The most expensive steak in Australia?

by Doc-G on April 23, 2007

The tension builds when any ‘gastronaut’ searching for culinary ‘manna’ enters their chosen temple of gastronomic delight but the portrait of a cow that one views when entering the Rockpool Bar and Grill Melbourne leaves the diner with no questions as to what is on offer. Snuggling next to Melbourne’s Crown Hotel and Casino, Rockpool Melbourne has everything to offer for the lucky punter, the romantic couple or just someone out for a dining experience.

Holy Cow
This portrait was the picture from the dessert menu at Rockpool Melbourne.

The Southern ‘relative’ of Rockpool in Sydney is the latest business venture for Australian celeb chef Neil Perry whose reputation for cutting edge haute cuisine with an ‘modern Australian’ theme is second to none. However, unlike so many top end restaurants run by celeb chefs that go for degustation options, Rockpool Melbourne offers an a la carte menu that offers a wide range of options that suit different palates and wallet capacities. Along with Perry’s uncompromising attitude to using only the finest of produce, Rockpool Melbourne’s unique selling point however is its dedicated ‘dry ageing’ room for its meat. Here various cuts of differing breeds of beef are kept close to 0 degrees centigrade with very low humidity for up to 40 days in order to tenderize the meat and fully develop its flavor.

Dry ageing room/></p>
<p>The décor is hip and modern, the dark stained wood, portraits of cows and meaty colours giving an appearance that is reminiscent of an ‘old school’ gentleman’s establishment. In addition, all the floor staff wore butchers aprons in keeping with the ‘meaty’ theme. As darkness enveloped the skyline, the restaurant took on a suave and sexy attitude, the mood becoming carnivorous, perfect for amorous couples with a breathtaking view across the Yarra River and the Melbourne skyline. In contrast, for those who were not in an amorous mood, dining alone or with business associates, the kitchen is in plain view of the whole dining room, a bright piece of culinary theatre unfolding before the diner’s eye. Somewhat reminiscent of early descriptions of French kitchens of the Escoffier era, spewing out steam, fire and brimstone, it was an outstanding example of the chef’s sufferance for the diner’s pleasure.</p>
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With so much choice on the menu including an impressive array of seafood, one might be forgiven for deliberating long and hard over their choice of food but for a self confessed carnivore of the highest order, my choices were relatively easy. I decided to let loose my animal instincts and go straight for the kill (metaphorically of course).
I opted to try a couple of starters and a main, the first of which as stated on the menu was the Joselito Ibérico Ham (World’s Best) ($50) with a glass of La Goya Manzanilla Sherry. Produced from the Ibérico black-foot pig and raised in the west of Spain, this breed of pig has a high capacity for the storage of fat, thus giving the ham made from this breed of pig a flavor which is rich and luxurious. With just a few wafer thin slices of this delicacy on the plate, the ham spoke for itself. Its soft creamy fat and sweet salty meat has a distinctive flavor unlike any other dry cured ham I have tasted. Whilst pretty well versed in this type of product, I can’t claim to substantiate their claim of ‘World’s best’, however it was good enough not to argue the point. The dry Manzanilla provided the perfect counterpoint to the rich creaminess of the ham, its subtle fleeting flavors mingled beautifully on the palate.


My second starter was the Slow Cooked Egg and Salad with Pancetta and Croutons ($16). Whilst this concept still somewhat unusual, this dish represents part of a trend being played out by global celebrity chefs for things cooked sous vide. My charming and informed waitress told me that this egg was poached at sixty degrees centigrade for four hours. The supposed advantage is that cooking at a low temperature for a long time still allows for the yolk to be relatively uncooked whilst enough cross-linking of protein in the white allows for the egg to still maintain its shape. The texture of the egg as a whole was soft and dreamy and the flavour when mixed with the salty sweet Pancetta and the sour component from the salad dressing resulted in a dish that was perfectly balanced in every way. This was matched with 2006 Kumeu River Village Chardonnay whose creamy texture and crisp finish matched the dish beautifully.


My main course was the 200g Blackmore Wagyu ribeye steak which at $110 surely must be a contender for the most expensive steak in Australia. Wagyu is an intricate beast, a breed celebrated for its high density of intramuscular fat which in Australia is graded from 1 to 10 with 10 the highest. On offer at Rockpool is Wagyu described as having a marbling score of 9+, obviously VERY high.

Wagyu raw

It was very plainly served, seared on both sides on the grill but served rare. Visually the presentation speaks for itself, meat naked on the plate served with nothing but a wedge of lemon and optional sauces. The meat had all the typical characteristics of good Wagyu, the prevalent but pleasant explosion of fat in the mouth and the slightly ‘beefier’ than standard beef flavor. By providing a slightly sour counterpoint, the lemon accentuates its flavor and really brought out all the good points that good Wagyu has to offer. My only criticism would be that the grill was perhaps not hot enough and a little extra browning on the exterior might have enhanced the meaty aromatic component. With it I drank a glass of Bourgogne 2004 which was heavier than the previous Chardonnay but still subtle with fruity tones, not an obvious match but delectable nonetheless.

Wagyu Cooked

For my final course, I was moved to another table near the bar for dessert as my table was required for another guest. It was here that the pace of my meal came to a grinding halt. I sat and watched staff whizzing to and fro as I was put in a ‘holding pattern’ which was only stopped after I asked as politely as I could if I would be able to order my dessert. I settled for the Cropwell Bishop Stilton which is about as good as it gets when it comes to Stilton which was admirably matched with Carmes de Rieussec Sauterne 2004 whose syrupy sweetness mingled delightfully with the cheese and brandied raisins giving me an otherworldly glow that lingered well after the meal.

Given its location next to a casino, luxury hotel and shopping, accusations of indulgence are inevitable yet fitting. Yet it was a shame given the quality of meat on offer that no offal or ‘lesser’ cuts were available such as braised brisket dishes or liver and bacon and the like which would still be in keeping with the theme of the establishment but allow Perry to fully celebrate of the versatility and quality of the produce that is on offer. Service delays aside, this is a mighty impressive establishment which will no doubt add considerable kudos to the Perry empire. Dealing with a market segment that is fickle during the best of times will however mean the Perry will have his work cut out to keep the punters happy. A challenge presumably that someone like Neil Perry will be more than up to.


Rockpool Bar and Grill Melbourne
Crown Complex Southbank Victoria 3006
Ph: 03 8648 1900. Licensed. All Major Credit Cards.
Open for lunch 12pm-3pm, Sunday-Friday, and dinner 6pm-11pm, seven days a week. The restaurant is closed for Saturday lunch service only.
Entrees $14-$160 (Average $25); Main Courses $20-160 (Average $40); Desserts $5-$28 (Average $15)

(Disclaimer: The Foodologist apologizes profusely for the poor quality of pictures in this post. They were taken on a camera phone as I did not have my camera with me whilst on this trip. I will attempt to rectify the issue at any future visit to this establishment.)

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