It was 1986. Crocodile Dundee was in cinemas, INXS were touring the world and Halley's Comet flashed across the sky. It was also the year Neil Perry opened his first restaurant, Blue Water Grill, on Bondi Beach and rewrote the blueprint for what a seafood restaurant could be, creating several of his signature dishes along the way.
"It was my version of a seafood brasserie, I guess, that integrated the Asian flavours that I loved," the chef says.
And now, it's back. For a week, anyway. A pop-up version of Blue Water Grill will open for seven days in November on the former Jade Temple site, with a menu that comes straight from the '80s – and that includes the prices.
"We're doing $19 entrees and $29 mains for the best seafood this country has to offer," Perry says.
The menu will be a retrospective of the restaurant's greatest dishes, many of which went on to become classics at Rockpool, which opened in 1989. Pan-fried red emperor with coconut sambal, for instance, or stir-fried tamarind prawns and lettuce, or pippies in a chilli and black bean sauce. In the things-that-aren't-seafood category, you'll also find a brisket rendang, fried goat's cheese and beetroot salad, and togarashi chips. Desserts are a mix of retro and classic, with a banana cheesecake alongside a raspberry tart and "heavenly" chocolate cake.
Per his reputation as a seafood-whisperer par excellence, Perry is working with only the best suppliers. Back then John Susman was his right-hand man, helping him source directly from the docks to ensure the best catch ended up on the plate. "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 says.
For Blue Water Grill 2018, the chef is crafting his menus around produce from Walkers Seafood, Kinkawooka Shellfish and Australia's Oyster Coast, to name a few.
The sand, surf and sun of the original Bondi setting will not be part of the Bridge Street iteration, but the see-and-be-seen atmosphere could still be recreated over glasses of chardonnay and Blue Hawaiian cocktails. Aside from a few retro touches, the drinks list is very much contemporary. Expect favourites such as Grosset riesling alongside other seafood-friendly drops such as assyrtiko from Jim Barry and natural-leaning wines from Si Vintners, Arno and Collector.
"I guess I'm having a trip down memory lane and taking Sydney diners with me for the ride," Perry says. Are you ready to jump in the DeLorean?
Blue Water Grill pop-up, 18-24 November, lunch Tues-Fri 12pm-2pm; dinner Mon-Sat, 6pm-10pm. 11 Bridge St, Sydney, NSW, 02 8099 7081, rockpooldininggroup.com