Number Eight, Sevenoaks
With an impressive CV which includes tenures as CEO at Gordon Ramsey’s restaurant empire, as well as leading roles in acclaimed openings at Teatro, Angela Hartnett at the Connaught Hotel and Caprice Holdings, it is little wonder that Stuart Gilles arrived in Chislehurst with a firm plan for establishing a local restaurant concept boasting good food, good wine and good times. Three years and one hospitality crushing pandemic later, Stuart has seen that venture, Bank House in Chislehurst, go from strength to strength and establish itself as an acclaimed Kent dining treasure. Fresh for 2022, he, alongside wife Cecilia who seemingly effortlessly steers front of house, added Number Eight Sevenoaks to both Kent’s dining crown and their own culinary collection of marvels.
Gilles declared in our pre-opening, insideKENT exclusive interview, that his vision for the Sevenoaks restaurant, ‘…is a completely new style operation as well as a new team, which I hope will develop into something special locally. I want Number Eight to be professional but accessible, whether it be a special occasion or everyday, it will suit all moods. It will be a combination of sensations, from food and drink to music and design. Going out socially is no longer one dimensional, so you need to make sure all the moving parts are of quality. Attention to detail in all areas is critical.’ Fast forward to April 2022 and I was lucky enough to discover that this vision had become a reality.
Sitting stylishly on the corner of a weatherboarded Sevenoaks street in the town, Number Eight emits an air of cool, discreet confidence which effortlessly entices discerning diners in for the evening. Tonight, I am one of those diners. Walking through the door I am met with the gentle hum of excited evening chatter and the clinking of glasses. Stuart’s desire for Number Eight to be an elegant and professional, yet friendly and accessible place to come, is immediately achieved in the form of the hostess who expertly greets us and guides us to our table. Any preconceptions of pretension are immediately washed away and I ease into a happy state of relaxation in this warm and friendly ambience, which at the same time oozes sophistication through deluxe decor, white tablecloths and a beautiful bar that glitters with a generous amount of stock.
Naturally, we start with a cocktail each. As Number Eight places such emphasis on flavour, it is clear they value their cocktail menu and wine list just as much as their food. The pièce de résistance cocktail is their namesake and signature drink ‘Eight’ – an Instagrammable affair concocted from East London Liquor Co. Gin, Aperol, St Germain, lemon and egg white. It has a delicate, sweet taste that is a superbly satisfying start to a flavour-orientated meal. Specialising in Mediterranean inspired small plates, the menu is a painstakingly considered and carefully put together list of luxury artisan products found both locally and further afield, made into tempting dishes that prove difficult to choose from. When facing this dilemma, it is always my solution to ask the wait staff for their suggestion, with this in mind I opt for the simplistic yet beautifully pleasing Padron peppers, an entrée dish that is at the height of food fashion at the moment. I am also recommended the burrata with aged balsamic and courgette pesto, which has been another big hit on Instagram over the past year. Both dishes are full of strong, established and beautifully rich flavours. Alongside these, I opt for two more dishes of my own choosing. A smoked salmon lover, I decide on the treacle cured Scottish Salmon with orange and avocado. The tangy orange complements the smokiness of what is undoubtedly high-quality smoked salmon perfectly, a true flavour sensation that hits the peak taste spot of sweet and savoury. Artichoke is another favourite of mine, but I have never had artichoke quite like this before. Arriving warm and in the form of a salad, this dish is dressed with truffle and crème fraîche. Despite being gorgeously light, the intensity and divine flavours of truffle and artichoke greet the palette with sheer sensation – it is a dish I think I could eat forever.
As we move onto the mains, I can’t help but admire Stuart’s approach to food at Number Eight. In an age of culinary discovery, in which people strive to embrace new sensory experiences and different foods as much as they possibly can, Stuart’s vision for making fine and creative food more accessible fits perfectly with this 21st Century societal desire and has been realised in the form of Number Eight. Although meticulously selected, through his dishes, Stuart presents a plethora of flavour, produce and culinary creations for inquisitive and insatiable diners. His small plates are the perfect way to experience this, not only allowing variety but also showcasing ingredients and cooking at their finest.
The mains are slightly bigger than our starters, they are not overwhelming and again come beautifully presented and prove to be gastronomic delights. The grilled Rye Bay scallops with nduja, sweetcorn and brioche crumb, sit exquisitely in their fan-shaped shells. The pan fried Scottish salmon with cauliflower puree and caper and raisin dressing also sits in artistic simplicity upon the plate. Both of these fish dishes are cooked to utter perfection and again embrace that ultimate pleasure spot of flavour-combination; the salty freshness of the fish a heavenly ratio to the heady sweetness of the accompanying purees and dressings.
To finish, there is always dessert. I opt for the bakewell tart with vanilla ice cream and my dining partner goes for the sticky toffee pudding with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream – of course we share both of these to get even more of an extensive flavour hit. The desserts are indeed more familiar dishes than the previous, but still live up to their exquisite standards.
After our meal I am given the opportunity to once again speak to Stuart about Number Eight, it has now been four months since our last conversation and a lot has happened since then. ‘Since opening we have received a lot of positive, honest feedback from the team and guests alike. For me, that has been the highlight. It is the most important factor so far for myself and Cecilia. Afterall, Number Eight is a work in motion and needs to be adaptable and be able to listen. This is key to our delivery.’ I ask him what he would most like our readers to know about Number Eight, to me it is clear how much he values community. ‘Number Eight is bespoke to the area and created to be not only part of the community, but a business that adds value to the area where possible. We work with a team of local Sevenoaks and Kent professionals that grow with us to create a great experience for all.’ In just four months, Stuart and Number Eight have achieved this and will continue to make fine-dining and high-quality food accessible to everyone. ‘We want Number Eight to be accessible. That means that you can come along for drinks, lunch, dinner, the whole package. It is important to us that Number Eight is a familiar location for people to visit regularly with friends and family, no matter what the occasion might be.’
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