Sunday, 1 September 2013

Number 8 - Southbank on the Yarra River

What do you do when you are at a conference and the food is not so good?  Well, if you're like me, you will head off and look for the closest decent restaurant and rectify the situation.  That's pretty easy to do when you are in Melbourne in the Crown complex, in fact, there are an abundance of great restaurants to choose from.  The only minor problem is choosing one of the many on offer, and when you are with a couple of other people, one a vegetarian, it makes the deciding a little more interesting.

We spent a few minutes considering our options, which all ranged from fine dining to ultra fine dining, thinking that we didn't want to break the bank for a quick lunch, but also didn't want just any old food. Luckily, we came across a restaurant called Number 8, which had a great looking menu and an even better looking special deal going.  The 'Lunch Indulgence Offer' jumped right out at us as being almost too good to be true, a two course meal for only $45 dollars, or a three course meal for $55.  What really stood out about this was that all of the mains were over $45 dollars anyway, so it was like getting an entree for free...  Sweet.

I had never come across or heard about Number 8 in my travels to Melbourne but it happens to be the flagship restaurant in the Crown complex.  Once we decided that it was a go and entered the very fresh and modern looking restaurant, we were taken to the al fresco dining area at the back of the restaurant. Normally in winter, this is the last spot you would want, but it was actually a mild day with some sun shining, and sitting outside with the Yarra river and Melbourne skyline visible was a real treat.

After a short while, we were given some menus to look over, with the Modern Australian menu options ranging from duck to fish and risotto.  There were quite a few items in both the entree section and main section that I would have happily ordered.  While we were deciding on our main courses, the wait staff brought over some fresh bread and smoky butter.  The bread was warm and incredibly soft, and once the equally soft herb butter was spread, was beautiful, I mean this was great bread.  I thought that if this was the standard of the meal to come, I was in for a treat.

With so many great entrees to choose from, I was struggling to make a final decision.  That was until I saw the table next to us get their entrees.  I decided there and then that the only possible choice was the chargrilled calamari with chorizo and capsicum with blood orange.  The dish looked amazing and had a range of flavour combinations, that when done right are wonderful.  The very large pieces of calamari were seared to perfection and were scored just right, so that they formed large spirals on the plate.  The calamari was soft and not at all chewy under knife or when eating.  There was a sauce that had interesting flavours that came from the capsicum and blood orange, which was not at all overpowering and seemed to compliment the calamari well.  If I had one gripe about the dish, it would be that there should have been more chorizo on the plate, the two small pieces were certainly not enough to balance out the large amount of calamari.

I had high hopes and expectations about my main choice now that I had sampled the entree.  Again, with so many choices that I would normally order, I decided to go with an old favourite and ordered the milawa duck breast beluga lentils, kumquats and squash.  When duck breast is cooked well, its one of the greatest foods on the planet (in my opinion).  Once the plate was placed in front of me, I knew immediately that it was slightly over cooked, with only the slightest hint of pink showing.  It was quite a large duck breast and the skin was seared very well and had a lovely crispy texture, and the fat was rendered nicely too, which provided some good flavour.  The main problem was that it was a little tough due to being overcooked.  There was some squash and kumquat puree on the plate that provided a great contrast to the sweet duck meat, it was a little bitter, which was perfect.  For me, the lentils were a non event, with not much flavour and the didn't really add much to the dish.

My dining companions fared a little better than I did and while my entree in particular was very good, they had no such troubles with their selections.  Unfortunately, I was too polite (on this occasion) to sample the dishes, so I will just include photos and a brief description of their meals.

I really loved the layout and feel of Number 8, it's a very modern looking restaurant with lots of white and chrome and black everywhere.  It was especially nice out on the al fresco dining area on the river side, but I am sure it would be equally fabulous in the main dining area when it is a little colder outside.  However, we did find that the service on the day was a little lacking, sure the staff were friendly enough, but they went missing quite often and we really struggled to get their attention at times. This should be rectified immediately.

There was a lot to like about the menu and the value that the 'Lunch Indulgence Offer' presented, I would definitely eat there for lunch again.  I'm not down in Melbourne very often, but value like that, with generally high quality food is pretty hard to pass up.  

Wagyu beef carpaccio with basil pesto, quail egg and parmesan.  The carpaccio was incredibly thin and while there was too much going on with the plate for me, my dining companion seemed to really enjoy it
New Zealand Ora king salmon with sweet corn, succotash and soy salt.  The salmon was cooked well done, which was just as well, my dining companion loves it that way, I prefer my salmon medium.
As part of the $45 deal, you also get a side included, which is even better value.  We got the chips and mushrooms for sides and there was too much food on the table
Sunny Melbourne.  Unusual in the winter months, but why look a gift horse in the mouth!

Number 8 Restaurant and Wine Bar on UrbanspoonNumber 8 Restaurant & Wine Bar at Crown

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