Friday, April 15, 2011

Rock Restaurant - Pokolbin, Hunter Valley

When it comes to organising a holiday, I use to be the girl that would plan everything part of the holiday to what we did and what we ate, and it was even scheduled on an hour to hour basis.  However, after one of our Melbourne holidays, Cheesecake Boy got rather overwhelmed. So, I have learnt to relax a bit and try to be spontaneous, but spontaneity always backfires on me and then Cheesecake Boy wishes that I was my organised self again.  With our Hunter Valley getaway, I was pretty relaxed  this time and only booked in two dinners and one lunch.  Rock Restaurant was one of the dinners.

During the day Rock Restaurant is actually Firestick Cafe.  We had lunch at Firestick Cafe last time we came to the Hunter Valley, but I was not impressed.  So, I thought I would give Rock Restaurant a try this time, as some people I know have raved about it, and it's the only two hatted restaurant in the Hunter Valley.  Unfortunately, my camera and dim lighting do not seem to like each other, so it was the best I could do under the conditions.

Now, I asked for a 7pm booking for two, but was asked if I would change the booking to 7.30pm and they also requested for my credit card details before they would confirm the booking in case I  cancelled.  I was expecting that it was going to be a busy night, but when I got there at 7.30pm there was only one couple dining and only four tables including us for the whole night. 

When we were seated, I fell in love with the egg light on the table and wanted to take one home.  However, I'll have to make do with a photo.   The bread came, and there was a choice of wholemeal, white and rye.  I was disappointed when the bread was not warm and it was quite hard to break into, I had to use some force to get through the crust, but the house made butter was fantastic.

Egg light and house made butter
My wholemeal roll

Rock Restaurant has a certain rule where you must order minimum of three tasting plates and dessert is a separate option at about $20 each.  The dishes come in a tasting plate, entree and main size, and the price ranges from $24 - $30 for a tasting plate, $40 - $50 for an entree and $59 - $72 for a main.  The waiter informed us that most people normally go for two tasting plates and an entree and leave room for dessert.  Sounded like a good idea.

The amuse bouche of duck three ways was served and it really got our taste buds going.  Besides that it looked stunning, the duck pate was sensationally smooth and had a great depth of flavour.  The sweet, buttery and crunchy brioche was lovely against the smooth pate and melt in your mouth confit duck.

Amuse bouche - duck three ways

We got a serving of oysters each, and these are definitely some of the best oysters that I had in a while.  They were beautifully creamy and we really wished that we ordered half a dozen each, they were that good.  The shallot and Cabernet Sauvignon dressing added an acidic touch that was not too overpowering.  The expectations were definitely getting high.

Sydney rock oysters, Carrington Bay, $4 each

Forty minutes after the oysters, Cheesecake Boy's first tasting plate of steamed crab and prawn with diamond clams, nantua, truffle and pine mushroom sauce came.  Unfortunately the diamond clams were lukewarm, but perfectly tender.  What was stunning was the nantua, which is the crayfish sauce.  The nantua was wonderfully rich and creamy.

Tasting plate of steamed crab and prawn with diamond clams, nantua, truffle and pine mushroom sauce, $26

My first tasting plate of stuffed and roasted heart with tartare, nasturtium, olive soil and snail came out, and it was so beautifully plated that I didn't know where to start for a moment.  Now, I have never ate duck heart before, so I didn't know what to expect, so I decided that I would try that first.  It was so tender and succulent and the trail of hazelnuts around made it was so lovely to eat.  

The snails were a bit lukewarm and I like my snails usually smothered in butter.  However, I felt that I was eating snails in a garden as the nasturtium, which a type of watercress taste exactly like grass.  I know you are thinking I am crazy, but this goes back to the days of primary school dares and I swear I only had to eat a few blades of grass, but it's a taste that I have never forgotten.  Cows really don't have it bad at all.

Tasting plate of stuffed and roasted heart with tartare, nasturtium, olive soil and snail, $24

Cheesecake Boy's second tasting plate of pan fried Cobia with braised octopus, snow pea, olive and verjuice dressing was served.  I had a taste of the pan fried fish and I can easily say that it was one of the best cooked pieces of fish that I have had the pleasure of eating.  The Cobia was moist, succulent and had a soft, but firm texture.

Tasting plate of pan fried Cobia with braised octopus, snow pea, olive and verjuice dressing, $24

My second tasting plate was scallop tortellini with swiss brown mushrooms, crisp pancetta and Riesling cream.  The tortellini were beautifully tender and the pancetta provided a nice saltiness and crunch.  I always have a preference for a glass of Riesling when we are out for dinner, and this Riesling cream had me swooning over it's luscious creamy richness and subtle taste of Riesling.  My only gripe about this dish was that there was only three pieces of tortellini, and I parted with one so Cheesecake Boy could get a taste.

Tasting plate of scallop tortellini with swiss brown mushrooms, crisp pancetta and Riesling cream, $24

There is definitely a delayed period between courses here, and I was moaning to Cheesecake Boy that I am beginning to feel full, and he felt the same.  However, we continued on as Cheesecake Boy's entree of Blackmores wagu tenderloin and tongue with celeriac remoulade, baby leek and borderlaise sauce. was served.  The entrees are actually slightly bigger than entree size, so we halve our entrees and then swapped plates. 

The wagu is up there as one of the most tender pieces of beef, I have ever had.  It was seriously so tender, the knife glided through it.  With every bite I could taste the rich juiciness and melt in the mouth sensation of the wagu, it was perfectly complemented with the borderlaise sauce.  This dish really let the beef shine.

Entree of Blackmores wagu tenderloin and tongue with celeriac remoulade, baby leek and borderlaise sauce, $50

My entree of wood roasted Golden Plains pork off the rack with trotter terrine, boudin noir and crispy ears, was not as stunning as Cheesecake Boy's wagu but it was a beautful dish nonetheless.  You really do admire all the work that went into each dish here, and this entree was no exception.  I only got a thumb print size of crackling and wished there was more, as the crackling was so crisp.  The boudin noir and wafer of crispy ears was lovely, but trotter terrine was my favourite element of this dish.  It was served with a finish of crisp breadcrumbs on top to add to the texture and had a wonderful softness inside.  My main issue with this entree would have to be that I found the pork to be a bit undercooked  in parts for my liking, only just slightly though.

Entree of wood roasted Golden Plains pork off the rack with trotter terrine, boudin noir and crispy ears, $40

When we order sides, it's normally a side with potatoes.  The portion of wood roasted potatoes was much larger than I expected.  These were so good, crisp on the outside and soft and fluffy inside.  The wood roasting added an extra dimension of flavour and make them very addictive.  However, they took us over our limit and we really could not finish them off.

Wood roasted potatoes, $9

Tragedy hit us, as our stomachs can't take in anymore food.  I really wished that I had room for dessert, as I had my eye on the souffle, but slow and delayed eating really fills me up.  By the time we finished the entrees, we had been there for slightly over 2 hours.  

However, we are still presented with a palate cleanser of granita, which I have totally forgotten what flavour it was.  I think by this time my mind was thinking of soaking in the spa bath and getting a nice deep sleep.  I had a couple of bites of the granita and it was definitely refreshing, my taste buds were singing but not my full stomach.

Granita palate cleanser

Our lovely and attentive waiter, nicely boxes up our petit fours of almond bread and chocolate and raspberry truffles for the road.  We eventually, get to the petit fours and the almond bread was quite thick and not quite crisp all the way through.  The chocolate and raspberry truffle was delicious on the other hand.  It also had bits of hazelnut throughout the truffle.

Petit fours of almond bread and dark chocolate and raspberry truffles

Rock Restaurant is special, it's definitely a case of quality over quantity, so you really pay for it.  There are so many elements on each plate and so much care goes into each dish, so we forgave the delays.  Our only issue with Rock Restaurant is that the environment is not the most intimate and it's not a cosy restaurant.  It's not the type of food that will bowl you over creatively, but in it's technically exquisite and the French touches are exceptionally executed.

Happy eating, Dumpling Girl.

Rock Restaurant
Debeyers Road
Pokolbin  NSW  2320

Ph: (02)  4998 6968

Rock Restaurant on Urbanspoon


Not Quite Nigella said...

What very special place indeed! I have tried chicken heart but not duck heart and when I tried it it was very chewy but it sounds like you enjoyed this a lot more :) and I'm also an over planner !

Tina@foodboozeshoes said...

Looks like quite a lot of food, and perhaps slow service? I've been to Firestick, which was nice, but I imagine it'd be pretty eerie and dark at night

Dumpling Girl said...

Hi Not Quite Nigella, it's a shame about your chicken heart. Hehe, glad I'm not the only over planner :)

Hello Tina, the portions are small but the delayed periods between courses is what really gets the better of you.

The Hunter at night, is completely eerie and dark, sometimes I thought we were in Sleepy Hollow when we were driving around at night, lol.

susan said...

I like to have everything planned when I go on holidays which is understandable cause then you don't have to stress over what needs to get booked when you are there. The food looks amazing! I also get really full at these places with all the rich food.

Dumpling Girl said...

Hi Susan, planning is definitely the way to go, I'm sure secretly Cheesecake Boy thinks so too, lol.

muppy said...

This looks very special indeed. Pity that not every part of the experience was perfect.

Dumpling Girl said...

Hi muppy, it was a shame that the service was slow, but we still enjoyed it and it wasn't a total lost.

Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said...

Last time I was up at the Hunter I didn't get to have dinner here as our schedule didn't coordinate with their dinner schedule but we did lunch at Firestick Cafe instead. The husband and I enjoyed it, so would be interested to find out what you guys didn't like about it.

Dumpling Girl said...

I think that the cafe is overhyped for what it is. I remembered I had a pasta dish and it was very plain. We also had a pizza and found it average. Lastly, I ordered an apple tarte tatin, the apples were super thin, cooked but hardly caramelised you couldn't see or taste the butter and sugar. It was more like finely sliced apples baked on puff pastry. However, Cheesecake Boy loved the lemon delicious, but that was it.

All this and it took them 10 mins to find my booking. However, missing bookings happen all the time, so that was not an issue for me at all.

I thought I may have been unlucky, but after speaking to some of the locals about our experience, quite a few felt the same way.