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Monday 6 October 2014

Four to Eight - Soho Grind - Lima

On the blog today, a new Italian restaurant in Covent Garden, coffee & cocktails in Soho, and a new boozy Sunday lunch deal at Michelin-starred Lima.

Friday 26th September - Seven of us piled in to Four To Eight on their opening night for some classy Italian food.  We were ushered past the attractive ground floor bar and restaurant to a table downstairs next to the open kitchen.  

Italian food is known for its simplicity, traditionally using between four and eight ingredients, which explains the name.  I'd imagine many will hear it and think it's an address (see Three Eight Four), but they'll work it out eventually. 

"Small plates" (encouraged as bar food upstairs) arrived first, including my impressive helping of Calamari & Crayfish with parsley and almond salad (£10). Su-Lin steered clear as crayfish apparently turns her orange.  With a pharmacist on my left holding a bag full of antidotes, I felt it was worth the risk... Maybe next time.  Pigeon with honey beets, grapes & treviso (£9) and Zucchini Carpaccio with truffle honey dressing & pecorino cheese (£6) were also well received.

Top left clockwise : Pigeon, Crayfish & Calamari, Open Kitchen & Zucchini Carpaccio

Moving on to pastas and salads, the portion sizes didn't quite do the price tags justice.  Only the Scallop Linguine with (watch out Su-Lin) crayfish & tomato passata (£16) felt big enough.  Double Duck salad (breast & egg) with chard & fontina cheese (£12) and Duck Ravioli with savoy cabbage, fennel & parsnip (£15) barely scratched the surface of hunger - a shame since the cooking was superb, but an easy thing to fix if others agree.  The Lobster Fregola needs to pop over to Burger & Lobster to see how far £20 can go.

Double Duck Salad - breast & egg, chard, fontina cheese

Scallop Linguine, Crayfish, Tomato Passata

Duck Ravioli, Savoy Cabbage, Fennel, Parsnip

Last but not least was a range of desserts from French in-house pastry chef Annabelle Delrieux (previously chef patissiere at Anna Chocolat in Bordeaux).  We were never going to turn down the "Full House" - a sample of everything on the menu for £17 to share.  It's always tricky to get a real sense from such miniature portions, but the Profiteroles, Tiramisu and Chocolate Aero Biscuit made a great first impression, and the presentation was delightful across the board.

Elsewhere on the table, larger portions of the much-talked about Tiramisu (with white velvet and kahlua jelly - £7) and Chocolate Aero Biscuit (with rosemary & chocolate mousse, lemon & basil gel - £6) received the thumbs up.

Tiramisu with white velvet and kahlua jelly

Chocolate Aero Biscuit with rosemary & chocolate mousse, and lemon & basil gel
There's plenty of potential at Four To Eight.  The design, the staff and the food all deserve plaudits but I'd like to see some more competitive prices brought in - perhaps lunch & theatre menus will be the way to go if they are introduced.


Natalie, Chris and I walked off dinner through some of London's most unbearable tourist hotspots, before arriving at Soho Grind in Beak Street for a nightcap - one of several new sites from the Shoreditch Grind "Grind & Co" coffee bar team (see also Piccadilly Grind & brand new Holborn Grind).  They have just reopened their evening basement bar after sorting out some permanent licensing, something I'm all too aware of after two failed attempts to visit before!

It was worth the wait - a classic Soho bar / refuge akin to the Flat Iron basement bar and Society Club down the road.  Tiny, relaxed, fun, arty, and good-looking - the only slight downside is having to order food to be allowed to drink, but a plate of cured meats slipped down easily enough.  Bartenders and customers were in good spirits, enjoying the eclectic soundtrack whilst trying not to stare at the erotica on the walls.

Cocktails are well priced as they are at Shoreditch Grind.  Chris couldn't resist the Flat White Russian - not our waitress, but a boozy coffee cocktail served hot with Soho Grind Espresso, Chase Vodka, Coffee Liqueur and Milk.  Meanwhile I had my eyes on a Short Mexican (stop it) with El Jimador Reposado, Cayenne, and Cracked Coffee Beans which was interesting but didn't quite come together. Natalie unsurprisingly went for Gin-Out The Jams - a very drinkable concoction of Gin, Vermouth, Sugar, and Rhubarb & Ginger Jam.  

Of course, most won't look past the Soho Grind Espresso Martini, and who can blame them?

Flat White Russian

Flat White Russian, Gin-Out The Jams, Short Mexican

It's another hit for the fast expanding Grind & Co. group.  Upstairs is a funky-looking daytime coffee hangout, but you'll find me downstairs with the Mexicans and the Russians.


Sunday 28th September - It seemed fitting that three days after the new Michelin stars were handed out, we made our way over to one of last year's surprise winners, Lima.  

They have been busy in 2014, launching Lima Floral (Covent Garden) in July, but the promise of an epic long lunch with unlimited booze attracted me, Tim, Mary and Angharad to the original Fitzrovia outpost on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Sundays. 12pm-3.30pm. £35 per head. Tonnes of food. Neverending Prosecco and Pisco Punch.

There must be a catch...

Round 1:

- Mixed Ceviche with Yuyo, Sweet Potato & Canchita Corn
- Salmon Tiradito with Rocoto Pepper, Avocado & Celery Cress
- Tuna Causa with Blue (Purple - I'm not that colour blind) Potato and Asparagus Uchucuta

The Mixed Ceviche was unsurprisingly a highlight, and I could have happily eaten it all afternoon. The Salmon Tiradito also impressed, and friendly waiters kindly corrected our attempts to identify unknown ingredients - something that apparently wasn't dragonfruit remains a mystery.

Mixed Ceviche

Salmon Tiradito

Tuna Causa with Blue (?) Potato
Round 2 (already stuffed):


- Braised Lamb Shoulder, Coriander & Aji Panca Juice
- Suckling Pig, Crackling Ocopa Sauce - uses Huacatay and peanuts
- Oven Roasted Cornfed Chicken, Pachamanca Sauce

To go with:

- Vegetable Cazuela & Huacatay Sauce - Huacatay is Andean herb - "Peruvian Black Mint"
- Huancaina Potatoes - What Kinda Potatoes? One kinda potatoes? Huancaina potatoes!
- Roasted Quinoa - How do you pronounce it?! Key-noir? Kwi-noah?
- Carapulcra - Peruvian stew with more sneaky peanuts, caught Tim out every time
- Chaufa Rice - Chinese influenced fried rice - FUN FACTS: a chaufa expert is called a "chaufero", and Peruvian vs Chinese cuisine is served in "chifas" - there are 9,000 in Lima alone.

The side dishes outshone the mains, not least the Huancaina potatoes with their stellar presentation. A big plate of lamb, pig and chicken was not lacking flavour altogether, but it just wasn't as exciting as descriptions suggested, and ceviche had raised the bar very high already.

What kinda potatoes? Huancaina Potatoes.
All the meat
Round 3 (Prosecco Round...8?):

- Lucuma Ice Cream - unusual subtropical fruit sometimes called "egg fruit"
- Kiwicha with Purple Corn Jelly - still not dragonfruit.
- Alfajores with Dulce de Leche - round cookies with sweet filling

A quirky bunch - the alfajores were the winner by a long way for me, but it's hard not to love cookies with dulce de leche.

Unsettling - Purple Corn Jelly with Kiwicha
Three hours passed, along with 15 or so courses, and countless glasses of punch & prosecco (three varieties on our visit).

There's no catch.

Get over there before they realise how ridiculous it is!

Lima on Urbanspoon

Craving more Peruvian food? 

Senor Ceviche (Kingly Court) is opening very soon and Pachamama (Marylebone) is starting their 50% soft launch today.

Ignoring sober October in style? 

House of Ho have just launched Bobby's Rock and Roll Brunch - £29 / £36 for bottomless drinks and unlimited food plus live music in Soho - too good to be true?  

OH YEAH. AND IT'S LONDON COCKTAIL WEEK.  Here's what we got up to last year...


P.S. From Michelin stars to Bib Gourmands (the Michelin category for good food at moderate prices), we popped in to Barnyard for a drink after Lima.  Update: the staff are still great, the drinks list deserves a proper bar, and the popcorn ice cream with smoked fudge sauce hasn't gone anywhere.

Mini Popcorn Ice Cream with Smoked Fudge Sauce at Barnyard


Matt The Tumblr latest - Photos from Oktoberfest at Anspach & Hobday / Bullfinch Brewery

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