Amongst the glitz of Chapel Street you’ll find an unexpected slice of unpretentious Italian charm behind a concrete facade.
Turn down unprepossessing Bond Street and draw up a seat at Third Eight Chairs. I promise you won’t regret it.
This tiny all-day cafe/restaurant is the work of an ex Caffe e Cucina manager, an ex Caffe e Cucina chef and a third Italian partner. Their quick professionalism, attention to detail and customer-focused friendliness is a lesson in good hospitality. It doesn’t hurt that the (male) staff are easy on the eye and every female is greeted with the most adorable Italian accent and called ‘bella’
On a Saturday night the narrow corridor of thirty-eight chairs is buzzy and busy, with a stream of apparent regulars/friends coming in for a glass of wine, a meal and a chat. There are a few seats by the window for solo diners and given the casual ambience and opportunities for people watching at close quarters you won’t feel exposed eating alone.
The dinner menu is tight (with about four specials) and focused on the Centro Meridionale region – the eight provinces comprising the centre of Italy as depicted on their paper placements. Though curiously their olive oil comes from Heathcote’s McIvor Estate….
I started off with school prawns with mayonnaise ($16). I can never resist these crunchy, spiky morsels and these prawns were fried to perfection. They were presented in their own little wire fryer basket and wafted the most heady seafood aromas towards me such that even the next table exclaimed ‘wow, those prawns smell gooooood’. The mayonnaise on the other hand was bland and I didn’t bother dipping the prawns in it after a while. A hearty squeeze of lemon sufficed.
It seems for mains I chose well as one of the owner’s favourite dishes is the pappardelle with slow cooked duck and porcini ragu ($29). It came out piping hot with thick shavings of pecorino as soon as my entrée was whisked away. Fresh pasta waits for no man (or woman) and this hearty, richly flavoured bowl of carbohydrates will sate your appetite for comforting Nonna food. Definitely a dish to be accompanied by a glass of red on a chilly night.
Dessert was a difficult decision – tiramisu, coppa al cioccolato (chocolate cup, cream, biscuit crumbles), strawberry meringue and crema al’arancio. On my waiter’s recommendation, I chose the latter, a version of creme brulee with orange cream ($13). The ramekin held a wafer thin sugar crust shielding a lightly set custard with just the merest hint of citrus. While I enjoyed it next time if my appetite permits I think I’ll go with something more richly chocolate – more to my taste. If you want an espresso to finish it’s made on a beautifully rounded 50s style Elektra machine.
Third Eight Chairs is a smart yet sophisticated local that caters for well for singles, romantic couples, friends out for a night and boisterous families. It’s a gem of a dining experience in amongst the somewhat hit-and-miss of Chapel Street dining – if you go on a weekend I recommend making a booking.
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