Sunday, June 15, 2008

Eating Out: EightyOne

EightyOne Fine Food & Wine
81 High Street, Berwick
Ph: 03 9768 9555

Strap yourself in, I give you fair warning: this will be a looooong post. Mainly cos of the photos.

With three family members all having their birthdays within a week, and the partner of one having one too, it's becoming something of a tradition for my family to get together for dinner for our birthdays each year - no mean feat since we live on opposite sides of this wonderful city. The last couple of years it's been over this (ie. west) side of town, so it's only fair that this year we Westies headed east for a change.

My brother had checked out the menu and it met with his approval, so that's where we went. There are several definite dining areas at EightyOne - the front looks straight out of an olde Englishe pub, all dark wood, wooden tables and chairs, and nice relaxed atmosphere. The back dining area is rather more classy, with crisp white table cloths and strategically placed lighting. There was also a first-level dining area that overlooked the back dining, but I didn't get a look up there - maybe next time. Something that struck us all was the lack of reverberate-y-echo-y noise from the large room, but I dare say a feature of heavy red velvet curtain on a wall and soft carpet under foot probably helped a LOT.

The menu, while not huge, seems to have something that will appeal to 99.9% of the population. Even me, a fairly fussy eater, could see several options that I'd happily eat. Between the five of us we managed to cover a fair percentage of the menu. They also have a pretty decent wine list, with a range of beers also available. There are also a bunch of cocktails that I'd love to work my way through - the lychee and strawberry cocktail above was MUCHO nice.

Entrees first. You'll have to forgive me, but I'm a little fuzzy on the details of what we all ate, but I'll do my best. In any case, if you saw the menu you'd easily identify which dishes I'm talking about below.

I ordered the sweet potato chips with a... a... a glaze of some sort to dip them in. I love sweet potato chips, and the sauce to dip them in was lovely - fruity and a perfect accompaniment. Several others sampled, and liked too.

Dad ordered the prawns... he liked. I'm afraid I can't for the life of me remember what they were crumbed in! I promise, one day I'll remember to take a notepad with me.

Bro ordered the southern-style chicken pieces, after ascertaining that there were no bones in them, with a spicy chilli dipping sauce. They were amazing. Imagine KFC, but way less grease, and a way better flavour. I'm half-tempted, if I eat here again, to just order a few plates of these!

We also ordered a couple of garlic breads. I think they also had melted cheese on top. Oh yum. Hm, maybe I'd order the chicken pieces and the garlic bread...

And now we come to mains. This dish was one I very nearly ordered for myself. As it was Dad-Wench ordered it, and I managed to try a little taste. I THINK it was almond-crusted salmon... It was delicious.

Bro ordered the lamb. We happily removed the tomatoes for him. It was cooked a fraction less than he liked. After we'd had a few minutes to taste our food our waitress, Kimberley, asked if everything was ok and offered to take the dish back and get another, more cooked. Bro said nah, it was fine.

My dish was duck risotto with mascarpone, pear and garlic. Droooooooooooooooooooooool. It might not look all that appetising, but this was ridiculously good. I ate far more than I should have, purely because it tasted so good. The pear was a good, interesting, contrasting flavour.

Bro-Wench got the roasted chicken, and this was the one disappointment in the meal. As she was tucking in she came across quite a bit of flesh that was still pink, and a blood clot. Straight away she stopped eating. We called Kimberley over and showed her. She agreed that she wouldn't eat it either, and took it back to the kitchen after asking if B-W wanted a replacement meal: B-W refused and so received another cocktail and her dessert complimentary. Kimberley spoke to the chef, and he advised that the chicken had been poached first, and then roasted, so it was apparently common for the flesh to remain pink and a clot to be found. Regardless, it's chicken - and B-W just couldn't stomach it.

Dad ordered the pork belly. It came out with a wasabi mash and some onion jam, along with some bok choy. He enjoyed the lot (but perhaps the wasabi mash not so much).

And now - desserts!!! D-W ordered this - from memory it was a chocolate and macadamia tart. Very rich, very nice, but hard to get through the whole thing.

Dad and B-W ordered the apple cobbler. It was listed as coming out with a creme anglaise, but on request they also added a dollop of vanilla bean ice cream. It looked good - apparently it tasted good too.

Mmmmmmm, passionfruit parfaaaaaiiiiiit. This was sooo yummy. I was torn between disappointment when I finished it, and gratitude that I'd finished it as I was approaching an uncomfortable level of fullness. The almond brittle that adorned the top was good too.

And finally, Bro ordered the banana semi-Frodo... oops, I mean semi-freddo! He reported that it was good, and the flecks of chocolate through it were "mmuurrrrggglllggggaarrrrggg" (or something similar).

I wasn't allowed to see the total bill. But based on comments I think it ended up being about $300. Sounds like a lot of money, but that's 5 entrees, 5 mains, 4 desserts (as B-W's was complimentary), 2 cocktails (plus 1 complimentary), 1 bottle of red, 2 beers, and a tonic water. And I was completely satisfied with my meal. The service was friendly, attentive, and our waitress adapted well to my family (believe me, not all do - we tend to get a bit rowdy, even before we start drinking).

I'd love to go here again. Maybe Christmas...

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