One year on, I’m back at the Langham Hotel in Auckland as Master Judge for the Cuisine New Zealand Champions of Cheese Awards.

I’m keen to see how the Langham’s innovative restaurant “Eight” is going. I wrote about this on my last visit with much enthusiasm and I’m hopeful it’s still got the same buzz a year later. It had only been open six weeks on my first visit.

The Spice Route chefs at the tandoor

Executive chef Volker Marecek is still at the helm and over early morning coffee he assures me “eight” is giving customers a unique dining experience and they’re loving it.

Now ably assisted by his enthusiastic executive sous chef Nathan Hartley the irrepressible Volker seems to have more energy than ever.

It’s Friday night and there are around 150 reservations. Luckily for me no one has reserved the “chef’s table” so I take advantage of it’s unique position to watch the action from the “front stalls”.

I’m in early at 7am so the action hasn’t really started. I have time to choose where I’ll start my culinary journey.

There are some wonderful looking snapper fillets on display which Volker assures me are “off the boat this morning”. I just can’t go past these. Cooked for me in a couple of minutes I’m in heaven as soon as I taste the first morsel. Fish doesn’t get any better than this! Fresh, no fuss, just this beautiful ocean fish making my taste buds sing.

I’m in no hurry for another taste sensation so sip on a recommended Clayridge Marlborough 2010 Pinot Blanc planning my next experience.

There are so many options I’m finding it difficult to make my next choice. I eventually decide to stay with fish and order two small freshly cooked white bait fritters. For me New Zealand “owns” white bait and I am not surprised by the explosion of intense flavours as I consume these little gems.

The Japanese Tokaido sushi chefs preparing

As I relax and enjoy the buzz that’s building, cleansing my palate with another glass of Pinot Blanc, I savour the fun, excitement and casual ambience that pervades this five star diner.

I now feel it’s time for some red meat. Again I’m spoilt for choice. The decision is venison.

I love fat so venison is not my usual choice for a red meat, however I like the look of the venison on offer and am I’m rewarded with a superbly cooked rare steak with just a hint of rosemary that leaves me wanting more. At this point I need to restrain myself.

I retreat to my Pinot Blanc. Time for a break and a chat with the staff.

I love this style of dining. I can choose the portion size. Have it cooked just the way I want and leave room for another taste sensation.

The end of my night’s culinary journey is predictable. I love Indian food and I know the chef at this station makes the best butter chicken curry I have ever tasted. I would not normally order a butter chicken curry as they are usually bland and boring.  This one is an exception. Spicy with a complexity of flavours I have not experienced outside of the sub continent.

One year on I am not disappointed. Eight is still a fun, exciting yet casual dining experience I hope I can enjoy for years to come.

 

Russell Smith
Contributing Editor Regional Food Australia