As you enter the restaurant, your senses warn you of impending death as the lights are noticeably dimmer compared to the pedestrian thoroughfare in Crown which gives a moody yet sensual vibe as you walk past cases of meat carcass and seafood. You have the option to dine in the wine bar, which is where you can order the fabled Wagyu burger which is all of the rage at all hours of the day or continue into the grand dining room, which we opted to on this occasion. Some natural light was protruding from the blinds that give you a protected view of Southbank Promenade and fortunately for us we were provided a table next to a window so that when conversation ultimately diminished to a murmur, we were able to watch the comings and goings of the human beings outside.
Whilst pondering both the multi-faceted food menu but also the comprehensive wine menu, we ordered a round of steak tartare with chips ($25) which has always been at the top of my list for quality and taste of any steak tartare that I have ever had. Although I really enjoy the complexity afforded to the tartare at Movida, the simplicity of the tartare here combined with being able to scoop it up with large hot chips has always appealed to my basic instincts as a carnivore.
As I missed by trip to Adelaide to see watch the cricket and tour McLaren Vale in November 2012 because of a leaky pipe at home, I am biased to wine from that region at the moment to make up for lost time. I selected a 2010 Kay Brothers Amery Block 6 Shiraz ($145) thinking that a big and bold, if not earthy wine would match well with the steak tartare. The server was happy to send over the sommelier to consult however since we were going to just enjoy the one bottle (amazingly, I know) I didn't think it was necessary this time around. That match turned out to be a success and the tartare tasted brilliantly and was enhanced by the young wine which was not decanted.
After much deliberation about the menu, I ordered a Cape Grim 350g rib-eye on the bone (grass fed and dry aged for 36 months) simply to add a bit of variety in my diet as I had dined at the Rockpool Bar & Grill in Sydney the previous week and enjoyed a David Blackmore full blood wagyu then and also as the last course in my recent trip to Vue de Monde. A bit of variety is good and I wasn't disappointed with the cut, or the way it came out. Oddly it seemed to be more than 350g of steak and for the most part it was already cut up into smaller morsels for me. On its own, the steak was a bit dry however a multiplicity of sauces are provided (which I refused) but when paired with the Kay Brothers Shiraz, it was nice.
One of the signature side dishes is the Macaroni and Cheese ($15) which was ordered along with a Tomato salad ($9) to accompany my steak and the duck ($39) which was ordered by my dining companion. The Neil Perry interpretation of Macaroni and Cheese is a comfort food that although would add weight to my already expanding waistline quickly, would make the ultimate discomfort and associated ridicule completely worth it.
Given that the restaurant is in the Crown "Entertainment Complex" has its disadvantages. There is more of a transient dining crowd which leads to more drama, excessive noise and more outrageous behaviour as the result of the patrons - my observations are not just constrained to this visit. I could tell that service was not too enthusiastic and was probably a bit overworked even though the guests were all herded into one part of the restaurant.
You don't always have to take your chances with the masses in the formal dining room. The wine bar serves a comprehensive and intriguing menu including freshly shucked oysters, the aforementioned David Blackmore Wagyu burger and Jamon Iberico. Sometimes simplicity is best and not just simply the easiest.
Link to review
Crown Entertainment Complex
8 Whiteman St., Southbank VIC 3006
(03) 8648 1900
8 Whiteman St., Southbank VIC 3006
My Rating: 15/20
Value For Money: 3.75/5
e-mail: epicureanofsouthbank (at) gmail (dot) com
At the time of this post, 82% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon also like Rockpool Bar & Grill.