Above: The Perfect Steak.
In Sydney, the steakhouse is reinvented.
By Carli Ratcliff
It’s hard to say what makes the biggest impression when you first walk into Neil Perry’s newest Sydney venture. Is it the columns of green marble that tower over moodily lit oak tables and a gleaming show kitchen? Is it the glamorous crowd? The smell of meat grilling over a wood fire? Whichever it is, Rockpool Bar & Grill (66 Hunter St.; 61-2/8078-1900) clearly has all the ingredients of a top-notch establishment.
Perry, perhaps Australia’s most revered chef, has never put much stock in scenery, a bold posture in a city where diners seem obsessed with harbor views. But he couldn’t have chosen a better address for his restaurant. Situated deep in Sydney’s financial district, it occupies a grand space in the landmark City Mutual Building, built in 1936 and generally considered one of the country’s finest examples of Art Deco architecture.
Decked out in dark woods, brass, and leather under a soaring ceiling, the dining room is as elegant as any in town. It should be: Perry spent millions furnishing both this place and his more casual, months-old Spice Temple Chinese restaurant next door. And the food lives up to the promise of the setting. While the chef’s legendary Rockpool on George Street is all about seafood, here, steak is the focus. A folder explaining Perry’s “Beef Philosophy” arrives with the menu and the 3,800-label-strong wine list, providing background about each beef producer used by the kitchen. It also informs diners the meat they’re about to order was earmarked while still in the paddock, and that carcasses are dry-aged on the premises.
There are five tanks of live seafood for those who prefer fish. But the grill’s spotlight is firmly on steak, be it beautifully marbled Blackmore Wagyu sirloin, Cape Grim rib eye on the bone, or grass-fed yearling fillet from Greenham. Looking for something lighter? Head to the intimate bar, home to a magnificent full-blood Wagyu burger served with Gruyere cheese, smoked bacon, and house-made pickle.
Originally appeared in the May 2009 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“What’s the Beef?”)