What was once Rockpool and then Eleven Bridge is now Jade Temple, a Cantonese eatery styled like the fancy hotels of Hong Kong. “Cantonese is the most lightly flavoured, natural-ingredient-forward of all the Chinese cuisines. We chose Cantonese to focus on the ingredients,” says Neil Perry, Rockpool Dining Group’s culinary director.
Lemon chicken and sweet-and-sour pork aren’t necessarily good examples of the cuisine, but Perry says he has to include them because they represent classic Australian-Chinese cuisine. “We had to do some of those classic dishes which are seen as gwai lo [white guy] cliches. I've had them in Hong Kong and they can be super delicious.”
Along with mud crabs, lobsters and pipis from the tank, and roast pigeons, duck and char siu (Cantonese barbequed pork) from the hanging racks, head chef Peter Robertson will make all the hallmarks of China’s most widely exported cuisine, including salt-and-pepper squid; drunken chicken; black lip abalone with oyster sauce; steamed snapper with ginger and shallot; egg tarts; and dim sum. “We're starting with about eight dumplings but, after four weeks or so, our dumpling master will be joining us from Macau,” says Perry.
The fit-out is a lush South East Asian colonial (Perry’s words) theme, inspired in part by Raffles Hotel in Singapore. The furniture and decoration is prim and minimal except for some noticeably lavish touches: two cast-iron lions at the entrance; a set of enormous chandeliers made with what look like wooden shutters; and several wall-length traditional Chinese prints.
The only real echoes of the fine diner that was here previously is the staff and the wine list. “We've got a 300 to 350 [bottle] selection. Great representation from Rhone, Burgundy, some great Australian pinots and lighter shirazes,” says Perry. “We’ve also got a great cocktail list put together by Jordan Nicolai. They’ll be that kind of tiki, soda, refreshing style of drink.”
Like all the upper-middle-range restaurants that have come to define the Rockpool Dining Group, there are already plans for expansion of the concept. Perry says Melbourne could be next to get a Jade Temple, followed by more overseas.