8 NOV - 2023
Who doesn’t love a new restaurant that doesn’t break the bank AND transports you to the streets of Vietnam?
After the tremendous success of Ponsonby’s Lucky 8, the owners of Lucky 8 and Mr Hao have come up with their new project; an eccentric jungle themed restaurant in Auckland’s CBD housing the same theme; dishes with an $8.88 price tag.
In all honesty, the CBD lacks a spot that is an easy location to park up at after work, has very cheap cocktails and great sharing style plates. For me, this is exactly what Jungle 8 brings to the table.
Breathing some fresh air into the lungs of Elliot Stables (a food court that was hustling and bustling when I was at University and in high school, but has lost many of its tenants and pzazz over the last few years), Jungle 8 brings a vibe back to the area and makes you finally head that way when in the CBD.
Inspired by the vibrancy and bright lights in Vietnam, as soon as you walk in, you are hit with an explosion of energy that brings the vibe up. The colour theme is pink and purple, with LED screens playing videos in the background. You can’t miss the massive neon tiger with a sign under it saying “Welcome To The Jungle”.
There is also some tasteful greenery effectively placed throughout the venue. Let’s just say, from the moment you walk in, it doesn’t feel like Auckland. For a restaurant which has been open for less than a month, it was absolutely bustling when we were there. All you can see are people clinking cocktails in happy “cheers” and grabbing dishes with chopsticks which makes you excited to sit down and dine for yourself.
The premise of Jungle 8 is that the cocktails and dishes are $8.88, however, there are some dishes at a higher price point. At that price point, and with the concept of share style tapas in mind, you can’t help but order pretty much everything on the menu. With that in mind, we thought we would give you our top picks instead.
I have to say that the cocktail selection and execution were on point. I am quite picky with the cocktails I like and at $8.88, I didn’t honestly think I would rate the cocktails that highly. So you can imagine my pleasant surprise when I genuinely really enjoyed the cocktails that I ordered, and the wee taste I had of the other girls’. To start, I ordered the Buy Vien Haze which was a tequila-based cocktail with an accompanying dragon fruit (which is one of my favourite fruits and a rarity in NZ as I usually eat these in Southeast Asia (so quite fitting with the theme)). It had lychee and aloe in it, which made it a refreshing cocktail which wasn’t too sweet. To follow, I ordered the Phuc’ing Recovery which is a Vietnamese coffee inspired espresso martini. It was topped with toasted meringue and the condensed milk inside was exquisite (so naturally, I was slurping away). The girls also went nuts for the Pick Up Soi Sukhumvit which is a gin based cocktail that has cucumber, mint and aloe (also very refreshing, and not that sweet). Do not miss out on the cocktails at Jungle 8, under any circumstances.
So without further ado, here are our top menu recommendations:
The Chef’s cold selection of sashimi ($38) was the most expensive dish of our selection but was unanimously and resoundingly the favourite. The sashimi consisted of salmon, tuna, kingfish and scallop. It was absolutely mouth watering with a zesty touch, some Thai basil and had an added texture. It felt like such high quality sashimi and in all honesty was better than some of the sashimi I’ve had recently at more fine dining establishments.
Our other favourites included the popping prawns which was a lightly battered prawn, subtly spiced for seasoning. I would not miss this dish as it provided the perfect fried option which came in quite a generous quantity. We ordered 2 popping prawns to be shared amongst 4, assuming the quantity would be smaller, but were pleasantly surprised. This was also served with a yuzu aioli giving it the perfect creaminess.
The grilled chicken skewers went down a treat with the team as they were kept nice and simple (the best way to serve these) but were elevated by the peanut sauce. This was a dish that the girls wished they ordered more of as they were gobbled up just as quickly as they were served.
I loved the crispy eggplant (as eggplant is one of my favourite dishes in general) and the batter wasn’t overdone or too heavy but was glazed with a tangy vinegar sauce that was slightly spiced but also gave it a sweet element.
The two salads on offer are also a must because it was a great break in between the richer dishes. The girls loved the beef papaya salad because the tangy fruit paired alongside the pineapple chilli jam was so moreish and the bursts of papaya complimented this so well. I absolutely loved the tofu salad and was licking the plate clean. It was a fresh salad with a subtly creamy coconut flavour but perfectly complemented with cucumber for added freshness and touched with almonds for a more nutty texture.
Mr Hao’s Chilli Chicken Wings were also the perfect nod to the chilli chicken at Mr Haos and had that delicious numbing mala flavour which is such a comfort food (and one of my favourite hangover dishes to order). It also came with rice cakes (with a similar flavour) and lotus chips which were such a great change in the texture.
We could not recommend Jungle 8 more as your next lunch break treat or after work catch up. Providing such a vibey yet affordable dining option ($8.88 in this economy!) you cannot complain at the great quality of this food at such a competitive price point. The food is delicious, with a menu housing an array of flavours catering to your preferences, and we all left feeling full and satisfied. The cocktails go down the hatch so easily (I could have had 20 Phuc’ing Recoverys) and they do free soju shots for Instagram shares too! Completely delivering on its intention to be a fun venue, Jungle 8 does not miss in bringing a sociable and excitable atmosphere to the Auckland CBD in a way which doesn’t break the bank.