Fine Food Vault road-test: What I learned cooking Rockpool steaks at home

High steaks: Fine Food Vault's 50-day dry-aged Cape Grim rib-eye steak.
High steaks: Fine Food Vault's 50-day dry-aged Cape Grim rib-eye steak. Photo: Supplied

"One of the greatest pieces of meat you are ever going to have in your own home." That's the promise Neil Perry makes for dry-aged steaks from the Rockpool Bar & Grill ageing rooms, cut and delivered the same day via the new Fine Food Vault app.

And it would want to be, given that two dry-aged 400-gram, 36-month Cape Grim rib-eyes on the bone cost $89. Same for two dry-aged sirloin steaks from mature (five-year-old) retired dairy cows – Friesians, to be precise – from the innovative, carbon-neutral CopperTree Farms in the Southern Highlands.

To be fair, dry-aged meat will always be expensive. Stored in a controlled environment for up to 120 days, it starts off big, red and raw, and ends up shrunken, reduced and discoloured. As the moisture evaporates, the dehydration concentrates the flavour within its cells. A useful metaphor would be cheese, and the marked difference between a cheese that is young, fresh and mild, and one that is older, drier, more intense and deeply savoury.

Neil Perry promises a beyond-ordinary experience.
Neil Perry promises a beyond-ordinary experience. Photo: Louie Douvis

After 50 days of enforced isolation in a controlled environment, this is very different to the normal sort of steak we would have at home. Juicy and bloody, it is not. As a home cook, you have to change your steak-cooking habits and relearn them, in terms of salting, timing and resting.

It's like Christmas when the steaks arrive via StarTrack Express (anyone else loving the thrill of the doorbell these days?). The thickly cut slabs of meat have the rich medieval ruddiness usually seen only in old oil paintings, with visible veins and skeins of rich buttery-looking fat.

With them comes a postcard, marbled with typos; an invitation to watch Perry and Rockpool Bar & Grill executive chef Corey Costelloe run through how to cook dry-aged beef. I scan the QR code and watch Meatflix.

Steaks are ordered using the Fine Food Vault app.
Steaks are ordered using the Fine Food Vault app. Photo: Supplied

"Oil the meat, and not the pan," is up first. Next is an enormous amount of salt flakes. "When you think you have too much," says Perry, "put more on." I'm horrified. Is this why I love eating steaks in restaurants so much? Because of the salt? (Probably. It's like loving mashed potato for the butter.) He reckons the steak will only take in as much salt as it needs, but how does it know how much it needs?

So I oil and salt the steak, then, against my better judgment and doctor's orders, add more. I get a strong cast-iron pan super-hot, so that the steak sizzles the second it hits the surface, and cook it for four minutes on one side until crusted, then two minutes on the other, for a rare to medium-rare result.

Perry says not to bother resting the steak for more than a minute or two. Whaaat? Apparently resting doesn't do much, because there's no excess blood or moisture that needs to be drawn back into the meat. Here, it would just mean a cold steak.

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It's an intense, uncompromising eating experience – a massive hit of richly savoury meat, with a gnarly, crunchy-salt crust, and a beautifully herbal, fruity smell. (And no, the meat did not taste salty.)

I'd kill for Rockpool's sauteed mushrooms and hand-cut chips on the side, but the Fine Food Vault offers meat delivery only. The leftover potato puree from Josh Niland's Fish Butchery delivery and a quick fry-up of cavolo nero with garlic and anchovies made to an excellent Maggie Beer recipe are just as good.

You may not get fries with that, but you do get something extra – a virtual masterclass in connoisseurship. This is Perry – and Cape Grim, and CopperTree Farms and David Blackmore Wagyu – nailing their colours to the mast, and saying: "This is what is important, what has real value, what must still be standing when we get to the other side." Fries we can get anywhere. This we can't.

Meat dry-ageing at Rockpool restaurant in Sydney.
Meat dry-ageing at Rockpool restaurant in Sydney. Photo: Supplied

Fine Food Vault

Rockpool Bar & Grill's dry-aged premium beef same-day delivery service. finefoodvault.com.au

How to order: Download the Fine Food Vault app via the App Store or Google Play and apply for (free) membership. When approved, you can order through the app.

Delivery: Currently Sydney Metropolitan area only. Orders before 10am will be delivered between 1pm and 5pm the same day.

Go-to dish: Two 400-gram, 50-day dry-aged Cape Grim rib-eye steaks, $89.

Also available: Up to 10 dry-aged steaks including rib-eye, sirloin, T-bone and scotch fillet, from $79 for two.

Pro tip: Add on a 1.6kg pack of David Blackmore wagyu mince for $59.

More restaurant-quality meat, home-delivered

Vic's Meats

Long-term supplier to Sydney's three-hat restaurants, Vic's goes direct with Rangers Valley, Blackmore Wagyu and O'Connor Angus as well kurobuta pork, mince, sausages, chicken. vicsmeat.com.au

Haverick Meats

Purveyors of premium meat to Catalina, Mr Wong and LuMi Dining, Haverick can deliver Jack's Creek, Riverine and full-blood wagyu to your door. They'll even make your meatballs, crumbed schnitzels and skewer kebabs for you. haverickmeatstoyou.com.au