Monday, 20 October 2014

Four to Eight - Floating Mid-way

I’m often asked why my blog seems so light on Italian restaurant reviews. While I do enjoy the occasional pasta and traditional homecooking, I think Italian is relatively simple and it’s good as long as the ingredients are fresh, which is a luxury we don't have in this country.  Then there is this new breed of modern Italian cuisine, lighter pasta dishes and smaller plates to share. Four to Eight falls in this category.

It was their soft launch; they have only been running for a week on the evening Mister and I visited. We were seated on the ground floor, next to the bar in the middle of the dining room - simplistic, Scandinavian-style décor. Our server was full of smiles but was short of recommendations - apparently she tried and loved everything on the menu, and couldn’t’ highlight a favourite. That’s never a great sign, just means nothing stood out.  

Zucchini Carpaccio truffle honey dressing & pecorino cheese
By the time our dishes arrived the bread still didn’t make an appearance, so we just cancelled it.

Thinly sliced courgettes with a very light drizzle of dressing, topped with truffle shavings and crumbs of pecorino. It’s a simple combination, but the dish was tipped off balanced. The dressing was very faint and its honey sweetness was barely detectable, the good thing was the truffle fragrance was even more tamed so it wasn’t an overkill. But the courgettes weren’t sweet enough so all I could taste was the nutty pecorino. In my humble opinion, I would slice the courgettes even thinner to tone down the obtrusive crunch and bring out their flavours more.

Mister could not have been more disinterested.

Pigeon honey beets, grapes & Treviso
Pigeons were cooked to a good medium, tender and moist with a slight chew to bring out their gaminess. Again the dish was off balance with the overly sweet cubes of beets, there was an unpleasant artificial sweetness that brought out the acidity of the grapes. It was a good idea that needs fine-tuning.

Mister doesn’t like pigeon.

Head to Tail Cannelloni beetroot, onion & horseradish
Head to tail refers to the oxtail and ox tongue in the stuffing. It sounded like a great idea; super tender oxtail with some chew from ox tongue would have given excellent mouth feel. Unfortunately this fell short on delivery - the shreds of oxtail lacked juices to hold the meats together. The cannelloni may have been topped with sauce, but it was dried and cracked to leave a blanket of blandness…

Beef Brisket oregano, polenta & kale
This was a dense brick of dry mass. As I cut into the hulk of beef, my knife was battling with the tangling shreds that simply wouldn't break apart. We asked for more red wine jus to moisten up the meat, but the flavours had already leaked away with the meat juice and despite dousing it with sauce, the tasteless, sinewy beef was dreadful. I felt sorry for the cow.

Our server noticed we left the brick of beef untouched, and offered to take it back. She said she tasted it and agreed it wasn’t up to the normal standard. Fine. Perhaps the kitchen was under pressure in the first week, and so pre-prepared some dishes, this one was probably re-made one too many times.

Truffled Baby Chicken hock & crème pecorino fritters, celeriac puree
After sending back the brisket, we ordered the truffled chicken instead. 

Judging from the portion, it must have been a premature baby chicken. And you know what’s really odd? I couldn’t make out which part of the chicken we were served. It had a piece of bone attached to it, which suggests it was a thigh, yet the texture of the meat was quite dense and slightly grainy, like chicken breast - albeit a tolerable one. It kind of defied the purpose of cooking a baby chicken when they couldn’t retain the tenderness of the soft muscles. No hints of truffle either, more like the regular roast chicken seasoning. The ham hock croquette on the side, however, was quite enjoyable – a very odd accompaniment to chicken I thought.

The Full House mini selection of all desserts
This could be described as a plate of torture. I’m not sure which was worse, when I had to beg for this from Mister, or when I finally had to sample what’s on the plate.

In short, it was a plateful of sugar in different shapes and colouring. The so-call deconstructed tiramisu was the worst offender, sickening whipped cream with a chewy disc of coffee. The pink sorbet was of an unrecognisable flavour, but Mister’s expression was priceless. I would have happily substituted each of them with a Waitrose equivalent, at least they were edible and I would have been at a lower risk of diabetes. It’s rare to find a full plate of failure in such a beautiful arrangement.

Generally we were underwhelmed by Four to Eight. I think they got some things right, like the size and diversity of the menu. However the kitchen appeared to be struggling with such ambitious items. I’d still give the team some credit for trying, at least they have put some thoughts into their dishes to make things more interesting, just not everything worked well together and they still needed to work on the execution. Our server did the best she could; it wasn’t her fault that the kitchen didn’t deliver. She resorted to concluding that we were hard to please; I beg to differ. 

Four to Eight
1-5 Catherine Street
Tel: 0207 240 6664
Four To Eight on Urbanspoon

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  1. Your post is very informative for foody lovefrs, images are so good. If we says that Italy is famous amongst tourists for its Italian food range is not wrong statement. i just came back from italy after corning to niagara falls with my business partner. we were there for a business deal but we didn't forget to have great Italian meal at Rialto Restaurant. Have you ever been there?

  2. I must say this post is inspiring for food lovers must visit in Italians best restaurant. Amery i totally agreed with you Italian food is most popular around the world. I am also crazy about Italian and Chinese food. My father also plan boston to corning ny for us. it is pleasant to meet you here. would you like to share some info about this tour??

  3. Sure Fara! i had great time there with my business partner. we enjoyed ourselves no need to worry about any thing.i will say the whole team superbly done there job. Specially food was awesome. go and had a great journey.