutes about the wine menu, and he gave us some good tips for purchasing these Italian wines in the future.

On the whole, the food was quite remarkable. There were parts that were less impressive than others (particularly the pastry and crackling), but I really couldn’t fault the meal.

I rate Pilu at Freshwater a 9.5 out of 10.

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