The atmosphere is almost religious at Number 5; quiet and respectful, as if to pay homage to the business at hand. The music is hushed, the waiters move silently over the thick carpet, and heavy drapes soak up any other ambient noise. It certainly keeps you on your best behaviour.
The table by the window allowed us a view over the rather unlovely buildings behind the old villa in which Number 5 is housed, but no matter. The light from the windows, as well as the well-judged indoor lighting, allowed us to see what we were enjoying from the shortish menu.
Water and wine to hand, we began with a chicken liver pate (or parfait, as they would have it) with cranberry compote and crisp bread for Bill, and a plate from the Diwali food challenge for me. This comprised thinly sliced beetroot topped with apple, walnut salsa, avocado sorbet and celeriac.
The pate was excellent, from the little I was allowed, and the cranberry a tart counterbalance. The Diwali special did not live up to the high hopes I had for it, unfortunately. The beetroot overpowered any flavour from the celeriac crisps, the avocado had lost its delicate flavour during the sorbet process, and even the walnuts could not help.
But it seemed chef was saving the best for second. My market fish, snapper, was as fresh as it could be and nicely complemented by an eggplant puree, fondant potatoes, and a salsa of roast baby onions and tarragon.
A delicious dish.
Bill's venison rump was matched with black pudding and braised Puy lentils. And it was a match - the venison and black pudding duking it out over which could overpower the other. Big hearty flavours, and all beautifully cooked and presented by kitchen supremo Martina Lutz.
Bill was still of a mind to have dessert, and the raspberry fool with lavender shortbread, honey-comb, and Pimms jelly sounded just the ticket. Unfortunately, it lacked a wow factor, and was pleasant rather than anything more.
From Number 5's website, it appears the restaurant has hosted such luminaries as former Prime Minister Helen Clark, Sir Sean Connery and Princess Anne.
This is a truly beautiful restaurant. It's just a pity that the food does not quite live up to the surroundings. Like the curate's egg - good in parts.
Rating out of 10
Our meal: $217 for two starters, two mains, one dessert, five glasses of wine and two beers.
Wine list: Extensive, and well maintained. The list of wines available by the glass is separate from the bottle list, which is a nice touch. I enjoyed the Clos Henri sauvignon blanc, Bill was impressed by the Hawkes Bay Black Duck porter ale.
Verdict: Number 5 offers a fine dining room and mostly excellent food.