Food and Drink

   

No. 8 by John Lawson

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Fireballs and pokies are the two terms that spring to mind when someone mentions Crown. But the casino’s come a long way since the idea of fancy dining was Planet Hollywood or choosing lemon chicken from the food court.

Nobu, Rockwell and Spice Temple are all adding to Crown’s culinary chips, while the recent reno of Number 8 means it’s a fair bet you’ll find something better than Burger Rings this side of Southbank.

The newly minted and re-badged No. 8 by John Lawson sees the affable Essex chef take the reigns of the riverside venue. A smart fit-out compliments Lawson’s menu featuring Victorian produce done a little bit fancy – belying his pedigree working with peeps like Gordon Ramsay at The London, Daniel Boulud at New York’s Daniel and Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saison with Raymond Blanc.

At the moment that means Barwon lamb raised exclusively for Lawson’s kitchen, free range Milawa ducks and micro sunflower from Flowerdale Farms. Wines can be matched by sommelier Tom Stow to the region you’re dining from.

Proceedings started with potato, honey and rosemary bread served with seaweed butter from EDS Breads, baked exclusively for the restaurant. It was warm, soft and as good as anything I’d tried from the artisan bakers in Melbourne. I could honestly have made a three-course meal just from this stuff. But Lawson had other plans.

Which involved dipping my Victorian beak in the Flowerdale farm Spring salad (wheat berries, baby carrots and pea shoots, $18). The wheat berries are similar in textures and taste to barley and it was a refreshing start. Though I wanted to order more bread.

Next was the truly excellent Milawa duck breast with shallot puree, asparagus and peas ($36). I love duck, and not just because it rhymes with another of my favourite words. Lawson’s duck was plump, came wrapped in a crisp, salty skin and had a satisfying meat to fat ratio. The asparagus added a nice crunch. You’d be quackers not to try it.

To end I couldn’t go by the banana split with rum caramel and toasted hazelnuts ($17). All the flavours you’d expect plus a healthy dollop of nostalgia. Sort of like Planet Hollywood.

If you find yourself down Crown way, you’d do worse than trying John Lawson’s cooking. I reckon they’d go great guns selling that bread direct to punters.

NO. 8 BY JOHN LAWSON

Riverside at Crown
Lunch: Mon – Sun 12pm – 3pm
Dinner: Sun – Thurs 6pm – 10pm
Fri – Sat 5.30pm – 10.30pm
rownmelbourne.com.au/no-8


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