Sunday, June 21, 2009

Rockpool Bar & Grill

Rockpool Bar & Grill
66 Hunter Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Ph : (02) 8708 1900

Lunch : 18 June 2009

I had finally decided to go to Rockpool Bar & Grill to try their famous Wagyu burger, purported to be the best burger in Sydney (and Melbourne, for Rockpool at Crown Casino). Sometimes I wonder whether burgers are one of those food items where I like the idea of them more than I seem to like the reality of them or whether, in fact, it’s just that I inevitably feel so full after I finish one that it can easily be half a year before I have another.

People match food with wine so why not try to match a watch with a meal? Some of the men of Tarts obsessively match the metal of their watches (and even watch straps) to the metal of their belts, but how would I match a watch to a burger?

It was raining the proverbial cats and dogs but I was determined to finally take the wagyu burger plunge, wearing my red 12 Vostok.

Vostok (Восток), meaning “East”, has its origins in 1942 when the plants of the First Moscow Watch Factory were evacuated to Christopol, a small town on the Kama River in Tatarstan. During those war years, the factory only produced defense equipment, but watch production commenced post WWII, although they weren’t properly called “Vostok” until the 1960s. In 1965, the company was appointed official supplier of watches to the Soviet Ministry of Defence. That year also marked the launch of the "Komandirskie" (Commander) watch. By 1980, Vostok Watch Makers were producing 4.5 million timepieces per annum.

It was 1.40pm or thereabouts when I arrived at Rockpool, only to discover that not only was the Bar area full, but that I’d have to wait for about 15mins if I wanted a table. Well I was damned if I wasn’t going to get my Wagyu Burger so off I went to browse nearby (including an unsuccessful attempt to track a copy of “Blogger for Dummies” at the nearby Dymocks LOL), returning at about 2pm.

There were now two tables free at the Bar, but it didn’t appear that the GFC was affecting the main Rockpool dining room much that day, as it was pretty much near capacity when I arrived.

The Bar area is a smallish cosy area, surprisingly understated in its decor and service that was welcoming and professional. As soon as I took off my raincoat someone was there to take it and return with a claim ticket, and within mere nanoseconds, the phone book sized wine etc lists and the smaller menu, were put in front of me.

I have some half a dozen odd “red 12” watches, but have yet to definitively figure out whether there is a significance to the red colour. One of the theories is that the colouring was to allow the wearer to see, at a quick glance, the location of the number 12. This was because many of the early forms of wristwatches did not have a standardised location for “12”, especially in relation to the position of the crown. Further, many early (or “transitional) wristwatches, were simply pocket watches which had been adapted to wrist use.

Often “red 12s” seem also to be called “trench watches” or “officer’s watches”, linked with WWI being the first war in which wristwatches appeared in “the trenches”, as it were. There seems to be a common thread of “red 12s” being of military origin but then again, there are many trench watches without red 12s, and I have read of and seen one or two pictures of early women’s wristwatches with red 12s.

Here is my earliest “red 12” watch, which I purchased from a Sydney watchmaker.

and here is its more modern Soviet descendent, which dined with me that day :

I chose the Vostok to match the Wagyu burger because I liked the irony of a Soviet watch with a premium burger, and because I was hoping that this much vaunted burger would in fact be somewhat “red” inside.

Feeling as though I should order more than the burger, which did not come with any sides, I decided to take the plunge, although every fibre of my being protested at the idea of paying $12 for a serve of chips, and ordered them as well.

After an extraordinarily short wait, which suited me just fine, out came my very own inaugural David Blackmore’s Full Blood Wagyu Hamburger with Bacon, Gruyere Cheese and Zuni Pickle ( $18)

upon whose arrival the waiter asked me whether I would like some tomato sauce (yes please – why do they call it “ketchup” on the menu?)

and followed shortly by my hand cut chips

The verdict : Now THAT is a burger. A brioche like bun, lightly toasted, a juicy patty still pink inside and a bit crusty around the edges (yum), an unexpected thin slice of zucchini, just enough cheese to add to the taste of the burger but not overwhelm it. The slices of tomato and lettuce on the plate were a bit unexpected but the former were sweet and both the tomato & lettuce was lightly salted and peppered. The burger seems small in size but it’s actually quite filling.

The tomato sauce, made in house, was smoky and quite pleasant, but I have yet to meet a tomato sauce which matches my personal favourite, from the Little Hand Stirred Jam Shop in Berrima.

The $12 hand cut chips? Well yes they were good chips, crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside etc, but the burger would have been more than sufficient to fill me up, and good as they were, I’m not sure that for me at least, they were $12 worth of tasty.

The verdict? I learnt that yes, burgers are definitely one of those “eat infrequently” things for me because they seem to fill me up more than many other foods, but the OMGthisisgood response when I had my first bite, which remained until the last bite, means that I’ll definitely go back. There were two literally small things that detracted from what would have otherwise been a 100% burger for me but hopefully next time All Will Be Well. Next up, Plan B’s Wagyu Burger! [AP]

1 comment:

Daniel said...

I've been meaning to have a Rockpool burger, so I suppose I'm now a little bit closer to trying one.

Still, I remember AA Gill writing that hamburgers were a thing that starts so promisingly in the first bite and finishes so disappointingly at the last. I'm glad your burger was a joy from beginning to end (and I'll remember to skip the hand cut chips).