Friday, August 10, 2018

barkTHINS Snacking Chocolate

Chocolate. Snacks.  Yes.  These are things I like.

Snacking chocolate?  Sounds good to me.  Sadly, barkTHINS didn't really do it for me.
"barkTHINS are snackable slivers of dark chocolate paired with real, simple ingredientsfor a completely original take on snacking. It's Snacking. Elevated."
Packaging.
"Every bite is a one-of-a-kind masterpiece. With an array of delightful ingredients and delicious dark chocolate, there’s a flavor for everyone."

barkTHINS sounded like a great product for me.  All made with dark chocolate.  As a binder for crunchy things.  Most have a salt component. Yes.

All come packaged in re-sealable bags.  Perfect.

I would have been happy to try just about any flavor.  Studded with peanuts? Sure! Pumpkin seeds? Why not!  Chunks of peppermint?  Yes!  Coconut? Sure!
Dark Chocolate Pretzel w. Sea Salt.
"Indulgent dark chocolate meets a classic salty snack. It's snacking chocolate with a twist."

I settled on the dark chocolate pretzel.

And ... I was let down.

The dark chocolate was fine, but, not particularly notable.  And the pretzels?  Eh.  They provided texture, but overwhelmed the bar.  It didn't look like it should be unbalanced, as there was plenty of dark chocolate, but, all I could really taste was sadly pretzel.  And not much salt.

I didn't try any further flavors.
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Thursday, August 09, 2018

Streets Ice Cream, Australia

Ah, ice cream.  One of my favorite things.  It should come as no surprise that when I visit another country, I get ridiculously excited to try out their ice cream treats.  And I don't actually mean trying all the fancy, high-end, artisan ice cream hand-crafted scoop-at-a-time using liquid nitrogen and all organic ingredients either (although, yes, last week I wrote about my favorite gelato in Sydney, Messina!)  No, I'm talking about the basic, classic, packaged ice cream treats you can get in any convenience store anywhere.  Which in Australia, is Streets.

Yes, Streets is basically just the Australian version of Nestlé ice cream, which, as you may recall from my reviews, I didn't ever really like.  More accurately, it is their version of Good Humor, as both are owned by Unilever, just like Heartbrand, which I reviewed after visiting Zurich.

Anyway, probably to most Australian adults, these aren't anything exciting.  But to me, they were something new to try, and, spoiler, some are actually quite good!
The Magical Ice Cream Freezer.
The office I was working in had ice cream freezers scattered about.  Nearly every day, they were filled with new treats.  The first time I visited Sydney, this really was the highlight of my day.  And back then, the variety was huge and the freezers never seemed to run out.  On my recent visit, the selection was less varied, and you had to time it perfectly in order to get one of the "good" treats, but still, it was quite exciting to have these freezers all over the office.

Magnum

Magnum is a line of ice cream bar, on a stick, covered in coating.  The classic flavor is just vanilla ice cream with milk chocolate coating, but like any successful product, a slew of other varieties are now available, with different flavors of ice cream (salted caramel, strawberry, chocolate), different coatings (milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate, with almonds, with bits of honeycomb, with bits of "vanilla pieces"), and assorted swirls (caramel, chocolate).  They are available in full size or miniature.

Magnums have been sold in other countries for years, but only came to the US in 2011.  Of course, I've never bothered purchase one here in the US, but, when I was in Australia, I tried many varieties.  I also tried a few in Zurich.  I didn't actually care for the ice cream component of any of them, it was never as creamy as I'd like, but the coatings were really quite good.  They need to leave the ice cream business and just make chocolate confections.
Strawberry White Crumble Magnum.
"Creamy strawberry flavoured ice cream covered in cracking white chocolate and crunchy vanilla pieces."

Now, I don’t care for strawberry ice cream in general, and this tasted a lot like strawberry flavored Carnation Instant Breakfast, aka, a bit fake.  The ice cream itself wasn't great either, not very creamy.

This sounds all negative.  And, I really didn't like the ice cream.  But ... the white chocolate coating was the perfect thickness, and was pleasantly sweet.  I really loved the crunch from the "crunchy vanilla pieces" mixed throughout.

Just the coating would make for a nice white chocolate confection.  I wish I could get that, and leave the ice cream behind.
Salted Caramel Magnum.
"Creamy vanilla with a salted caramel swirl, coated in cracking Magnum milk chocolate with a silver finish."

The silver finish was stunning.  Under the silver paint was a milk chocolate layer of the perfect thickness to give it a great snap as you bit into it.  They really do have the coating thickness nailed on these treats.
Salted Caramel: inside.
Inside was fairly creamy vanilla ice cream, with a salted caramel swirl throughout.  It was sweet, but I didn't really detect the promised salty aspect.  I didn't love it, but it was better than the strawberry ice cream.

Overall, this was fine, but not particularly interesting.
Ego Caramel Magnum.
“Premium creamy vanilla ice cream covered in two layers of thick cracking Magnum chocolate encasing a thick caramel sauce.”

Wow, I finally, finally found a Magnum that I really enjoyed!

Yes, it was the same basic vanilla ice cream inside that isn’t particularly remarkable, but it is what surrounded it that made it great.
Ego Caramel: Inside.
There were three layers of coating.  Each alone was fine, but together, they were a magic trifecta.

The outermost was a classic thick milk chocolate shell.  Inside was a thick layer of caramel, and finally a dark chocolate layer.

The layers were crunchy, so sweet, and just totally delicious.

Like with the strawberry white crumble, I would have even been happy eating just the coating.  In this case, I really think it would work, a 3 layer chocolate bar?  Totally.  The ice cream was totally unnecessary.
Honeycomb Crunch.
"Smooth and creamy honeycomb ice cream covered in a thick layer of Magnum cracking milk chocolate and crunchy honeycomb bits."

Ok, now this one I was super excited for.  I love honeycomb.  Why the US doesn't really have honeycomb I'll never understand.  But it shows up everywhere in Australia.  Apparently, even in the ice cream.
Honeycomb Crunch: Inside.
The honeycomb flavored ice cream was very, very sweet, but more interesting than the standard vanilla.  Still not very creamy though.

The milk chocolate shell had the perfect snap as always, but was even better  because it had crunchy bits of honeycomb inside.

This was solid, probably my second favorite flavor I tried, but, actually, too sweet for me overall.
Magnum White.
"Vanilla bean ice cream dipped in white chocolate."

I actually kinda enjoyed this, which is surprising given how simple it is.   Yes, just vanilla ice cream coated in white chocolate.  No extra fun elements to add crunch in the coating, no core of decadent caramel, just vanilla and white chocolate.

But I let it get nicely melty, and the ice cream was decently creamy.  The white chocolate was sweet.  I had it alongside a black coffee, and it was the perfect combination, almost like an affogado.  I'd do it again.

[ No Photo ]
Peppermint Magnum.

"Premium peppermint ice cream covered in thick cracking Magnum dark chocolate. "

I love minty things, but this was just basic green mint ice cream, again, not creamy.  The coating was decent dark chocolate.  Overall, not very interesting.

[ No Photo ]
Magnum Almond.

"Vanilla bean ice cream dipped in milk chocolate and almonds."

The plain vanilla ice cream never does it for me, and the milk chocolate shell was pretty boring.  The slivered almonds added crunch, but weren't enough to save this one for me.

Cornetto

Cornetto is the line of packaged ice cream cones.  As far as I can tell, they are just Australia's version of a Drumstick, which I've reviewed before.  I've also reviewed the fancier packaged Cornettos found in Zurich.

I only tried a few basic flavors in Australia, but in general, I thought they were better than their American counterparts, and the ice cream itself was better than inside the Magnums.
Classic: Vanilla & Choc Nut.
"Delicious vanilla ice cream with chocolate and nuts, crunchy wafer and of course the chocolatey tip!"

Yup, classic.

The vanilla ice cream was basic, but got nicely creamy as it melted.  The cone had a chocolate layer inside so it stayed crispy against the ice cream.  The nuts and chocolate on top seemed just like token offerings, not substantial enough to add much.

A very basic treat, but good enough for what it was.  Much better than a Drumstick, as the cone held up better.
Classic Supreme Chocolate
"A creamy mixture of milk and dark chocolate, topped with white chocolate, hazelnuts and meringue balls."

I liked this much more than the classic vanilla.

The chocolate ice cream was a decent chocolate flavor, decently creamy.  Much better than the ice cream inside the Mangums, but not remarkable.

The toppings were tasty though, I liked the crunch of the white chocolate and the nuts, although I didn't really notice the meringues.  Better than vanilla, but not particularly notable.

Other

I also tried a handful of other assorted treats.  I'll just group them all here together.  While the Cornetto and Magnum lines are the most extensive, I think these are more classics.  Or at least, I got that impression from my Australian friends.
Golden Gaytime.
"Toffee and vanilla-flavoured centre, dipped in a scrumptious chocolate coating and covered in crunchy biscuit pieces".

Ok, yes. It is called a Golden Gaytime. And the tagline is "It's hard to have a Gaytime on your own." It a classic, been around since 1959. It has staying power!

I've had a number of these over the years, but I never love them. I almost love the crumble coating, but, it isn't actually "crunchy biscuit pieces", and always seems a bit soggy or mushy to me. I want more crunch. The chocolate layer isn't thick like a Magnum, so it pales in comparison. And the ice cream? Also not remarkable. The ice cream is clearly two different flavors, and one is vanilla, but the other is just sweet, and I wouldn't identify it as toffee.

Every time I have one of these it tends to make me grumpy. The coating is *almost* really tasty, but the toffee ice cream is just way too sweet.
Golden Gaytime Sanga.
"Toffee flavoured reduced fat ice cream sandwiched between two biscuit layers, partially dipped in compound chocolate and topped with biscuit crumbs."


Well, Streets is on board the "Golden Gaytime all the things" trend.  Since I don't actually like Golden Gaytimes very much, I was hopeful this might be more to my liking.

It was a fairly innovative item, not just because it was yet another spin on a Golden Gaytime.  

The novel part to me was the fact that only one half had the biscuit layers, the other half was sans biscuit, just with chocolate coating.  I really thought the whole thing would be a real ice cream sandwich, and the half with chocolate would dip the entire thing.  Be warned, because if you grab it from the chocolate side, you'll quickly find it doesn't have the desired structural integrity.

Anyway.  I think I liked it marginally more than a regular Golden Gaytime.  

The problem is that I just don't like their toffee ice cream.  It is far too sweet.  The vanilla stripe in the middle was fine, but the orange toffee parts were just way, way too sweet.

The biscuits were ... eh?  Not particularly good, no real flavor to them, not even really any texture to them.  Very plain.

The chocolate dip and biscuit crumbs tasted rather stale.

So, yeah.  Too sweet ice cream, boring biscuits, stale chocolate.  Not really a winner for me.
Bubble O' Bill.
"An Australian Icon! Bubble O' Bill is a classic blend of strawberry, chocolate and caramel ice confection, with a mega bubblegum nose, and a bullet hole through his hat."

Sooo creamy.

I like the chocolate quite a bit.  The caramel was the same as Gaytime caramel to me, too sweet and fake tasting.  Strawberry also too fake.  But the chocolate was very enjoyable, as was the chocolate coating on the back.

The bubble gum nose?  CRAZY SWEET.
Calippo Raspberry Pineapple.
"A juicy and tangy raspberry & pineapple refreshment."
One day, the ice cream freezer only had these.  They didn't look exciting, but, hey, I wanted something, so I grabbed one.  I had no idea what was going to be inside my tube.
Calippo Raspberry Pineapple: Inside.
It was basically a push-up pop.

The raspberry and pineapple were both quite strong flavors.  It was very sweet, but refreshing enough on a hot day, and it made me feel like a kid again.  They also come in lemon and cola lemonade flavors.
Banana Paddle Pop.
Ok, next up, the paddle pop.  These were always the last to go from the ice cream freezer.  Magnums and Cornettos disappeared fast, but, Paddle Pops were clearly the rejects.  And another classic, these have been around even longer than Golden Gaytimes, Paddle Pops were launched in
1953.

Available in chocolate, banana, and rainbow.

These are the most basic ice cream treat you can get, just an ice cream bar, on a stick.  So simple, but it sometimes just really hits the spot.

The ice cream is low fat, but it melts really nicely, and I thought it was the creamiest of all of their treats.  The banana flavor is nice, not super fake tasting, although it obviously is.  Really quite pleasant, although it isn't anything fancy.

The chocolate version is like our fudgicles, not something I ever really love, so I always went for the other flavors.
Rainbow Paddle Pop.
I'm not really sure what the different flavors of the rainbow paddle pop are supposed to be, but it is very similar to the banana version, just with a pink swirled color as well.  Again, just not very interesting.

Update Review: I tried one on my next visit as well.  It didn't get creamy and melty like I wanted it to, likely because it wasn't a hot day, and non-melty ice cream just isn't nearly as satisfying.  I really think I liked these at some point, but, it wasn't on either of these visits.
Pine-Lime Splice.
"First launched in the 1950s, Splice was the original fruit and vanilla split on a stick. For decades it has brought Australians 'the taste of summer' with its delicious range of tangy fruit products, all made with real fruit juice. The combination of creamy vanilla and refreshing fruit ice shell will delight your senses and take you away on a tropical escape."

I saved the best for last.  The Splice is the item I fell in love with on my first visit to Australia.  It is, hands down, still my favorite.  On this recent trip however, the ice cream fridge never contained any Splices, so, we had to go seek them out ourselves.  As you can tell, everyone was quite happy to get them!

So, the Splice.  Simple vanilla ice cream core, on a stick, coated in fruity ice.  Available in raspberry or "pine-lime".  Apparently that is a flavor that makes sense in Australia.  I think it means pineapple and lime?

I know this doesn't sound like it should be anything special.  But ... it is.  Seriously, the most perfect treat for a hot day.  The icy outside is sweet, yet refreshing.  The inside is smooth, creamy, and mellow.  It melts perfectly.  You have to eat it pretty fast on a hot or sunny day, but that is just part of the experience.  I love how the textures combine.

This reminds me of a treat I used to have at the local ice cream stand in my hometown, where they had Slush Puppies (aka, flavored icy drinks) and soft serve ice cream, and you could order a creation that was a Slush Puppy with vanilla ice cream swirled on top.  I always got this (blue raspberry flavored ice, vanilla ice cream), and loved it for the contrast of sweet ice and creamy ice cream, exactly like you have with a Splice.  Splices are also similar to Solero bars in many countries by Unilever, which I've reviewed before.

I love these things.  
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Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Good Times Artisan Ice Cream, Sydney

I live in San Francisco.  The land where it is ice cream weather perhaps ... 2 days a year.  For about 2 hours on each of those days.  It makes me very sad, as I love eating ice cream in the sun.  Soft serve ice cream in particular.  In a cone.  With toppings.  I miss it.

I was thrilled to discover that soft serve is a fad in Sydney, which does make sense, given the incredible weather.  The first day I was in town I *had* to visit Aqua S, the best soft serve I discovered on my last two trips, and of course I needed to go to Messina for gelato as it is such a Sydney institution, but, as I neared the end of my trip, it was time to check out somewhere new.

Good Times Artisan Ice Cream, in Pott's Point.  I don't actually remember how I learned about the place, I think it probably popped up when I was Instagram stocking someone, but, it was on my radar before I arrived, and managed to stay on my short list, even though I hadn't actually heard much about it.  Their soft serve gelato waffle cone sundaes looked ridiculous, and I was eager to try one.

I still don't know much, as they don't have a website (only a Facebook page).  Opened in 2016.  Everything made fresh in house daily.
Ridiculous Ice Cream!
I was Instagram stalking Good Times for a while, so I knew what to expect, and, well, it certainly did live up to it in ridiculousness.

My visit was a weeknight, 7:15pm, when it was 85 degrees out.  Oh, Sydney, I adore you.
Store Front.
While it took a moment to spot the sign that actually said the shop name, the big light up ice cream cone was impossible to miss.

I knew I had found my stop.
Seating.
Inside the shop is quite small, just a handful of chairs in a narrow area.
House Made Waffle Cones.
While I surveyed the menu, the single staff member was making fresh waffle cones by hand.  I recently learned how to do this myself, and I was impressed with how deftly he did it, while barely glancing down.  His all came out shaped correctly, and sealed.  I can't say the same for my own creations.  I guess practice makes perfect!

I was happy to see that if I went with a cone, a very fresh house made cone is what I'd get.
Pre-Packaged Tubs, Ice Cream Sandwiches.
At the end of the store is a freezer with assorted sized tubs in different flavors, plus ice cream sandwiches, and popsicles.

I was a bit disappointed because the tubs had flavors that sounded better than the flavors being offered fresh, but I knew I wanted soft serve, so, I walked past the tempting sounding options, and back to the main counter.
Menu.
The menu is ... limited.   A bit annoying, really.

4 flavors of ice cream, on my visit they were: yoghurt white chocolate, chocolate, hazelnut, and peach iced tea.  Available in one size only, cup or cone, for $8, for as a shake for $6.  No option to twirl, no option for multiple flavors in a cup, no option for kiddie size.

If you want toppings, there are 4 "Bells & Whistles" to pick from, one specifically for each of the base flavors.  So if you wanted the chocolate base with toppings, you'd get the "Chocolate City" with peanut butter cookie, walnut brownies, and chocolate sauce.  If you wanted peach iced tea gelato, you'd get the "Ziggy Star Dust", with almond strawberry praline, meringue, and a white chocolate star.  Etc, etc.  These are all $10, and aren't customizable really.

So if you wanted say, chocolate gelato with chocolate truffles instead of walnut brownies, or nutella instead of chocolate sauce ... sorry.  Or even just white chocolate gelato with chocolate sauce ... nope.

There is also a deep fried ice cream that features Nutella inside or two varieties of mini pies (pecan or custard) that you can get topped with gelato (they recommend the nutella).

Since I didn't want caffeine, these limitations made it easy for me in some ways.  I couldn't have the chocolate or peach iced tea base (it has real black tea), and, since I wanted toppings, I couldn't go for the hazelnut one since that had chocolate truffles and nutella.  So, the yoghurt white chocolate creation, the Halle Barry it was, even though it wasn't really toppings I was interested in.
Halle Barry. $10.
"Spiced Crumble, Honeycomb, Mixed Berry Sauce."

I ordered, and the single staff member got to making my ridiculous creation.

Yogurt white chocolate soft serve gelato, in a house made waffle cone.

Then he pulled out a plastic tub and fetched out several chunks of sugar honeycomb, which he perched deliberately around the swirl on top.  Same with the spiced cookie crumble chunks.  Next came a triangle shaped wafer, stuck right on top.  The final touch was berry sauce drizzled all over it.

This took a while to craft, and it was really hot outside, and the gelato already soft serve, so it was melting very quickly.  And then I had to pay, which I did with a credit card, so that took time.  It was melting. Rapidly.  I was feeling the pressure.

By the time I walked out, it was dripping like crazy all over the place.  Thank goodness it had a catcher around the cone (which, is totally awesome by the way!).  I'm a big enough disaster with a small cone with dip or sprinkles when I can't really lick around it fast enough when its like 75 degrees in New Hampshire, so, this was even more dramatic.  Even softer ice cream, way more stuff on it that made it impossible to lick around, 85 degrees, and also HUGE!!!!  You can't see the scale, nor the bottom half, but it was a very large house made cone and it was loaded up.

I was a sticky mess within seconds.  I had ice cream on my nose.  Running down my arms.  Toppings were coming off and landing in the catcher.

I wanted a sip of water, but I couldn't stop to take a break.  I had to keep eating toppings, had to keep licking.  I knew once I got the toppings off, I could lick around it, and the urgency would at least die down.

It was comical to watch, I'm sure.  I planned to walk around while I ate it, but this too took much focus.  I just stood stopped in my tracks, on the street, with people pretty much staring at me.  The ice cream did look ridiculous, as, well, did I.  Whatever.  Many of them just looked jealous!

Oh, and how was it?  It was good.

The ice cream was actually fairly tart, as it was greek yoghurt (and white chocolate) flavor.  Still sweet, but also tart.  The other flavors aren't yoghurt based, and this was still enhanced with cream, so, certainly not frozen yogurt, but, it had the tartness from it.  The ice cream was really creamy, great texture, super soft, but, obviously, melted a bit too fast.

I didn't really like the sugar honeycomb on it, that is just a strange topping for ice cream.  And I didn't like the berry sauce.  But the crumble was good, and crumble is something I like anyway.  The house made cone was actually quite good, I actually ate that too, and I normally ditch my cones.

So it was good, not amazing, but that said, I didn't really get what I wanted, as I wanted different toppings.  I don't think I'll go back, as the whole thing was just a bit annoying, plus, a $10 ice cream is ridiculous, and I don't actually want something this big (although I did finish it ...).
Good Times Artisan Ice Cream Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Rockpool Bar and Grill, Sydney

Update Review, February 2018 Visit

It took me several years of visiting Sydney before discovering Rockpool Bar & Grill.  But once I did, it took near top place on my "Must Visit" list.  I've reviewed it twice before, always dining in the bar rather than full restaurant, and this visit was no exception.  Feel free to start with those reviews for discussion of the setting, concept, etc, as those were unchanged on this visit (original review, 2016 update review).
A Lovely Feast.
For this meal, I dined with one other.  Our plan was to just have a lighter meal, given our earlier indulgences.  That said, we also did plan to get fish & chips and dessert, so, take "lighter" with a grain of salt here.

We were interested to try out fish & chips at such a high end place, and of course, I wanted to introduce her to the signature dessert.  We threw in some cocktails/mocktails, and a random starter to complete the meal.

It was very good, particularly that starter.  Dish of the night.  I'll gladly return, and even considered a return visit during my limited remaining time in Sydney (as did she, saying, "Can we go back this week?")
The Raging Bull. $24.
"Buffalo Trace Bourbon is stirred with Tenuta Tamburnin Vermut, Cherry Heering and Hellfire Bitters. Served with a new season Drunken Cherry."

Cocktails at Rockpool always sound good, are full of complicated ingredients, and yet, tend to leave me fairly dissatisfied.

This one was no exception.  It sounded like it would have a lot going on.  I expected bitter, I expected spice.  I expected to taste bourbon.

Instead, it was a very mellow drink that tasted more like fruit juice.  Yes, somehow, it tasted like fruit juice, and not much else.

It did have a large, juicy cherry in the bottom (hence the little bowl on the side for the pit), but, even that cherry didn't soak up booze, so "Drunken Cherry" it really did not seem to be.

Not that it tasted bad, but it certainly wasn't good, and $24 was steep for such a boring cocktail.
Grilled Figs with Stracciatella, Almonds and Parma Prosciutto. $29.
This came from the Hot Starters section of the restaurant menu, a rather random choice on our part, and something we kinda added on because we felt strange just ordering fish & chips to split.

Wow.  It was amazing.  Dish of the night, no question.

The base was a pool of perfectly ripe, runny stracciatella (e.g. the base that burrata is made from).  It was creamy, gooey, and quite delicious on its own, even better when accented with the oil and balsamic that were drizzled all over it.  I would have been quite happy with just a bowl of this cheese, perhaps with some bread to slather it on.

But the grilled figs are what set the dish apart even further.  Three very large, juicy, grilled figs, with incredible smoky flavor.  I'm not sure how how they got just so much wood smoke flavor into those figs, but it was incredible.  It made me want to try the other wood fire grilled items that Rockpool specializes in (like the seafood).  The figs were topped with thin pieces of prosciutto, which literally melted into the hot figs, enveloping them in a thin layer of salty, slightly porky, goodness.  Much like the stracciatella/oil/balsamic, the prosciutto topped figs alone would have made for a great appetizer.

Finally, almonds.  Little chunks, roasted, crunchy.  Not what I would have ever thought to throw in, but I loved the crunch they added.

I adored this, although I still think it would have worked fine as two separate desserts.  I'm one for creating "perfect bites", and even when I combined different combinations of this, I found that I didn't really want the cheese with the figs & prosciutto, as it tended to mute the flavors.  Still, wonderful, I'd gladly get it again, and hands down favorite dish for both of us.
Shoestring Fries. $6.
Since we were ordering fried fish, we wanted a side to go along with our fish & chips theme.  We had a choice of the thicker hand cut chips that I have had before, or thin shoestring fries.  We could have had our potatoes other ways too, as a potato puree or sautéed with Wagyu fat, garlic, and rosemary, or we could have gone for fried onion rings instead, if we wanted fried, but just something different.

We opted to try the shoestring fries, mostly because they were an item I hadn't tried yet.

The serve was large, a big bowl of thin crispy fries.  They were ... aggressively salted.  "Is it just me, or are the fries a tad too salty?", my companion inquired.  I told her they were more than just a tad too salty.  And I appreciate salt level!

They were fine though.  Freshly fried.  Crispy.  But, just thin fries.

I had a few and planned to not touch them again, until I made an amazing discovery.  Fries dunked in stracciatella.  Yes, really.  We had lots of extra cheese, with no figs (or bread or anything) to go with, and I wasn't going to let it go to waste.  I really liked the combination, and the cheese helped balance the salt.

I probably wouldn't get these again though.
House Ketchup.
As with the onion rings I had my first visit, we were served a pot of housemade ketchup.

I didn't use much, since I preferred to dip my fries in either the stracchiatella or the sauce from the fish, but it was fine, slightly curried.  Now that I knew to expect the curry, I liked it more than my previous visit.
Fried Fish with Sauce Gribiche. $22.
The fried fish was on the Small Plates section of the bar menu, however, our server warned us when we ordered it that it wasn't really a Small Plate, and really was an entree.  Since we were sharing everything, and only ordering one starter, one side, and this, we weren't worried, but, it did turn out to be too much food (particularly as we wanted dessert).

The portion was 4 full pieces of fried fish, perched on top of  a crispy potato slice, all on a mound of gribiche sauce, with a lemon wedge on the side.

The fried fish was decent.  Moist enough white fish inside, fairly flaky, not fishy, well coated in batter, crispy.  It was a touch too oily for my tastes though.

It looked like there were 5 pieces, with the base piece thinner, perhaps a different type of fish.  I snagged that one as my second piece to try something different.  My companion was clearly a bit jealous as it was obviously more crispy.  It made a serious crunch sound when I cut into it.  But ... I was confused.  I knew it was thin and so I didn't taste much fish, and it was really oily, worse than the previous piece, but ... something didn't seem quite right.  On my second bite, i figured it out.  It wasn't fish!  It was a slice of potato, battered in the same batter, fried crispy.  A pretty awesome move on their part really, but, again, just too oily for me.

The gribiche was fine, although fairly mild, not much flavor to it.
Warm Rhubarb and Strawberry Pudding with Vanilla Sauce. $26.
This dessert was certainly part of the reason I was at Rockpool.  But unlike "normal Julie", this is a case where it really was only a part of the reason.  Its a fabulous dessert, but, I've had such amazing other dishes at Rockpool that it doesn't entirely rule my decision to go there.  I'll say it was ... 60% of the reason :)

This is a signature dish, and one that is always on the menu, just with different fruits.  This time, it was actually the exact same as my previous visit at similar time of year: strawberry rhubarb, which did disappoint me slightly, but still, I couldn't wait to introduce my dining companion to this dish.

It really is unlike any other dessert I've ever had, anywhere.  You've read my reviews of it twice before, but to recap: a base of pound cake that soaks up everything else, a layer of stewed fruit, and then ... light and fluffy souffle pudding, with a brulee top, and crispy bits of almonds, garnished with powdered sugar.

It arrives without the vanilla sauce, which is poured on tableside, in a moderate quantity.  The rest is left behind to use as you wish (and, use it you will!).
Warm Rhubarb and Strawberry Pudding: Close Up.
It is massive.  It looks, well, entirely unfamiliar.  And as you dig into the layers, it doesn't make any more sense, unless you know what to expect.  I loved watching my companion take this all in.

The brulee top was my favorite element, caramelized, crispy, and the bits of candied almond added a nice crunch.  I wanted more of them.

The souffle was light and fluffy, not eggy, perfectly risen.  Rather incredible, really.  The fruit I didn't care for though, the rhubarb was too tart, the strawberry too sweet.  I also never really want the cake layer, and this time, there was shockingly little of it, just a tiny, tiny little bit in the very center, so, for that I was glad.

I still loved the vanilla sauce, and, given how full I was, it was the only thing I could really fit into my stomach at that point anyway.

This didn't come together for me as well as it had in the past, but it was still a very unique offering, and I liked the warm dessert, the textures, and, well, that vanilla sauce.

Update Review, December 2016 Visit

On my last visit to Sydney, I discovered Rockpool Bar & Grill on my final night in town, and really wished I had found it sooner.  I had an amazing meal, which, you can read all about in that review.  So on my more recent visit to Sydney, it was no question that I'd return to Rockpool Bar & Grill.
Drinks, Bar Food, Dessert!
I visited on a Saturday evening, and again was able to snag a table in the bar area by arriving before 6pm.  From the bar, you can order anything off the regular menu, or the bar menu, and mix and match as you please, which we did.

My dining companion and I split an appetizer from the main dining room menu, some small bar dishes, and of course, dessert.

The food was good but not as mind blowing as my previous visit.  The service was as awkward as last time, in a way where you could tell they were trying to be non-invasive and polite, but just came across as strange.  The cocktail menu was fascinating, and the wine and liquor lists scary, as there were items like a single cocktail for $475, and glasses of wine for $350.

I'm glad I got in another visit, and I'd still gladly return.  And one of these days, I'll have to visit the real dining room, and perhaps get a real entree ...
 TUXEDO #4. $22.
"Neil Perry’s Barrel Select Patron Tequila stirred down with Hendricks Quinine Cordial, dry Italian Vermouth and a touch of Apricot Brandy. Savoury and contemplative."

For a cocktail, I went with a selection from the Seasonal Favorites section.  It jumped out at me instantly, as it had both Tequila and Gin (or, so I thought.  It turns out, I just didn't parse it properly "Hendricks Quinine Cordial" is actually a cordial made by Hendricks, and I read this was "Hendricks gin and quinine cordial", doh!)  So, no gin.

I also didn't taste tequila at all, which makes even less sense to me now that I know it wasn't gin either.  The flavors were strong, very alcoholic, but not harsh exactly.  It certainly wasn't what I was hoping for though.

The glass it was served in was very precious looking.  Etched glass, small in size.  One side was coated with something on the outside, that I think was apricot peel?  I'd guess some kind of citrus, like orange actually, but that doesn't match any of the ingredients in the cocktail.  It was confusing, really.  Was I supposed to lick it off, a la a salted rim on a margarita?  It was chewy, and kinda like sawdust, not particularly appealing.  Really strange.

I wouldn't get this again.
Fried Calamari with Romesco (half-portion). $31.
We picked a starter from the regular menu, from the "Hot Starters" section.  Since we were sharing it, the kitchen split it onto two plates, so this is only a half portion.

Salt and pepper calamari is a staple on the Qantas first class lounge menus in Sydney and Los Angeles (catered by the same executive chef, Neil Perry), so I've had it many times.  While the version in LA didn't impress me, the one is Sydney is part of what made me declare the Qantas F lounge food some of the best food anywhere in Sydney, and remains the best salt and pepper calamari I've ever had.  I was very eager to see what the full service restaurant could do with fried calamari.

The answer, unfortunately, was lackluster.  The calamari was cooked ok, it wasn't rubbery or anything, but the light breading didn't seem to coat it very well, and was falling off in many places.  It was just pretty meh.

The calamari was served on top of a bitter radicchio slaw of sorts, too bitter for my liking.  The romesco was fine.

Overall, very meh, and I wouldn't get this again.  Pricey for a lackluster dish.
 Kinkawooka King Prawn Cutlet with Aioli. $8. 
For my "main", I went with an item from the Bar menu, small plates section, rather than a real main from either menu.

The reason was simple: I had been snacking in my hotel executive lounge right before, and I just wasn't very hungry.  Add in an appetizer and plans to get the awesome, large, dessert, and I wanted something small.

I really was eying the prawn po-boy, but, I knew that would be sizable, and wanted something smaller.  Thus, the prawn cutlet it was, sold as individual patties for $8 each.  I hoped it would be somewhat like the amazing crumbed fish burger from the Qantas lounge, just, without the bun and lettuce.

The plating of this was really funny.  Our first dish was from the main restauarant menu, and was plated accordingly.  I knew the bar food usually looked a bit more rustic, but still thought it would be pretty.  This was ... yup, a cutlet, a wedge of lemon, and a puddle of aioli, all just popped on a plate.  No extra garnish, no embellishment.  It really made me laugh.

The cutlet was fine.  Very crispy, not oily, good breading.  The prawn inside was firm but not chewy, not mushy.  Fine, but, a bit boring on its own.  It seemed like it belonged inside a fish burger, which, I think the po'boy would have been.

The aioli on the side was ok, good enough garlic flavor, but not super rich and creamy.

Overall, this was all fine, executed well, but, boring.  It made me wish I ordered the po-boy, with a brioche bun and flavorful mayo instead.
House Made Chorizo Dog with Jalapeño Hot Sauce. $18.
From the bar menu, sandwiches section, my dining companion went for the hot dog, at my strong endorsement from my previous visit.

It looked incredible, and she said it was the best hot dog she had ever had, which, well, is exactly how I felt when I had it before.

I took some of the jalapeño hot sauce for my cutlet, and mixed it with the aioli, and it was incredible.  Spicy and fresh, it combined perfectly with the creamy aioli, and gave my otherwise fairly bland dish some serious kick.  This jalapeño hot sauce is magic, and really should be bottled up and marketed!
Warm Rhubarb and Strawberry Pudding with Vanilla Sauce. $23. 
And finally, the real reason I was there.  Ok, that isn't quite true, I know Rockpool has great food and cocktails, but it was my memory of the warm pudding with vanilla sauce, made with blackberries last time, that I just couldn't get out of my head.

Some kind of pudding seems to always be on the Rockpool Bar & Grill menu, the fruit variety just switches out seasonally.  For our visit this time, it was strawberry and rhubarb.  Just like blackberries, rhubarb isn't a favorite of mine, but, I was willing to take the gamble.

I'm glad I did.

The dish arrived looking exactly like it did on my previous visit.  The server poured vanilla sauce over it table-side, and left us the rest, just like last time.

The dessert was warm, fresh from the oven.  The base was again a cake that I was ambivalent about, and above that was a layer of stewed strawberries and rhubarb.  I didn't care for the fruit choices though, as I expected, sweet, tart, and mushy, and I could have easily just done without it entirely.

But on top of that was the magic soufflé like layer.  Light and fluffy, yet creamy and custardy.  With a slightly crispy caramelized brûlée top.  And then lots of vanilla sauce.  That layer, with the extra sauce, is where the magic is.  Seriously, it is like the best soufflé ever, yes, better than my favorite Cafe Jacqueline, then also combined with creme brûlée, one of my favorite desserts, for that extra crispy top.  And, don't get me started about being left with a little pot of crème anglaise, which I obviously didn't let go to waste.

Even though I knew what to expect this time around, it still was a pretty stunning dessert, and still unlike anything I've had elsewhere.  Sure, I could care less about the cake and didn't like the fruit, but it didn't matter, this was a really excellent dessert, and I can't wait to try it sometime with a fruit layer that I actually like!

Original Review, February 2016 Visit

For our final Saturday night in Sydney, Ojan and I decided to finally re-visit Rockpool Bar & Grill. We went the first time during our first visit to Sydney, and I have a vague memory of sitting in the bar eating a burger, but I don't recall much else. It clearly didn't leave an impression.

So why return? Well, Rockpool Bar & Grill is one of Chef Neil Perry's places in Sydney, and I rather adore his food, even when it is served at the Qantas First Class lounge in the airport. Neil Perry's "flagship" establishment is Rockpool, where only a 4 course $150 or 8 course $185 menu are served. The place sounds fantastic, has been three hats by the Good Food Guide for years, but, we weren't up for such an extended (and pricey) meal.

So Rockpool Bar & Grill it was. Now, the name of this place, combined with the fact that it is an entirely separate establishment from the flagship Rockpool, might lead you to believe that this is, um, a casual bar and grill. It is not, unless items like "Warm Salad of Wood Fire Grilled Quail with Smoked Tomato and Black Olives" or $290 full blood wagyu steaks are your idea of casual bar food. The dining room is a formal affair, with a huge menu focused around seafood and steaks. Reservations, made in advance, are required. It has a coveted two hats from the Good Food Guide.

But the other side of the establishment is actually a bar area (albeit a fancy one), with a more casual menu. While still very upscale, the bar menu is a bit less expensive, and more importantly, no reservations are taken. If you arrive on the earlier side, getting seated is no problem.

So, let's review: "Rockpool" could mean any of 3 establishments: Rockpool, the degustation only flagship down the street, Rockpool Bar & Grill Restaurant, a la carte but formal and high end, and Rockpool Bar & Grill bar area, which is where we headed.

Now, I have to give a bit more context. I had been advocating for visiting Rockpool Bar and Grill pretty much the entire time we were there. Ojan never wanted to go. He also didn't remember it being great, and had no reason to want to go get bar food, or go somewhere fancier, when we could just keep eating casual delicious thai food. I wouldn't say I dragged him there exactly, but, he was certainly not excited, particularly when I told him we were going for hot dogs, onion rings, and dessert.

It was excellent, the best meal of our trip. The food was good, service attentive, and dessert incredible. While my first visit wasn't memorable, I won't forget a couple dishes from this visit for a long time. Ojan talked about it frequently afterwards, wondering why we waited until the end of our trip to go there, mourning that we hadn't gone sooner so we could go multiple times during our trip (he really did propose going there the next night, our final night in Sydney, but, alas, not open on Sundays). We'll obviously return.

There was so much appeal to Rockpool Bar and Grill for me. Bar dining really is ideal for me, particularly at a nicer place like Rockpool Bar and Grill. You get the amazing food (and opportunity to order dessert from the full menu!), but don't need to get quite as dressed up, and can go without a reservation. Service is more casual, the atmosphere is more relaxed, etc. Sure, you miss out on amuse bouches and other little extras, and it isn't the same as fine dining, but, for me, I'd generally rather be comfortable than have all that.

The Setting

Exterior.
While I may not have remembered the food from my first visit to Rockpool Bar and Grill, I did actually remember the building, only because I remember it feeling somewhat ominous. The restaurant is housed inside the City Mutual building, a historic art deco building with an elaborate facade. The interior is also a bit crazy, I don't have photos unfortunately, but I recommend a trip to the bathroom, which involves steep back staircases, long narrow hallways, and a journey into the bowels of the building, past all their stunning private dining areas.
Bar and Chandelier.


We walked past the hostess stand that overlooks the main, formal dining area with its open kitchen straight to the bar area on the side. The bar side has standard bar seating, but also a generous number of tables with chairs. Tables, chairs, even the rug, were all black. Some tables had little candles to add a bit of light, but, overall, it was not a bright room.

We arrived right when they opened, so getting a table was no problem. The room did quickly fill up. The bar itself was mostly a gathering point for pre-dinner drinks, whereas the tables were filled with folks who, like us, just wanted some tasty food. We were seated at a table on the edge of the room, likely hidden to the side since we weren't quite dressed up to Sydney standards. Which was fine with us, our little table was quite cozy.

The bar has a stunning chandelier above it, made from wine glasses (2682 Riedel Riesling glasses to be exact). You can read all about it in the bar menu, as I'm sure people ask constantly about it.

Drinks

Since Rockpool Bar & Grill is highly Emil-approved, I knew to expect an excellent drink menu. It did not disappoint. Plenty of wines by the glass (including a $150 Shiraz, yes, that is the price for a single glass), classic cocktails (5 that have been on the menu since they opened in 2009), seasonal favorites cocktails (where I focused my time), a "choose your own adventure" martini menu (aka, choose your gin, your vermouth, your style, your garnish), non-alcoholic cocktails, and then pages and pages for spirits, aperitifs, digestifs, and beer.

The bar menu is 40 pages long, only 2 pages of which are dedicated to food. This is a serious bar menu.

I went for cocktails, but, the "exclusive and rare whisky" section certainly jumped out too.
Hoshimotos Royal Punch. $22. 


"A Japanese influenced Champagne Punch. Yuzu infused Sake, Bitter Cherry, Tanqueray. Yuzu Marshmallow "

Our server was ... very eager to take our order. Perhaps because they had just opened and she didn't have any other tables yet, but, she came to take our drink order the moment we sat down. We asked for more time. She gave us a few minutes, but not nearly enough to take in the massive drink menu. In a panic, I rush ordered, and went for the Hoshimotos Royal Punch. I'm really not sure why, I think I saw gin and marshmallow, and somehow glossed over the multiple mentions of yuzu, aka, citrus, aka something I don't really like.

My drink arrived quickly, as the bar wasn't backed up yet. The marshmallow on top, toasted, was a stunner. Ojan immediately tried to grab it to try it. Hands off! The drink also had a straw and a swizzle stick to stir.

I took a few sips and ... doh. Why did I order yuzu? The drink was kinda sweet, and mostly all I could taste was yuzu. Oops.

The marshmallow was great though, toasted to perfection. As soon as I finished my marshmallow, an attentive server whisked the skewer that held it away.

But, I really didn't like the drink. I drank a little, and then tried to dilute the yuzu by adding water. I still didn't like it. Rather than keep "suffering", I decided to just accept my losses, and order another drink. When the server delivered that one, I asked her to take the remainder away, which she did without question.

But then, a few minutes later, she returned to ask if something was wrong with it. I said no, that I just didn't like it, and that it was my fault for ordering it. She didn't ask any follow up questions, and I assumed she accepted my answer and moved on. When our bill arrived, this cocktail was removed. A great gesture on their part, but really, this was all my fault, not theirs!
Smoked Peanut Old Fashioned. $21.


"Peanut Washed Woodford Bourbon stirred with Cherry, Spice, Bitters and served smoking."

For my second drink, I took more time to consider what I wanted, and went for the smoked peanut old fashioned. I wanted something a bit more grown up, not sweet, and, hey, why not have it be smoking too?

A glass was brought to me, a nice heavy glass that I'm sure Emil would approve of, with a orange twist and large cube of ice inside. The cocktail came in another vessel, poured, smoking as promised, into my glass at the table.

I liked this drink quite a bit, and had to be careful not to drink it too quickly, as, after all, it was basically just straight bourbon. I loved the bitterness, the smokiness, the complexity. And hard to ignore the gorgeous ice cube. I'd get it again.
Pablow. $9.
"Pineapple, Pink Grapefruit, Orange, Peychaud’s Bitters and Soda."

Ojan actually had an entire section of the bar menu he could pick from as well, titled "COCKTAILS IN THE NAME OF TEMPERANCE", or, "Non-alcoholic beverages for whenever the stoic urge to abstain takes a hold of you... "

The selection was interesting at least, including an ice tea with sherbet in it and a kombucha. Be Ojan opted for the Pablow, which came beautifully garnished with a large orange slice and chunk of pineapple.

At first he declared it "just juice", but, after a few minutes, he said it grew on him. I didn't try it, as "just juice" wasn't exactly a compelling description and the bar did have watermelon behind it, so, I stayed away from all fruit.

The Food

Moving on to food, the bar menu has two pages devoted to food, including one entire page of small plates (ranging from olives and beef jerky, to finger sandwiches, to buffalo hot wings), 6 sandwiches (including their famous burgers), 4 main plates (wagyu bolognese, the classic Rockpool minute steak, fish, and a beef salad), and a slew of sides. For desserts, it just says that the "complete dessert menu is available" (obviously, a selling point for me, as I am the dessert girl.)

We were pretty happy with the bar menu, as I had been craving good fries and onion rings (I know, don't ask what got into me, but it is what I wanted). I was also excited about the hot dog (yes, you are still reading the right blog, I have a thing for hot dogs ...), but we did also take a glance at the full restaurant menu, from which we could order as well. Our server also let us know it was fine to mix and match, selecting things from either menu as we wanted.

The full restaurant menu is nearly as overwhelming as the 40 page drink menu. Just to start, it had 8 different "cold bar" items (caviar, oysters, fish crudo, yellowfin tartare, etc), 8 "Salads and other things" (4 different salads, steak tartare, grilled baby octopus, etc), and 10 "Hot Starters" (including many grilled and roasted items, plus steamed clams or mussels, fried calamari, and a warm salad). I was interested in the wood fire grilled figs with stracciatella, pistachios, and mint from the hot starters menu, but Ojan nixed it. The wood fire grilled baby octopus with lemon, oregano, capers, and smoked eggplant also sounded pretty good, but again, he nixed. Moving on to main dishes were 5 pastas, 5 "Seafood from the charcoal oven", and 5 "Main Plates". The sautéed abalone, king brown mushroom, and bottarga with maltagliati pasta jumped out, but Ojan wasn't feeling the abalone. I also could have picked the Black Lip abalone with tarragon, konbu, and caper butter main plate, for $70, or, the jaw dropping rock lobster thermidor for $320! The vegetarian main plate option was pumpkin kibbeh with chickpeas, spinach, garlic yoghurt, and pickles, although there was also a veggie pasta, handkerchief pasta with hand pounded pesto, cherry tomato, and ricotta. And THEN all of the main dishes from the wood fired grill and rotisserie, including about 15 different beef choices (all aged in house), plus a few others. Oh, and then the side dishes, including potatoes 4 different ways: potato and cabbage gratin (a classic Neil Perry dish, we had it at the Qantas First class lounge in LAX, sebago potatoes sautéed with Wagyu fat, garlic, and rosemary, potato puree, or hand cut fat chips. Does the charcoal roasted Japanese pumpkin and sweet potato with garlic yogurt count as potato too? If so, five potato dishes. There were also other decadent cheesy creations and some requisite green vegetables.

So many choices. Overwhelming, really. We decided to just stick with the bar menu, plus desserts, to keep it simple, but I did see tables around us mixing and matching. Next time.

I knew I wanted dessert, and we weren't starving, so we thought we were keeping it pretty simple and small by opting to share a salad, two side dishes, and a single hot dog. Um, before we knew it, our table was piled in food. I'd say oops, but, it was delicious, so we didn't exactly mind ...
Onion Rings with House-Made Ketchup. $9.
First up was the onion rings. Like I said, I was craving good onion rings, and figured onion rings at a fancy place would be excellent.

They weren't quite what I wanted. Rather than standard white onion, they were made with red onion. I actually liked that aspect, but, it was a bit different, as they were harsher. The onion was tempura coated, rather than standard breading. Again, fine, except that they were just way too oily. I'm not sure if you can tell from the photo, but they were just drenched in oil (yet somehow still crispy ...). They were also crazy salty.

I wanted to love these, but just didn't. Ojan did like them, although, I think inspired by the tempura batter, he wanted a soy dipping sauce to go with them, rather than the ketchup (more on that ketchup soon). The serving was far more than the two of us wanted, particular as we ordered fries too. They would have been better to share with at least one more person. The $9 price was fine.

I'd skip these next time, and they didn't quite satisfy my onion ring craving.
Hand Cut Chips. $12.
We also ordered the fries, er, chips, mostly because I wanted rings and Ojan wanted fries, so we decided to just get both, particularly since we were sharing a main dish, we figured this wasn't overkill. Shoestring fries were also an option, but we opted for the thicker chips, since in Australia, we tend to love the wedges.

The chips were a somewhat rustic style, skin on, all different sizes. I liked how big they were, almost like wedges rather than fries. They too were salty, with big salt crystals on the exterior, but I really liked the salt level.

What I didn't like however was the house made ketchup. It was soupy, thin, with a strange spicing. I sorta reminded me of pureed chutney? Neither of us liked the ketchup and it really ruined our experience of eating both the rings and the chips.

But I liked the chips, I just needed something better to dunk them in. I called our attentive waitress over, and asked if there was anything else we could use to dip things in. Sure enough, Rockpool Bar and Grill has a "condiment service" that goes along with the steaks, and one of the condiments is barbecue sauce, so she suggested that.

We got a pot of barbecue sauce, and it was pretty good, definitely better than the ketchup. Really though, I wanted aioli.

Anyway, these were pretty good chips, but, alas, needed better sauce.
Radicchio, Cos and Endive Salad with Palm Sugar Vinaigrette. $9.
I'm not quite sure why we ordered a salad, I think we felt a bit guilty ordering fries, rings, and a hot dog and wanted something to balance out our meal. There were three choices of salads, but one had avocado (I'm allergic), and one was just mixed greens (boring), so we opted for this slightly more interesting sounding one.

It was ... not very good. The radicchio and endive were both super bitter, as you'd expect. The bitterness should have been balanced nicely by the palm sugar vinaigrette, except that the salad was incredibly overdressed and was just too sweet. The dressing also just had nothing going on besides the sweet.

Ojan tolerated this a bit more than me, but still said it was a dud due to the "very boring" dressing. We wouldn't get this again.
House Made Chorizo Dog with Jalapeño Hot Sauce. $18. (Split)
And finally, the chorizo dog. OMG. The kitchen nicely split it for us onto two plates, cut evenly in half.

Ojan wasn't exactly thrilled to be ordering a hot dog, but I really wanted it, so he went along with my plan. Let's just say he was glad I insisted. Two bites into it, he proclaimed, "This hot dog alone was worth coming here for".

So, what made it so amazing?

Let's start with the bun, a fluffy brioche roll, toasted crisp. Excellent vehicle for the dog, no wimpy, soggy bun here.

Next, the garnishes. Under the dog was kraut and pickles, adding freshness, crunch, and tang. Excellent. On top was ketchup and mustard, but the real winning element was the jalapeño hot sauce, served on the side. It was spicy and just totally delicious. We both smothered our portions of dog in it.

This hot dog was very, very good. I realize it is just a hot dog. I realize I was at a fancy restaurant, and could have been eating a house aged wood grilled steak or high end sashimi. But this is what I wanted and I loved it. I'd return for another in a heartbeat. So would Ojan.
Warm Blackberry and Almond Pudding with Vanilla Sauce. $23.


After our pile of fries, rings, and hotdog, we were actually totally full. We considered not getting dessert. And really, we were kinda giddy over that hotdog (seriously, so good!). Ojan said he'd have "one or two bites at most" of a dessert. I looked at the dessert menu. The full size desserts were all a commitment. They cost >$20 each, more than our entree. I figured they'd be huge and epic, and way too much for one person at this point.

The dessert menu also had a section of smaller petit fours, but, not a single one of those jumped out ... cupcakes? Lamingtons? Truffles? Meh. I almost walked away. But I couldn't. One dessert had an incredible sounding ice cream served alongside, so I tried to order just a scoop of that. No dice.

I still almost walked away. But ... I'd seen Instagram photos of a few of the desserts, and I just had to try one. I couldn't decide between the waffles or the pudding, but Ojan helped make that decision, saying he had no interest in the waffle dish. We do both love pudding.

Best. Decision. Ever. Even better than the hot dog decision. When we ordered this, Ojan thought "pudding" in the American sense, but I knew this was a pudding in the British sense. Rockpool Bar and Grill always has some form of this dessert on the menu based on seasonal fruit, and during our visit, it was blackberry. Not what I'd ever pick for my fruit or berry of choice, but, that is what our choice was. (Side note: I'm pretty jealous because the current offering is rhubarb and strawberry, much more my style!)

Anyway, what did we have here? This is so hard to describe. It had so many things going on.

At the very bottom was a cake. I didn't really care for that layer, since meh, I'm just not a cake girl. But above that was a light and fluffy layer, airy like a soufflé. It was incredible. I couldn't get over just how fluffy it was. And then, magically, the top was caramelized, like a crème brûlée. The crispy top is one of the reasons I love crème brûlée, so I was thrilled to see that component here in a totally different style of dish.

And then ... the "vanilla sauce", served in a pitcher on the side. The server poured some on tableside, and then left the rest with us. We smothered the entire thing in it. It was incredible, warm, sweet, and actually vanilla flavored. Oh, and yes, there were big huge blackberries in the pudding, which I wasn't into, but even big blackberries and cake didn't ruin this dessert for me.

This was a thing of wonder. A dessert unlike any I'd had before. It was warm, fluffy, sweet, crispy, fruity, creamy ... it was everything, all rolled into one. I'd get it again in a heartbeat. As would Ojan, Mr. "I'm just having one bite". $23 might seem like a lot for a dessert, but, this was entirely worth it. Best dessert I had in a long, long time.
Rockpool Bar & Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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