No. 8 is No. 1

No. 8 by John Lawson
8 Whiteman Street Southbank

We had left home on time to dine at No.8 pre-Valentine’s Day that Saturday night. Feb 14 falling on a Sunday that year, we decided to do a V-Day dinner the night before, because Saturday night – why of course.

The only problem was, there was traffic. Being all outskirts-of-the-city savvy, I thought we could sneak off the freeway through Docklands and towards Crown, but there was an event that night, making the traffic through the docked suburb a nightmare. It held us right back, and even as we tried to make our way in as quick as we could, taking multiple detours due to the event, every time we tried to get closer to Crown – you couldn’t turn left into there, while here, you couldn’t do a hook turn. I wanted to scream in frustration. I very nearly came to screaming point when I received a phone call 15 minutes after we were scheduled to arrive, from the restaurant’s staff, asking where we were. I politely, through gritted teeth said we were stuck in traffic. We were close. I had booked days earlier, and we had been booked into the 6:15-8:15 session, yet I did not realise how strict they were with their ‘sessions.’ The lady informed me it was fine, but we would still be booked in ‘til only 8:15, despite arriving later.

Basically, she was telling me they would kick us out prior our 2 hour pre-booked stay.

We were seriously pissed driving over for the next 5 minutes.

But, we were dressed nicely, it was Saturday night, and it was a comfortably warm night too. We pushed it to the back of our minds and went forward.

We were half an hour late when we walked in. Considering we had just received a phone call, the door girl took a while to find our booking. When we were finally brought to our table, I was a bit disappointed.

It had nothing to do with the surrounds. They were elegant though arty, not offensive to the eye at all. But when I had booked I had been told we would have outdoor seating overlooking the Yarra, and also, a high chair. We were inside, with no high chair.

Sigh. Another speed bump. We flagged a waitress and queried the lack of outdoors and child-seating. She said she would find out.

The ‘talker’ arrived. She explained that because there were bookings from weeks ago, versus my booking of a few days ago, the older bookings were given priority. And, a high chair was on its way. Apparently shared between restaurants. Okay then.

Clunky oversized child seat arrived. Yay.

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After settling in, I was happy to observe that even though we were inside, in a poshy restaurant, it was fairly loud. And soon after that, we received menus, and were introduced to our waiter for the night, who I shall refer to as ‘Louie.’

Louie, because he reminded me of a younger, less dorky, tad cuter, Louie Theroux. We ordered drinks with Louie, and as I perused the drinks menu I noticed most of the glasses were between $15-20 a glass. I ordered a 2015 Yarra Valley Rose – ‘Crudo’ by Luke Lambert,  Hubbie had a Crown Lager, and we also received some complimentary bread with butter, that was exceptionally moorish, but only complimentary as far as the fact that everything else was jacked up in price to compensate.

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Soon after, we started receiving our meals.

First baby girl got her Fish and Chips

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Hubbie received his Porterhouse steak with baked onions

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I received the Chicken breast, with broccolini and mashed potato and jus

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While we all had a go at the side of asparagus

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Now before I continue, my meal descriptions would be far ‘fancier’ if I had found the original menu online. Not only is it seasonal, but sadly the restaurant is no more! I think it is Crown’s constant philosophy to keep updating their restaurants and keeping things fresh and new, no matter if they are popular… Anyway, just imagine the above with the addition of words like ‘jus,’ ‘garden dressing’ and ‘crumb crust.’ The photos show you anyway.

Although it looked quite simple, baby girl’s meal had her rubbing her tummy after most bites! That was a good sign. When offered chips and something else, it’s often hard to get her to eat the ‘something else,’ but in this case she did have quite a few pieces of the fish, picking up the chunks with her hands and feeding herself! What?! I didn’t have to beg her? And a lovely fish it was, delicately grilled pieces, which I was very happy about, since there is so much batter on offer for toddlers at restaurants, it becomes a bit boring. Not to mention unhealthy.

We were hoping she would have the asparagus, but it had a certain dressing that I can’t recall which left her opting out. We ate it instead with our meals, it was different, salty, but enjoyable.

Hubbie said his medium to well steak was grilled perfectly. In fact, his meal was amazing, perfect. Woah. Butcher approval? That’s a good sign. I also, LOVED my meal, in particular the crispy chicken with the jus… it was a tender, wholesome, comforting chicken, and until I ate that one I never realised I could be so damn pleased with chicken. The best word I can use to describe it would be ‘homely.’ I don’t know, it’s like the stuff that reminds you of home and your Mum’s cooking on a Winter’s night. Only this one was super-amazeballs.

Then there was the mash, and the crusty stuff on the mash – extra heartiness added there. We just couldn’t stop commenting about how good it was, and we only had positive things to say. There was one negative with the whole dinner experience, but it didn’t come anywhere from the food, the service or the restaurant itself… we actually could not eat together. Baby girl was extra fidgety, and did not want to stay in her high chair (it did look quite ugly) a moment longer beyond her meal being finished. So it meant that I walked with her and showed her the Chinese New Year display outside while Hubbie ate, then we did tag team and he went out with her while I ate solo. So, as far as Valentine’s Day was concerned, there was not much ‘connecting’ there.

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We had one of those moments: “What’s the point of going out?” But then Louie told me we were raising a fine girl, so I guess that counts for something right? Oh Louie.

That’s how it is peeps. It ain’t easy with a kid.

After I finished my main and Louie came to take our plates, he asked if we wanted to see the dessert menu. Personally, I really did, but I knew the time – it was after 8, meaning our time was almost up. I politely queried him, aware of the few empty tables around, fairly sure of the response.

He went away to check which I hadn’t expected, but upon return said there was no issue. Of course 🙂 It was interesting to note as we waited for the desserts, that the lamps on the wall came on at the same time, giving the room a romantic and atmospheric feel, and it was then I saw the time: 8:15. Coincidence? It was all very timely and appropriate, but that kind of attention to detail, I liked.

We managed to rope baby girl back in with promises of dessert after we ordered, and received this:

Dark chocolate ganache with berries and sorbet

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And a Panna cotta with fruit and celery granite

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Ha ha! I thankfully remembered the detail of the ‘celery granite,’ as that was my dessert. I loved it. It was cold and refreshing, light and creamy, and considering I’m not a celery fan, this granite did not taste at all like it, thankfully. It was frosty and cool, I really enjoyed the flavour. It was in cold contrast to Hubbie’s dessert – also good, but so intense with the chocolate. Hubbie was personally like “I’m paying how much for that?” He thought it was overpriced for the quantity of what he received, but I reminded him it was the presentation, attention to detail and the restaurant. That’s just how it was.

We asked for the bill soon after – and then it was definitely time to go!

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Food: 9/10. The quality was fantastic, yet if there was slightly more on the plate, especially in reference to the dark chocolate ganache, the score would have hit the top. Exceptional food and presentation.

Coffee: N/A.

Ambience: Calm, though loud which I did not expect. It had us feeling more comfortable because we didn’t feel like we had to whisper like in a library. It was a fine dining restaurant, with simple, modern and classy surroundings, and that cool, relaxed vibe followed through.

People: Poshy. Don’t be mistaken. Generally the age ranged from mid-30s to up, but that suggests that there were many people in their 30s, which there weren’t, as there were older couples and groups abounding. There was one family who had a baby, but this baby was in a pram… there were no other toddlers I could see! There was a hen’s party near us, who provided some of the loud laughter, which I very much appreciated.

Staff: I realised as soon as the ‘talker’ had left at the beginning of our experience there, that it was their intention that no one leave unhappy. It was impossible. They would not allow it. And too right with the price being asked…

The staff were exceptionally professional. They were friendly too, with Louie talking to baby girl a bit and even another female waitress smiling at her each time she walked by.

I particularly loved Louie’s narration on our food as he brought it over, almost like he was trying to sell it to us once again… “and here is your beautiful chicken… your fine asparagus.”

LOL. Very poshy here.

Price: A very healthy $192. 3 mains, a side dish, 2 desserts, and 3 alcoholic drinks. Not bad for a less than 2 hour stay. I have to add again though, that the food was amazing, as was the service… but still $192 is expensive. You don’t leave the restaurant feeling you may pop out of your clothes the way you think you might for that price, but again, it’s the type of restaurant.

Advice: Firstly, book. It’s a rule at Crown, stated on their website. If you’re really fussy and want outdoor seating, perhaps book over a week in advance so that you can almost guarantee an outdoor seat, overlooking the Yarra, and watching the passers-by, pass by.

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In a nutshell: This is a beautiful restaurant that I would like to go back to, however it’s not something that, at this stage of our lives, I can see happening easily. When you’re forking out that kind of money, you want to be able to enjoy the experience sitting across from your partner, Valentine’s Day Eve and all. So perhaps, unless you have a kid that sits there and does nothing (so really that applies to no parents), I’d suggest making your way over when you have left them with the grandparents. It’s just easier, as you do want to experience the surroundings and food and service in all of its finest…

And even with that being said, we still wouldn’t frequent the restaurant often, just because of the $$$ price tags. Like the chocolate ganache that is served sparingly, so should you too enjoy this restaurant in the same way (unless of course you are majorly cashed up, and in that case would you mind joining us on our food adventures? :))

So, I will come back… soon… one day… maybe when baby girl is 8. Yeah that sounds about right.

Afterword

As already mentioned, this restaurant has sadly permanently closed! Unlike the last food review I posted on the horribly appropriate failed Lygon street restaurant we had the displeasure to visit, I strongly believe this restaurant would have only seen its demise due to Crown’s ever-changing restaurant image.

If you see the name John Lawson anywhere, EVER, do not fear. Great food, is here.

Also, this should serve me right for waiting 11 months to post my review. (Waiting suggests I’ve been staring at my laptop thinking of what to write for that entire time.

Huh. If only life were that boring. NEVER).

 

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