It’s sad when an old favourite falls from favour. Such is the case with my recent visit to Number 8.
Before I start, I should emphasise that I spent a lot of time thinking about whether to give it a HOT or NOT. It seemed unduly harsh to NOT it given that our meal wasn’t terrible and overall we had a pleasant dining experience. But given the vagaries of my self-imposed bilateral rating system, in the end I’ve decided to go with NOT because for the quality of the food we had and the price we paid, I’d choose (and recommend to others) to try elsewhere. Especially given the kind of competition which Number 8 is facing from excellent restaurants in very close proximity also housed in Crown.
I haven’t been to Number 8 in probably around four years and some things have remained the same – the sleek Manhattan brasserie-style fitout, the ridiculously large format menus, the focus on seafood and the excellent bread. As RM has marvelled before, I don’t necessarily remember details of books I’ve read or movies I’ve seen, but I will remember minute details of food I’ve eaten. And the bread from Number 8 is something to look forward to – warm, pliable and served with two dips, in our case creamy red lentil and smoked eggplant.
The menu is what I’d called ‘classic Mod Oz’. A little bit French, a little bit Italian, a dash of Australian ingredients. Between three of us we tried all parts of the main menu – an entree of the South Australian spanner crab tortellini, veloute and baby herb salad ($25), local blue-eye fillet with sautéed baby peas, herb puree and creme fraiche ($39.50), roasted Flinders Ranges kangaroo saddle, roasted parsnips and green peppercorn sauce ($37) and three sides of French fries, roasted potatoes with paprika and thyme oil and porcini mushroom risotto (all $7.50).
The filling in the tortellini was delicately flavoured but marred somewhat by the heaviness of the pasta, so that the three parcels equated to a quite solid serving.
The kangaroo was beautifully presented pink the middle but was still a bit chewy. Kangaroo meat is hard to do well I think and this version fell a little from the mark. In terms of flavour the rich meatiness married well with the sweet parsnips and piquant sauce.
The blue-eye fared the best as it was cooked precisely to the point where another second could have overcooked it and there was a layer of crispy skin which I’ve found impossible to replicate at home (tips anyone?). The peas had been crushed but still had bite and herbs had been folded through the creme fraiche lending a delicacy of flavour to the dish.
As for the sides, sadly there was just a little something not right with all of them – the skins of the potatoes were not crisp, the fries were served a little under hot and the risotto was soupy and in my view overcooked.
On a positive note, the friendly and efficient service was commendable despite the restaurant being full on a Saturday night. However, while I wouldn’t turn my nose up to another visit to Number 8 if someone else suggested it (or someone else paid), I honestly don’t think I’ll be returning again soon. I’d rather revisit other establishments where I’ve not hesitated about whether it’s HOT or NOT compared to my lukewarm experience at Number 8.
- Number 8 Restaurant and Wine Bar, Crown Melbourne, 8 Whiteman St, Southbank +61 3 9292 7899