No. 8 By John Lawson

5/13/2014 11:57:00 PM

Now we start with the (many) birthday posts! The first birthday event, in what has turned out to be a four-week celebration extravaganza, was dinner with some coworkers at No. 8 in Crown.

No. 8 by John Lawson
Crown Entertainment Complex
8 Whiteman St
Southbank VIC, 3006
Ph: (03) 9292-7899
No. 8 by John Lawson (number 8) on Urbanspoon

It actually took me ages to choose a restaurant for this dinner - not only was the only free night we all had Good Friday, but I also had to think of dietary requirements (two seafood avoiders, one vegetarian, two who can't take spicy food), wanted a convenient location, and didn't want to make everyone spend too much money.

In the fortnight leading up to the dinner, I literally called and emailed fifteen different restaurants trying to find a suitable one! So many were closed, some only had set menus, some were only doing lunch, some places never got back to me, blah blah blah. At one point, I was even considering scrapping the idea and just having a dinner party! But then Sandra, the voice of reason, simply said: "You don't want to be doing dishes on your birthday, just pick somewhere in Crown".

Bang, problem solved.

My favourite restaurant in Crown is Spice Temple, but obviously this wasn't going to suit our two spice avoiders, and having lots of dietary requirements makes sharing dishes hard. So, next on my list was No. 8 by John Lawson.

I had been to No. 8 about four times previously, and almost always enjoyed it, but hadn't visited since new Chef John Lawson came on board. However, the menu looked good and when I googled it, I found quite a few positive posts from different bloggers. All of the posts I found were write-ups of invited complimentary meals to showcase the new chef, so it's hard to say how closely the service they received would mirror what an ordinary punter would get. However, lots of the posts were by bloggers who I've been following for a while, and whose food opinions I trust (I Eat Therefore I Am, Iron Chef Shellie, The Chronicles of Ms I-Hua and The Boy, I'm So Hungreee, Poppet's Window) and most importantly - the pictures of the food all looked good!

So, with all that out of the way, let's talk about our meal! We start with some very good beer and wheat bread, with butter. (Made by Ed's Breads). I generally prefer a crustier bread, but we all still really enjoyed this.

Beer and wheat bread

Espresso Martini, French Lady, Passionate Pablo (passionfruit and Aperol)
Taken with a Canon EOS-M

A slight negative: our table was indoors, but happened to be in the direct path of the balcony door, and it was freeeeezing! The door kept being opened and shut for customers and waitstaff to come through, letting the cold wind in, and we all had to keep our coats on. Brrr! Before the mains came out, we asked if we could move to a different table, and luckily they had room upstairs and kindly shifted us to that table. Yay!

We collectively decided to skip entrees, and wine selection was delegated to myself. (What pressure!) I chose a bottle of 2010 Domaine Faiveley Bourgogne Rouge. I don't know heaps about wine, and I chose it because it was a pinot noir (one of my favourite grapes, easy to match with a variety of different foods), it was French, I hadn't tried it before, and because it was priced pretty well at $75. It was good - hooray, my amateur wine-selecting system seemed to work!

Wild mushroom risotto - $30

The mushroom risotto was excellent - a nice strong mushroom flavour, perfectly al dente grains, all topped with bonus sautéed mushrooms.

Nigel Thomson’s Barwon River lamb shoulder, served with bush spiced quinoa and sheep’s yoghurt - $35

This lamb dish looked quite plain, but packed a lot of flavour, with the quinoa in particular having a great taste from the bush spices (and I imagine stock too). My friend who ordered this said she'd only ever had sweet quinoa before (i.e. as a breakfast porridge), and was pleasantly surprised and impressed by the quinoa here. The lamb was tender, moist and very flavoursome.

Crispy Otway Ranges pork belly, smoked paprika and preserved kumquat - $32 

The pork belly dish was a winner - crispy skin, gelatinous fat and tender meat. It was very rich, but that's what you want when you order pork belly!

Confit Ora King Salmon, soy salt, crab and sweet corn succotash - $38 

When I saw confit salmon on the menu, I imagined it would look similar to the confit ocean trout we ate at Tetsuya's (i.e. I thought it would look almost raw), however it looked closer to a grilled piece of salmon. My friend Jenni said she liked it though!

Seared scallops and tete de cochon, black radish and compressed melon - $34

I love scallops, so couldn't go past the seared scallops. All four were perfectly cooked - seared on either side and quiveringly soft within. The "granola-bar looking thing", (my friend Kim's words, not mine), was a crispy brick of tête de cochon. Now, I'm not entirely sure what tête de cochon is (literally, it means "pig's head"), and seeing as Google didn't yield any answers, I'm all out of ideas. What was served at No. 8 was a brick of very tender pork meat (perhaps from the head of the pig?), crumbed and deep-fried. Delicious.

We also got a few sides to share:

Jerusalem artichoke, goat's curd and garlic shoots - $9

Jenni and Jimbo ordered these Jerusalem artichokes - I'm not the biggest fan of Jerusalem artichokes (or anything that resembles alfalfa, hehe) so didn't try these, but they said they were good!

Russet Burbank baked potato, cheddar beans and crispy pig - $9

The "Russet Burbank baked potatoes, cheddar beans and crispy pig" sounded promising, but surprisingly wasn't that impressive - it had too high a ratio of plain carbs (potato and beans) to salty tidbits (pig and cheddar) and the result was a little bland.

Much more successful were the hand cut potato chips: a big bowl of irregularly shaped potato pieces. They were crispy, fluffy, salty, fantastic. There were even thin slices of deep-fried garlic in there too - extra deliciousness!

Potato chips, hand cut - $9

None of the options on the dessert menu really jumped out at us, so we enjoyed these very tasty chocolates filled with passionfruit jelly while we waited for the bill...

Chocolates filled with passionfruit jelly

... and then adjourned to the bar at Spice Temple, where we inhaled some of those fab salted caramel parfaits and some passionfruit marshmallows. Yay!

So, that was our experience at No. 8! There were lots of great dishes, efficient service (we were only given a two-hour window at our table, and the kitchen and waitstaff had all of this under control), a comprehensive yet accessible wine list, and good cocktails. Definitely a good spot for a slightly fancy, but low-pressure dinner.

Thank-you to my coworkers for celebrating my birthday with me, and being patient and easygoing with my venue-dithering (and just being generally awesome!)

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  1. I tried the mushroom risotto recently and also enjoyed it. Wonder if I can have one for dinner tonight!

  2. It is hard when so you're catering to different tastes and wants. I sometimes want to give up! :P



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