There are a LOT of restaurants in Covent Garden. Hundreds, I worked on the marketing for one at one point, and it can be really difficult to stand out and an extremely tough sell. There’s a lot of good food, some inspirational chefs, stellar service and some beautiful venues. Fortunately new Italian Four to Eight on Catherine Street encompasses all these and has leapt into the best few in the area.
In a former life Four to Eight was a coffee shop owned by brothers Gino and Leo Zambito, until they turned it into a restaurant and recruited head chef Chris Denney to create a compact menu of beautifully presented, authentic Italian dishes. The restaurant is dominated by the central bar and wine cellar, and decor-wise is sleek and modern, but not too stark.
The menu consists of antipasti, small plates, pasta and grills. The small plates are light and delicate, and packed with flavour. Smoked eel was well balanced and complimented perfectly by tangy salsa verde and a runny hen’s egg. Burrata is my idea of heaven and again, was well balanced with pickled radish and a light, crunchy sourdough crouton.
At the suggestion of staff we also indulged in the ricotta balls with wild garlic sauce, which was the best starter not just of the evening but that I can remember having for a good while. The balls are soft and light, and the wild garlic is flavoursome with the pungency of its stronger cousin. The vivid green of the sauce makes the unusual dish a treat for the eyes as well as the taste buds.
Big comfort food was the order of the day for mains, and I’ll admit I had my eye on the saltimbocca for about a week before our booking. It delivered and then some, with rich saffron butter and the meat just falling off the bone (excuse the exhausted expression). This is a heavy one so don’t have it if you have anything to do later on!
Lamb heart ragu with spaghetti had a good strong meaty flavour, and was so tender – none of the grisly or chewy bits that you can get with mince. Obviously since I was wearing a white top I promptly splattered it down my front, but the enjoyment factor remained high nevertheless.
The gariguette strawberry dessert is a new dish, and long may it stay on the menu. It was absolutely bursting with fresh fruitiness, and the buttermilk ice cream was light as a feather. The chocolate pavé with blood orange was also good, but solidly trumped by its fruity friend.
Pricing is so reasonable for the quality – it’s fine-dining food and ingredients with friendly service and a relaxed atmosphere – a great combination. They also do a ‘lunch for less’ where you can have a main and drink for £12, and a theatre menu too. Definitely a new go-to venue in Covent Garden.
*We were guests of Four to Eight but dinner would’ve been about £100 for two with three starters, two mains, two desserts and a bottle of wine.