EightyOne Fine Food & Wine, Berwick

Charcuterie Platter for 2 inc Ham Hock Terrine, Fennel and Garlic Salami, Butifarra Negra, Grilled Sour Dough, Pickles, Jam, Cauliflower, Artichoke.
I actually blogged about EightyOne restaurant almost 2 years ago (click here to read that blog post) and wasn't sure if I would come back to the restaurant. I am so glad I did, because the food has improved tremendously and I walked away a really happy (and full) customer last night.

Interior and ambience wise, not much has changed. The restaurant itself was still that same intimate, quiet, beautiful place I remembered. The service was still prompt and friendly. The menu has changed, but the selection was still quite limited. There were still only three desserts to choose from, but personally I was very happy with the options they offer for entrees and mains - they were all "my kind of food" and I would quite happily eat any one of the dishes offered in the menu. That's just my opinion, I love meat and they offer a dish of each type of meat which I love. For someone who maybe has a preference for vegetarian dishes or pasta, they might struggle!

EightyOne also offers a Tapas menu, which is again rather limited. We did not order anything from the tapas menu though, so I won't say anymore!

I started by ordering the cocktail that was on special that night, the "Tipsy Teddy" which was basically a jar packed with Midori, Malibu, Vodka, Lemonade, Strawberry and Gummy Bears! It was a delicious treat and I went easy on it and sipped it slowly all throughout the 3 hours I was there in the restaurant.

Between the three of us ladies, we quite comfortably shared the Charcuterie Platter for 2. The platter offers a nice selection of terrine and sausages and accompanying jams and pickles, etc to go with the grilled sour dough. Some elements were better than others, but overall it was quite a nice start.

I couldn't go past ordering an Entree for myself on top of the platter (so I ate less of my share of the platter to make room for a separate entree. I knew I just had to order the Twice Cooked Crispy Ham Hock, and was so glad I did! The ham hock was basically slow cooked first so the meat is super tender and melts in your mouth, then fried to crispy perfection.

Twice Cooked Crispy Ham Hock with Sweet Pear & Tendrils, Smoked Parsnip Puree, Ham Veloute && Jamon Dust
The sauce that came with it, apparently the smoked parsnip puree, is to-die-for! It went so well with everything else. I was savouring every bite of my amazing entree. Yum yum yum.

Confit Pork Belly with Pear Gastrique, Pomegranate, Radicchio, Fennel & Pear Slaw
Pork again for my main? Why of course! Like I said, their menu may have limited choices... but I would happily eat ANY item on their menu. It was as if the chef had my kind of taste in food, hehe. Anyway, the pork belly was deliciously tender and was quite an appropriate portion. Not too big, not too small. Sometimes I feel ripped off going to these "fancy" restaurants that serve only a tiny little piece of meat. This pork belly was the perfect size. I loved the fennel and pear slaw that came with it, but wasn't a big fan of whatever it was that sat underneath the pork. It was... not my cup of tea. Overall, a great dish! Would've preferred a bit more crunch to the crackling.

Slow Braised Wagyu Brisket with Lentil and Root Vegetable Jus, Soft Polenta, Wild Mushroom Crumb & Asparagus
Parpadelle with Chorizo, Rocket, Tomato, Olive & Yarra Valley Fetta
My dinner companions, two wonderful friends I met through Mothers Group and have kept in close contact ever since, ordered the wagyu brisket and the pasta which was on special that night. Both were pretty happy with their mains, we all had a great time sharing stories and eating delicious food so cannot complain!

Deconstructed Candy Bar - Milk Chocolate Nougat, Peanut Mousse, Bitter Chocolate, Almond Nougatine, Salted Caramel.
Technically, I didn't NEED to have dessert but I thought what the heck - let's do this. How often do I get to do this anyway (not very often these days) so I ordered the deconstructed candy bar. Oh. My. Goodness. It was DIVINE! First scoop was of the peanut mousse and a bit of salted caramel. More more more! A bit of this mixed with a bit of that. Need more salted caramel sauce! It was just the perfect finish to the night. I was very happy. If there were little imperfections in the previous dishes, this dessert fixed them all. I forgot. All I remember then at the time of eating this dessert was how bad it was for my hips but how good it tasted. I will worry about my hips tomorrow haha.

Rhubarb Cheesecake with spiced ginger bread, sesame crunch, rhubarb pearls & filaments, champagne jelly.
My friend had the rhubarb cheesecake and judging from her body language she enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed mine! I thought it looked beautifully presented in a glass, very pretty.

We truly did have a great night out. EightyOne finally redeemed itself, the food was so much better this time around and I really want to go back and try some of the other items on the menu. The restaurant may have gotten some average reviews in the past, but I can see a trend of people appreciating it more in the recent months. Perhaps they still need to be able to offer a more extensive menu and more variety to please more diners, or perhaps they should stick to what they do best and offer what they are good at - in my case, I am more than happy with the selection.

EightyOne is also one of the restaurants featured in the Entertainment Book so we got $40 off our total bill which made quite a significant difference to what we ended up paying! Basically we paid $55 per person for our 3-course meal including drinks. That was not bad at all for a fantastic night out. Just sad now that we've been there and used the discount, next time we go we won't be able to get that discount until next financial year... aawwww.


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