Four to Eight is a new Italian restaurant which lies in the heart of theatreland, a stone’s throw away from Covent Garden’s famed Piazza.
Opened just three months ago following an extensive one-year refurbishment of the former sandwich bar which once stood on the same site, the result is a contemporary 90-cover eatery set on two levels and boasting a stylish bare brick décor.
An interior designed by architect Ed Shinton from Atelier West, diners are greeted by a magnificent towering display of this venue’s impressive wine collection (there are 160 bottles in total) which sits adjacent to the well-equipped central bar. The friendly atmosphere is also immediately apparent, and is indeed a theme which continues throughout the excellent service demonstrated during the meal, helped by the founders’ philosophy of treating staff like family members. Turning our attention to the menu, Four to Eight offers a small, but perfectly formed selection of dishes which have been honed over time by the team of chefs lead by the talented Chris Denney. There is no pizza, but apart from that, there are all the other regulars that you would come to expect from this genre of gastronomy such as seafood, meat, fish, and of course, pasta.
Accompanied by a crisp white wine from Australia’s Clare Valley, we started with a selection of Antipasti, little servings to tantalise the taste buds prior to the arrival of the more substantial courses. These were namely large green olives, smoked almonds and a selection of fresh bread with extra virgin oil. For something more filling, diners can also have the Salumi or Formaggi (cheese) selection which is served with quince jam and opera bread.
The Small Plates, the opening chapter of the meal, offer everything from venison to red mullet, to soft shell crab. Being a lover of cheese, I chose the Burrata served on a bed of extra virgin olive oil, garnished with thinly sliced pieces of pickled radish and beetroot, and finished with a delicate sour dough crouton. When piercing the Buratta, the soft centre simply oozed out, mixing with the surrounding oil and juices, and this sumptuous combination just melted in your mouth. My guest tried the pickled pear served with a balsamic sauce, which was equally a hit.
Come the main course, and following the recommendation from Rosa, our very knowledgeable hostess, I sampled the ‘Fish of the Day’. This translated as a whole seabass served on a wooden board coated with a thinly spread black olive tapenade and a selection of lettuce leaves and shredded vegetables. Accompanied by a small helping of deep fried potato croquettes, this dish was cooked to utter perfection, and already sliced open to the bone, the distinctly fresh fish was deliciously moist and lifted off the bone with ease. It was without a doubt, truly superb. My dining partner opted for the tender salt marsh lamb leg, once again served on a wooden board, but complemented by a small copper saucepan housing a caponata, a mixture of finely chopped vegetables.
With a small break to let our taste buds rest, we cast eyes over the dessert menu which features everything from a lemon tart to sorbet. It was a difficult choice, but in the end we both decided on one of our all-time favourites by the name of Rum Baba. Decorated with a pineapple crisp, served with a healthy dose of refreshing coconut ice cream, and sitting on a bed of fresh pineapple, this sweet did not disappoint. We couldn’t get through all of it as we had run out of space, but the texture was excellent and was a real highlight. Fresh mint tea with some basil and passion fruit jellies then rounded off what had been a great meal.
Four To Eight really is one of Covent Garden’s hidden gems for theatergoers, or for those wishing to either enjoy a quiet candlelit meal or celebrate a special occasion. With such well-honed ingredients, spanning the food to the service, I am sure that Four to Eight will quickly flourish into a jewel of London’s West End.
By Simon Wittenberg MIOJ