Half-cen­tury mile­stone prompts chef to find new fish to fry

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Indulgence - Ju­dith Elen

CHEF Neil Perry, a man per­pet­u­ally on the move, is mov­ing away from fine din­ing. He tells FoodDe­tec­tive that, af­ter ‘‘ chas­ing fine din­ing for 25 years’’ (19 of them at his Syd­ney restau­rant Rock­pool), he is now fo­cused on ‘‘ great din­ing’’. The re­fo­cus has brought on his de­ci­sion to re­shape and re­brand Rock­pool.

When Perry an­nounced the restau­rant’s 12-day clo­sure (from Oc­to­ber 20) ear­lier in the year, it was to ren­o­vate. He was still think­ing fine din­ing, he tells De­tec­tive . But the suc­cess of Rock­pool Bar & Grill in Melbourne has in­ter­vened, as has Rock­pool Syd­ney’s frus­trat­ing fail­ure to re­gain a third hat in the 2007 TheSyd­neyMorn­ingHer­ald Good Food Guide Awards.

Flex­i­bil­ity and ac­ces­si­bil­ity are his new catch­words. Perry now feels more com­fort­able, he says, serv­ing a beau­ti­ful slice of cheese or ham to guests; per­haps it’s a com­ing of age, hav­ing just turned 50.

Melbourne RB & G is Perry’s idea of great din­ing: peo­ple can spend up (on lob­ster or abalone), or not. Syd­ney’s new-look Rock­pool, open­ing early Novem­ber with a new name— Rock­pool Fish has been flagged — will have the same open feel.

Seafood will be the fo­cus: oys­ters, sashimi and some ‘‘ old Rock­pool favourites will be com­ing back’’. And din­ers will be able to de­ter­mine the prepa­ra­tion of their choice of fil­lets, whole fish or shell­fish. Per­haps plain grilled, with herb but­ter, steamed with red curry, or breaded and fried if that fits ‘‘ the pro­tein’’, as Perry puts it.

Mean­while the hot Melbourne con­cept is headed for Syd­ney and de­pend­ing on coun­cil ap­provals, Syd­ney RB & G should open on the cor­ner of Hunter and Bligh streets be­tween April and June. Perry also still has his eye on Lon­don, and ‘‘ would love to do some­thing there’’; prob­a­bly an­other bar and grill. www.rock­pool.com.

DENG Huadong, owner of two Shang­hai restau­rants, a mas­ter of Chi­nese cuisines and a spe­cial­ist in Sichuan food, is visit­ing chef at Silks in Melbourne’s Crown Casino un­til Oc­to­ber 7. Ban­quets will be flavour of the mo­ment, and will in­clude dishes such as sauteed prawns with dragon well tea. From $55 lunch, $98 din­ner, or a la carte. On Oc­to­ber 3, an eight-course ban­quet matched with pre­mium co­gnacs— Flavours of Sichuan and Remy Martin — will cost $198 a per­son. www.silk­satcrown.com.au.

LIT­TLE Kitchen har­bour­side restau­rant at Syd­ney’s Park Hy­att last week hosted a fore­taste of Tast­ing Aus­tralia, South Aus­tralia’s bi­en­nial food fi­esta (Oc­to­ber 13-20). Hy­att Re­gency Ade­laide chefs Laurent Pom­mey and Ja­son Camillo, with an in­spir­ing blend of world ex­pe­ri­ence and youth­ful en­thu­si­asm, flew in for the day to show off SA’s pro­duce. De­tec­tive rec­om­mends a trip to SA to taste del­i­ca­cies such as Port Lin­coln king fish, Streaky Bay scal­lops, Coorong Bay black an­gus beef and Barossa pork, not to men­tion the wines and a visit to Hy­att Re­gency Ade­laide to savour the chefs’ bril­liance. www.tastin­gaus­tralia.com.au; www.ade­laide.re­gency.hy­att.com.

QAN­TAS Wine Show of West­ern Aus­tralia has its fin­ger on the pulse of the state’s wines. As the only show to judge WA wines ex­clu­sively, it com­pares re­gions, notic­ing changes and emerg­ing la­bels. An awards din­ner on Oc­to­ber 23 will cel­e­brate the show’s 30th year. It has grown from 26 en­tries in six classes to last year’s tally of more than 1200 wines in 40 classes.

The chief judge, Travel& In­dul­gence ’ s own James Halliday, will speak at the din­ner on the Aus­tralian in­dus­try, WA’s place in it and our place in the world. Five cour­ses matched with pre­mier tro­phy-win­ning wines from last year’s show, $175. Hy­att Re­gency Perth will hold a top 50 tast­ing linked with the show on Oc­to­ber 31. For both events: www.wineshowwa.com.au.

and been ap­pear­ing in LexusYoungChe­fofthe Year on Fox­tel’s LifeStyle Food chan­nel. The pro­grams fol­low state fi­nal­ists on their prize

COUN­TRY­WIDE con­tenders for Lexus young chef of 2007 ( Travel&In­dul­gence , Au­gust 18-19) — Kyle Quy, Jenna Ab­bruzzese, Ni­cholas Hill, Me­lanie Gow­ers, David Flukes Damien Bol­ger — have trip to WA, through to the win­ning an­nounce­ment. There are two (of four) episodes to go; Thurs­days at 9pm. www.youngchef.com.au.

VIS­I­TORS to SA should plan for a long week­end of fun at Coon­awarra’s Cel­e­bra­tion of Caber­net, on Oc­to­ber 19-21. The re­gion’s 20-plus winer­ies will be host­ing more than 30 events: mas­ter classes and mu­sic, din­ners and vine­yard tours, topped off with a bar­rel auc­tion of the finest caber­net sauvi­gnon from the 2006 vin­tage. www.coon­awarra.org/events.asp.

SE­RI­OUS sides are lin­ing up in the Syd­ney bar bat­tle. It’s Syd­ney Lord Mayor Clover Moore, in­ter­ested bar flies and now the Prop­erty Coun­cil on be­half of de­vel­op­ers (who want to put the city’s vi­brancy and econ­omy be­fore ‘‘ pol­i­tick­ing’’) against Pre­mier Mor­ris Iemma and the Aus­tralian Ho­tels As­so­ci­a­tion (on be­half of pubs and clubs). The is­sue is Moore’s Small Bars Bill which would al­low small bars to ex­ist by cut­ting the costs of li­cens­ing. De­tec­tive watches with bated breath.

TOMATO files: Read­ers are reg­is­ter­ing their dis­con­tent with the plight of the taste­less tomato ( FoodDe­tec­tive , Septem­ber 22-23). More next week.

FIND of the week: The Wine Map of Vic­to­ria by Max Allen ($14.95). Put to­gether by wine writer Allen and car­tog­ra­pher Martin von Wyss, this de­tailed, dou­ble-sided, fold­out tour­ing map iden­ti­fies the state’s main wine­grow­ing re­gions against an over­view of to­pog­ra­phy and cli­mate, and lists more than 900 vine­yards and cel­lar doors. www.aus­tralian­winemaps.com.

DE­TEC­TIVE loves: From now un­til March we are in as­para­gus sea­son: green (the spears we mostly see here), white (a great del­i­cacy in Europe for its brief sea­son), pur­ple (from Eng­land and Italy, also un­usual here), and wild as­para­gus, a treat for those who know where to find it. Happy eat­ing.

DE­TEC­TIVE loathes: Fash­ion­able food dog­ging her steps, from restau­rant to restau­rant: foam, for ex­am­ple. Food fads, such as fon­due, are fine, though De­tec­tive won­ders whether retro fads aren’t just an­other fash­ion.

Fine­tun­ing: Perry

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