My first taste of Neil Perry’s cooking was some time in 1994 when he was invited by Hilton Singapore to run a week-long Australian food promotion. He was then touted by the Singapore media as “the Zeus on the Mount Olympus of Australian cuisine”.
Many of us were not really acquainted with Neil Perry’s inventive cooking, fusing Asian flavours subtly into modern-Australian cuisine, at the time. Frankly, all we noticed back then was his pony tail. Rock star-like celebrity chefs were still a decade away. Neil Perry, in many ways, was ahead of his time.
I first dined at his iconic Sydney restaurant, Rockpool, the following year - in 1995. What I experienced there then was an epiphany - the taste of those yabbie-filled raviolis, infused in the gentlest possible way with ginger, and lifted by a drop of mirin (or maybe Shaoxing wine?) still stayed in my mind today, more than 20 years later. Rockpool showed me the kind of fusion cuisine I’d not experienced anywhere else in the world at the time.
Much has changed in the culinary world since. In Melbourne, as in any other major Australian city, creative & talented chefs are experimenting with fusing flavours from across different culinary cultures. And Rockpool is just one of the boys.
Subconsciously, I think the only reason I stepped into Rockpool Melbourne was perhaps to see if they had something close to that amazing ravioli dish which had made such an impact on my taste memory.
Rockpool Melbourne is located on a nice, busy spot in the Crown casino complex, with expansive views across the Yarra to the CBD.
Grosset Springvale Riesling 2017 from Clare Valley, South Australia.
Woodfire-grilled Wagyu sausages with caramelised onions. Premium quality stuff - deep, earthy flavours and melt-in-your-mouth tenderness.
Hand-cut Linguine with Spanner Crabmeat & spicy Prawn Oil. Typical of Neil Perry, who likes to work Asian flavours into his Modern-Australian cooking, there were strong notes of lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves in the pasta sauce. A bit too assertive for my taste, I’d have preferred if they dialed down the Thai flavours.
Radicchio, Cos & Endive Salad, with Palm Sugar Vinaigrette.
Cheese platter, with fig-apricot bread, oat biscuits & rhubarb jam.
Left to right: Le Conquerant Camembert, Pyengana Cheddar Aged Clothbound, and Onetik Chebris.
Probably need more visits to conclude on what I think of Rockpool Melbourne. But based on this one experience, I have the impression the cooking lacked the finesse and class of the old Rockpool which I really liked in Sydney all those years ago.
Rockpool Bar & Grill
Crown Entertainment Complex
8 Whiteman Street
Southbank VIC 3006, Australia