The answer’s Rockpool. What was the question again?

There has always been, Dr Mumbo would acknowledge, a delicate symbiotic relationship between celebrities in need of exposure and the media in need of content.

That’s why you get newspaper columns in which the aforementioned celebs will answer a series of mildly inane questions.  

Sadly, on occasion, both parties can forget  about the poor old reader, who ends up being treated with about as much respect as a soiled nappy.

Check out this marvelous example from the Weekend Australian’s travel pages, who’ve been talking to chef Neil Perry, owner of Sydney restaurants Rockpool and Spice Temple.

Perry’s last memborable meal? Rockpool

Perry’s must-buy ingredient? Korean black garlic (“we are shaving it over globe artichoke risotto at Rockpool”)

Perry can’t live without? “Wagyu brisket at Spice Temple”

Next big thing? Phil Wood, the chef at, wait for it, Rockpool.

And Perry’s last supper? The caviar on toast at… Rockpool.

Followed by passionfruit pavlova, from Rockpool naturally.

Rockpool gets nine mentions in the nine paragraphs. Marvelous.

Update: Sadly, it looks like this posting speedily reached Mr Perry’s attention via the medium of Twitter and has led to a minor (and public)  falling out between him and poor old Ed Charles, editor of the influential Tomato food blog, after he tweeted this posting. Happily, it looks like they worked through their differences though:

@tomatom: Who has no shame? The Australian for publishing and neilPerry for self promotion

@Rockpoolgroup: @tomatom perhaps, but at least they all have quality and you would be better off than going to a few places I have seen on many food blogs

@tomatom: @rockpoolgroup Also I think most of the world think it’s the most egotistical Q&A EVER and did your empire a disservice. #PRdisaster

@Rockpoolgroup: @tomatom I don’t think the world Ed even you aren’t that important believe me. I don’t have an empire just 340 great young staff, all trying

@tomatom: @rockpoolgroup true I’m not that important and I just retweeted @mumbrella . See you Saturday night for the Tourism NSW dinner.

@Rockpoolgroup: @tomatom enjoy you dinner..I shall be working as I do most nights, perhaps why eating my food is so real to me, it’s called staff dinner!

Atomatom: @rockpoolgroup Fair enough. I’m sue I shall enjoy the dinner and it’ll be brilliant.

@Rockpoolgroup: @tomatom great, I promise not to be naughty anymore then!

@tomatom: @rockpoolgroup Cool.


  1. Lainie
    4 Oct 09
    5:32 pm

  2. tsk. i can understand he last ate in his own restaurant, but the last memorable meal and food he can’t live without are his own too? i just overdosed on Rockpool before getting there.

  3. Simon Garlick
    4 Oct 09
    10:54 pm

  4. The most fantastic dining-out experiences I’ve ever had – food that blew my mind, and service and attention and that just made me feel happy to be there – have been at Rockpool. I’ve never had a bad or even average experience there.

    (Not a paid advertisement. Just sayin’.)

  5. mumbrella
    4 Oct 09
    11:46 pm

  6. Hi Simon,

    I’ve been just the once. I was similarly impressed.


    Tim – Mumbrella

  7. Chris Walton
    6 Oct 09
    8:28 am

  8. Here you go Tim – for the Neil Perry within….

    What is the last memorable blog you read?
    What is your must-read blog?
    What is the blog you can’t live without?
    What would be the last blog you ever read?

    I’m sure we could get this published somewhere. Oh yeah – here.

    15 Oct 09
    1:03 pm

  10. I want a job as an Account Executive in the Media industry -> obvious that Fluer Clapman’s employer doesn’t make her worked too hard if she has time to write “mills & boon” emails… & her colleagues all have the time to read them !

  11. Mike
    15 Oct 09
    1:24 pm

  12. Really, chefs are only cooks, but they feel they are pricesses in their world.

    Is the fact that he was stressed by opening yet another restaurant is not our problem, he wants more money, he gets stress.

    Absolute whimp

  13. Laurence
    15 Oct 09
    1:33 pm

  14. I have eaten at a number of 3 star Michelin restaurants in Europe and Japan. While Rockpool is a very good restaurant with Neil Perry and his team trying very hard, the reality is that my dining experience with Rockpool came up short from being a genuinely great restaurant.

    Neil’s response to the Weekend Australian questions were a great pointer to why I haven’t been blown away by Rockpool. In my experience that once he left the restaurant the service demonstrably went downhill. There was a real difference in attitude and availability of staff who seemed to go out the door with him. .

    True, Neil can say that with all the costs of running a restaurant things can not always be the best. I agree, but don’t say that you are the best when you have that attitude. To get a 3 star Michelin rating you NEVER have glitches. That is why they charge the high prices. I think that Australian restaurateurs have it a bit easy at times as they are competing against themselves, rather than the best which most Australian diners have not had the opportunity to experience (I bet I get a lot of response to that comment!).

    Having said that, we do have the best e.g. Tetsuya’s is demonstrably one of the best in the world and recognised as such.

  15. Will Miranda
    15 Oct 09
    1:52 pm

  16. I have both worked and been a customer of Neil Perry, i am in two minds regarding Fleur’s email, Neil had one of the first serious attempts at staff training i ever saw in Australia, so surprised to what Fleur got told by staff, although i did find her email rather long and almost legalistic I hope Neil learns the easiest way out of a pickle sometimes is the simplest…just say sorry. As for wanting sympathy for his “issues” of the night i disagree. it’s not like he offered any client a discount for their “lesser” experience.

  17. Anne Parkes
    15 Oct 09
    2:01 pm

  18. Reading the Clapham email my immediate thought was that I hope I never encounter this woman in the same restaurant as where I am eating. She sounds like a precious, uppity bitch. Fancy fish with bones? How awful. And fancy being seated at a back table when you are obviously so self imporotant. She really gave it away when her husband was Husband. Who else gives their husband a capital H? Poor Tim.
    I’m with Neil Perry. Don’t let her into your restaurant again.

  19. Christine Lloyd
    15 Oct 09
    2:14 pm

  20. The Neil Perry/Rockpool article and Clapham email reminded me of an incident(?) that I had at Rockpool. I was dining at Rockpool with my American husband. He ordered the chicken and the chicken was slightly raw inside. When he brought it to the attention of the waitress, she said that she would take it back and check. She came back and said with some indignation “but Sir, that’s a Hunter Valley Chicken” (without explaining what a Hunter Valley Chicken was – how were us mortals with an American accent expected to know what “a Hunter Valley Chicken was”), she went on to say that “Neil Perry was actually in the kitchen tonight and “he said that there was nothing wrong with it”. I must admit I was surprised by the attitude …there was no offer to cook it some more to satisfy the customer, or to swap it out for something else. It just seemed a little arrogant…difficult to know whether it was attitude from the waitress, or from the Chef.

  21. Elwyn
    15 Oct 09
    2:34 pm

  22. Will Miranda: “although i did find her email rather long and almost legalistic I hope Neil learns the easiest way out of a pickle sometimes is the simplest…just say sorry.”
    Anne: “I’m with Neil Perry. Don’t let her into your restaurant again.”

    I disagree with you Anne!
    Neil should say “sorry” with his new Coogee Bay tarts that ends up satisfying Fleur’s legalism.

  23. Penelope
    15 Oct 09
    2:53 pm

  24. Reading Fleur’s email makes me all the more determined to continue dining at Rockpool! I’m with Neil on this one.

  25. Tiffiney
    15 Oct 09
    3:02 pm

  26. While Mrs Clapham’s daitribe made me roll my eyes, Neil Perry’s response illustrates exactly why he should stick to the kitchen. Regardless of what he thought of her experience, that’s absolutely no way to respond to a customer if you want to keep them. What a tosser is right.

  27. Glo
    15 Oct 09
    3:20 pm

  28. I’m sorry but Neil Perry pushes all the wrong buttons for me, always has. Granted, he is one of the best at his craft, but he isn’t the Messiah. Now Alastair McLeod of Bretts Wharf in Brisbane, for me, is king of the kitchen AND knows a thing or two about customer relations. One night when I was dining there, he appeared at my table seemingly from nowhere, to compliment me on my choice of starter, saying that not enough people had ordered it because they weren’t familiar with it. He stayed a few minutes and chatted then headed back to the kitchen to preside over the delectable dishes. Even aside from that, he is approachable, warm and very in tune with his customers.

    Frankly, I can’t honestly believe Neil Perry’s poor performance in responding to the email of complaint. The first step in responding to such communication is … take a deep breath! Clearly he was spoiling for a fight and sadly, that’s what he got. Ah well.

  29. GI
    15 Oct 09
    3:33 pm

  30. It seems to me, after reading all of the the emails, that the response by Mrs Clapham was not written by her! If you compare the articulation between her initial email and her response, you will notice the difference.

    Notwithstanding, we Aussies should be very proud of the likes of Neil Perry, Tetsuya Wakuda and many other wonderful chefs for the acolades they have received from food critics around the World.

  31. Reg
    15 Oct 09
    5:02 pm

  32. Perhaps “darling” Neil should skip on the Ego ice cream, and indulge in a bit of humble pie.

  33. Schnitzy
    15 Oct 09
    5:05 pm

  34. Oh but Reg…you haven’t tried the new Ego….they’re blissful

  35. Ally
    15 Oct 09
    5:33 pm

  36. I recently dined at Rockpool. The food was substandard, the service was okay, but overall not worth the expense. Having read Neil’s response to that complaint I would not eat at Rockpool again.

  37. anon
    15 Oct 09
    7:22 pm

  38. First rule of hospitality is the customer is always right.

    Arrogance comes before the fall.

    I hope Neil falls over and dies, he’s food is fucking average compared to a lot of smaller, friendlier places, the staff are way too uppity with no warmth and I could name 10 restaurants, in Sydney, that shit all over Rockpool for a fraction of the ridiculous prices he charges.

    Stick to making sauces for Woolies Neil.

  39. Gwyneth from Auckand
    15 Oct 09
    9:09 pm

  40. Hoping for a dining experience to top something from my home town – as I’ve heard about Neil’s reputation and the cellar -anything of Maurice O’Shea’s Hunter wines, we’ll book bug time!


  41. Emily
    15 Oct 09
    10:16 pm

  42. Why hand over your hard-earned money to benefit a tosser like Neil Perry? He was very rude and obviously think way too much of himself.

  43. Dana
    15 Oct 09
    10:53 pm

  44. The real tosser in this case is Le Fleur. Oooh lala, it’s so hard to eat fish when they have bones! Oooh, I’m so thirsty, my throat is parched, my mouth is dry, oh my oh my whine whine whine. Get some perspective.

    Neil’s reply was pretty restrained, but he really should have ignored it. In this case, a short and sweet apology would probably not suffice. Someone who goes on and on and on like that, will only be satisfied by vigorous groveling, and then they’ll probably demand a free dinner on top of that, plus bum wipes by all the wait staff, not to mention regular top ups of her wine glass.

  45. Glenn
    15 Oct 09
    10:55 pm

  46. Fleur, get over yourself~ dont spend money in expensive restaurants as its a total waste; you will never be happy. You have a Princess Margaret attitude! And brush up on your grammar! Not a good look for an Account Executive in Media, as you put it!
    Tim, dump this precious cow ASAP; she’s obviously too high maintenance.
    Neil, I hope you have a photo to put up on your ‘Do Not Serve Under Any Circumstances’ notice-board near the kitchen!

  47. Deb
    16 Oct 09
    12:19 am

  48. I agree with GI. Ms Clapham response to Neil was somewhat more articulate than her original email and was obviously written by another. Having read her initial communicating and cringed at every grammatical error, I was surprised to then read that she worked in the media and even more surprised as I read on and noted that she had suddenly discovered the ability to write a far more eloquent response. Can we assume that poor Husband, Tim, was able to drag himself away from tending blood noses and blocked sinuses for long enough to issue a more literate response?

    Next time, Neil, tell em to piss off. If they don’t like it, they don’t have to come back. The customer may always be right, but in this case the customer is a fair cow throwing a tantrum because her long-awaited evening did not meet expectation. In her opening email she implied that she had keen to visit Rockpool for a long time however circumstances had precluded her and her husband from doing so; in the subsequent email she has become a frequent diner at this and other Rockpool establishments. Bravo Neil – and bring on the caramelised (or as some would say, “burnt”) apple tarte.

  49. Deb
    16 Oct 09
    12:23 am

  50. Wow – and as one who always prefers to practice what she preaches, perhaps writing an email at 00:20 after an 11-hour stint at work is not such a great idea. I have proof read, and recognised, my grammatical errors and spelling mistakes and bow my head in embarrassment that my initial thoughts slipped through the process. *hangs head in shame and apologises to all those teachers of the English language who thought they had achieved a successful result in my education – big oops to my parents*

  51. peta
    16 Oct 09
    8:35 am

  52. ONE thing that everyone seems to be forgetting is that no matter how well known a chef is, they are after all a chef. If they own their own business then are usually in the kitchen as well as doing paperwork. They do use email for communication and it is usually direct and to the point. Therefore, at times are unaware of the “tone” of the email which is understandable as their “office” is a kitchen. Neil may not have replied in the correct tone, but at the end of the day, give the guy a break! Is he expected to be amazingly elequont AND produce great food, menus and run establishments… and even if people don’t appreciate his restaurants, at least give him the kudo’s for actually establishing successful businesses! its too easy to sit back and point the finger. Fleur sounded as if she were angling for a free meal and whilst some of the complaints were vaild, they were incredibly trivial.

  53. Paul C
    16 Oct 09
    8:37 am

  54. What an emotive subject this has become.

    The article is boring. I was expecting something more interesting that has gained the interest of so many people. However I agree that to name your own restaurant so many times in such a short article strikes me as arrogant and egotistical, certainly a reflection of his reputation that proceeds his cooking skills.

    Since dining at Rockpool I cant event remember the details of the experience except for good old Wokpool from the early 90’s. However most people reading this article will be aware of Neils restaurants already and are interested in the in his passion for the food. Surely there is something that inspires Neil outside of his own restaurants, its obvious this was purely to pitch his business’s. Next time I see an interview with Neil Perry I will surely turn the page…

    …… Just quickly is the Black Garlic cooked in some way prior to being added to the risotto.

  55. H
    16 Oct 09
    1:11 pm

  56. Fleur’s complaints were contructive and if Neil was able to get off his high horse and say sorry, all would be over and his reputation undamaged.

    I have eaten at the Rockpool on a number of occasions and have never been convinced that it is as good as his foodie columnist mates say it is. When ‘nobody me’ dines there, I get waiters who need to pull the napkins out of their rectum and small servings that make me crave for a big mac afterwards. I am not a sucker for punishment so it was not me who chose to dine there but sometimes business happens where it happens. The Qantas dishes he creates are crap – I take my hat off to Moran’s dishes with Singapore Airlines. The reference for a restaurant at the very top is Tetsuyas – Neil, you do not come close!

  57. Sharron
    16 Oct 09
    1:40 pm

  58. I cant believe that some of you think she is going on. She has chosen to pay a lot of money for a dining experience and has not got what she paid for. She should have been offered a discount on the night, full stop.

  59. Robert
    16 Oct 09
    1:52 pm

  60. Neil, what a tool you are. Come off your perch and listen to the customer. She has not enjoyed her evening and probably thought you would care how badly your restaurant was run that night. She probably didnt know you were there as she did not see you on the floor. All she was looking for was a sorry you had a bad evening and maybe a replacement meal. I think fair enough, she didnt get what she paid for an was let down. Who cares what sort of night you had, its your business. Take the good and the bad. She does not have to have sympathy for you.

    She is paying you to do a service, just do it.

    If she wanted an average experience she could have gone to a restaurant that is cheaper. What happened to the saying you get what you pay for. Obviously this does not apply to your restaraunt. You come across as a real tool.

  61. VB
    16 Oct 09
    3:00 pm

  62. Manners – Mr Perry are lost on you.

  63. Elizabeth
    16 Oct 09
    5:23 pm

  64. Fleur had valid complaints. I am surprised fish with small bones would be served in a restaurant. It’s not unknown for a bone to lodge in a throat. I would think its not worth a restaurant running that risk – duty of care and all that! I am also surprised by Perry’s shabby and moronic reply. It’s not about you stupid. It’s about your customer – the people who pay you! Public Relations 101. How could you behave like such a fool and let this escalate. Now the world has an opinion and its not all in your favour. Rockpool was on my list of “RestaurantsTo Try :” Not now. Not ever.

  65. Rob
    16 Oct 09
    5:33 pm

  66. Fleur seems to have got exactly what she wants in life from her visit to Neils restaurant; a really good winge! I pity poor Tim.

  67. Jack in thed Ad
    17 Oct 09
    8:36 am

  68. I’ll bet she’s English,in Australia they think they are so superior,please go back to your miserable begginings.

  69. Lizzie
    18 Oct 09
    3:10 pm

  70. I was one of the chef de parties who worked with Neil when he opened the Rockpool so have seen him, and the Rockpool, from the ‘inside’. I did not particularly warm to Neil as a person and I have worked with chefs who are more gifted technically and operationally. But what Neil has, that most chefs don’t, is a unique vision of what ingredients work together, how to exceed the customer’s expectations, a talent for hiring people who can execute his vision and a total commitment to quality and service.

    A strong sense of self belief and a talent for self promotion are essential to do what Neil has done. Gordon Ramsay is hardly a modest wallflower! Is he arrogant? I thought so. Is it justified? Absolutely. Neil is an exceptional restarauteur. I can totally understand why he chose his own food … it is among the best in the world.

  71. Paul
    18 Oct 09
    6:58 pm

  72. Fleur is obviously a professional complainer and victim. Neil’s response should have been a bit more diplomatic as these types are usually easily to identify, primarily by the compendium of “issues” they produce and their epic nature. Fleur’s dismissal of Neil’s comment that he took whiting off the menu and her reluctance to allow herself to be educated on the subject of caramalised apple tarts says it all. Some people live to be aggrieved.

  73. adam
    28 Oct 09
    12:12 am

  74. The guy is a tosser. I’ve met him and he is rude and very very arrogant. I’m not surprised by his letter. His letter is a direct reflection of him as a person.

    I thought her letter was well written and to the point. She is still a bit of a princess but it was to the point.

    At that level of restaurant, a kitchen should be able to fillet and pinbone a piece of fish at least. And a well run FOH team should notice when a wine glass is empty. The FOH staff should have reassured the guests that the restaurant wasn’t going to burn down around their ears. And they could have changed the aircon settings a little. But that’s a minor point along with the wine.

    On to Neil’s letter I have a few points:
    *First problem is your first sentence – It basically means you don’t have the time for the customer. Cardinal Sin!
    *Secondly, boo hoo that you had to spend time with the fireman. It’s your restaurant! Take some responsibility
    *Next, why do you have to make sarcastic comments about throwing people out of the restaurant?
    *Why bring her staff into it? It’s not her or her company that caused the problem. Let’s make this letter a snide personal attack shall we?
    *No one cares about your dining experiences in Paris or anywhere else for that matter.

    On to the second letter from neil
    *It’s your restaurant. You have a responsibility to run from Rockpool to RBG. Why is that her problem?
    *She didn’t complain about the beef. Why bother mentioning it? Trying to redirect? And why drop your staff in it. At the end of the day it’s your responsibility.
    *Why complain about and drag Ramsay’s name through the mud? I’ve eaten at both Rockpool & Gordon Ramsay at Royal Hospital Road and Ramsay craps all over you. Better chef and better businessman.
    *Boo hoo you work 6 days a week night & day. I was once a chef and did the exact same thing as a sous at michelin starred level. If working that many hours is a problem than maybe you should retire… It’s not an overly tough job anyway. Just long hours and stressful at times. Go become a soldier or paramedic. Make a mistake there and then either you die or someone else dies.
    *Why even list your achievements and take away from hers? Maybe she works for a company that employs 1000 people and gives millions to charity. Or maybe she has a doctorate. Or is a chairman on a human rights board. Or raises 3 kids while still managing to have a well respected job as an account executive.

    Mr Perry, you need to hire that customer service representative. badly!