For Neil Perry, it all began at Blue Water Grill – the first restaurant he could call his own. When it opened in Bondi in 1986, it became the go-to place for a seafood fine-dining experience.
It’s been some 30-odd years since, and Perry has kept himself busy opening (and closing) a number of acclaimed restaurants including Rockpool, Wokpool, Rockpool Bar & Grill, Spice Temple and Eleven Bridge; training a fresh-faced apprentice named Kylie Kwong; establishing his own burger chain Burger Project; and selling his hospitality empire to Urban Purveyor Group, which begat Rockpool Dining Group, one of the biggest hitters in Sydney’s hospitality scene.
This week, the group announced it was back paying staff $1.6 million after a payroll review.
The idea sprung from a menu-planning session for a one-off seafood dinner at Rockpool Bar & Grill. “It got me thinking back to Blue Water Grill where our seafood philosophy really started. It was the first restaurant in Sydney to receive catch straight from the fishermen and to really take care of it with in-house dry filleting,” Perry told Broadsheet.
“Those big Asian seafood flavours were the precursor to many of the dishes at Rockpool and they influence many of the dishes across our menus today. I guess I’m having a trip down memory lane and taking Sydney diners with me for the ride.”
Over six days, Blue Water Grill will conjure its Asian-influenced, seafood-focused menu of yore. On the pass will be 20 quintessential dishes from the original menu, including chargrilled swordfish with mango chilli salsa; crisp flathead fillets with corn cakes, ginger and shallots; and mussels in a garam-masala noodle soup.
The cocktail list is a retro, tropical-loving throwback. There’s the pineapple-loving Pina Nueva (with coconut rum, lime, pineapple and pineapple soda), the Blue Water Grill Hawaiian (white rum, curacao, lemon, soda and pineapple) and the Juan’s Slipper (with tequila, lemon, Triple Sec, melon liqueur and egg whites). Classic cocktails and Australian wines will also be available.
Also making a return is John Susman, seafood industry expert and one-time manager of Blue Water Grill, who’ll be joining floor staff – all of whom will be wearing T-shirts with the original restaurant logo – for a service. Images of Bondi will be projected on the walls to further transport diners to another time and place.
Blue Water Grill is set to open at 11 Bridge Street, Sydney from November 19 to 24 for lunch Tuesday to Friday, 12–3pm; and dinner Monday to Saturday, 6–10pm. Call (02) 8099 7081 for bookings.