Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Review: The Birkenhead Restaurant with the Confusing Punctuation

Eight.Two, or eightpointtwo, or possibly even 8.2 is a beautiful bistro-style restaurant on Auckland's Northern Shore which I visited last week before attending a musical performance at the nearby Slipp Inn. How you spell the restaurant doesn't really matter as they don't appear to have a website, but how you spell the pub is extremely important – the double 'P' removing any possibility you might mistake it for a sexual reference (although a quick glance around the clientele upon arrival will do an equally good job of banishing erotic thoughts).

Our reasons for eating at eight^two were four-fold: it had turned up in the Metro Top 50, it was on the girlfriend's dreaded Entertainment Card, it had been recommended by my excellent comedian friend Jeremy Elwood and, as already discussed, it was nearby to the Slipppp Inn. So we had high hopes.

Because the staff were really nice, and because my last few reviews have been a little grumpy, I'll start with the good stuff:

  • The restaurant looks beautiful and exciting from the outside, and warm and stylish inside. First impressions are very important, and they've taken good advantage of the extra space and freedom offered by their relatively suburban location
  • The menu was short but excellent, and our braised squid stuffed with chorizo was very tasty. As our waitress pointed out, everybody else in town is serving salt and pepper squid right now (to which I would add that it's almost always deep fried, but never mentioned as such on the menu – no doubt they're worried that the F word will put people off). But here they do it originally and deliciously, and the rest of the entrees looked super too, particularly the French Onion Soup with Oysters and Cognac.
  • Wine prices were very accessible
  • The toilets were ... well kempt
  • Um, it was easy to find?

According to the man behind the counter, 8/two has a new chef, which may mean some of the following criticisms are being ironed out:
  • We told them we were very hungry when we arrived, but even so the bread we ordered took a long, long time to come. And it wasn't good bread – certainly not the sourdough described on the menu, and made entirely without salt. It was served with two discs of fridge-cold 'garlic' butter. Yum
  • For mains, the boned whole snapper was clever but tasted unexceptional, and my 'low-cooked' lamb obviously hadn't been – it was pink, lean and only moderately tasteful … the sort of thing you'd get at a friend's dinner party in the nineties.
  • Wine was up and down, possibly due to my bad choices. Maybe we looked like the sort of couple who didn't know much about wine because when my girlfriend asked what sort of prosecco it was, the maitre d' replied: “Italian!”.
(Sorry, these bullet point thingees never really seem to format properly on this blog. Maybe it was a similarly frustrating incident that got Eight#Two stuck with their name and no internet presence.)

So they were a bit busy, and maybe still getting to terms with the new chef. And some people I trust have been there and enjoyed it, so maybe we will next time too. Your other local eating option is the Sssslip Inn itself, where once a week they have a “Thursday Feeding Frenzy” in which diners can order a kilo of mussels for $10, or a kilo of pork spare ribs for $12. Unfortunately they don't accept the Entertainment Card, so I'm unlikely to be able to offer you a review any time soon.