I was invited by SquareMeal (http://www.squaremeal.co.uk/) to a blogger dinner and was very excited. To be honest, I am a casual blogger and really do it for fun and all meals are on my dime so it was a fun change to go with a group of bloggers who all focus on different themes and interests. The dinner was at Four to Eight, a brand new Italian restaurant in Aldwych (scaffolding still up outside so it proves how new it is…).
We were a group of around 12 people and had a long table downstairs, where the nice and open kitchen is located. We started with some bubbles to wet the appetite while we peaked at the food the chefs were working on. The downstairs room would be good for a larger group as it is more quiet than upstairs and can accommodate longer tables like ours.
The first snack was a fun looking and tasty squid ink cracker with a significant dollop of caviar.
We sat down for dinner and got served around the table a freshly fried arancini, some lovely thinly sliced salumi and farinata which is a chickpea crepe (I tried it my first time at Riva at the Bulgari hotel and this one was much better).
What we ate:
I was seated next to Ellie Mathews (http://theyoungdomesticgoddess.blogspot.co.uk/p/about.html), across from brother and sister from https://goantolondon.wordpress.com/ and also Ele and Ed from SquareMeal. And of course, as food bloggers (even though I am so not a fan of this term…) we all agreed to try each other’s foods and the table was absolute chaos with everyone taking pictures….and putting them on twitter, instagram and all. Ellie and I just chatted and enjoyed the wine and food and conversation and left the social media activity for later…..
Charred Pear with whipped pecorino and pickled walnut: the waiter suggested this dish and it was a good way to start the meal in a rainy cold day with the very creamy and comforting whipped Parmesan coupled with a well cooked tender pear. The walnut was one lonely one more for decoration at the corner of the plate.
Venison tartare with beetroot, shallots, bitter lettuce and fermented pear: I have to admit when I think venison tartare I think immediately of the one I had at L’Enclume and http://www.samstewartetc.com/lenclume-review/ and I think that tartare has spoiled me for life and nothing will ever be that good. I tend to like my tartares chunky and I like seeing the meat or fish cubes and in this case, the venison was chopped too small and mixed in a creamy sauce that masked all the flavors. In my opinion this dish could use some chef love…..
Papardelle with Beef shin ragu: this was my second papardelle with meat ragu in a week (Artusi last week http://www.samstewartetc.com/artusi-peckham/) and this one sadly was not as good. Ellie and I agree we prefer our ragus a bit saucier and even though the meat was extremely tender and lovely and the papardelle was perfectly al-dente, we could have used some extra goodness from the red wine reduction remaining post cooking the meat.
Mushroom extravaganza risotto: this was my favorite dish but I am mushroom obsessed and this risotto had shitake crumbs and very meaty and deliciously roasted king oyster mushrooms. The plate was drizzled with a delicious parsley oil and topped with slivers of fried Jerusalem artichoke that added a great texture.
White truffle rice pudding: Ed seated next to me ordered this. I would have but was a bit riced out post risotto. I love rice pudding and this was a very cool interesting combination as it had white truffles and was brulled on top and served with a sweet/salty ice cream. Very unique and rich but probably a bit to heavy and creamy after all the food we had consumed already….
Rum baba: massive rum baba served with coconut ice cream and pineapple “mush” underneath. A very tropical dessert and enough for two or three people……I am not a huge rum baba fan so can’t judge it well but flavor combo was interesting.
Opera cake with ricotta ice cream: the layers were chocolate and chestnut cream and I could have used a lot more chocolate. The ricotta ice cream was good but the ratio of ice cream to cake was off and we should have gotten more ice cream.
At the end of the meal, the chef stopped to talk to each one of us to get our honest feedback on the meal and asked questions and seemed truly interested in our opinions and feedback. To me that is a great sign and I am curious to watch what changes he makes (will the meat ragu be more saucy for example…?). I have zero ability of hiding my opinions when it comes to food and he seemed to appreciate it.
In Sum: cute spot in the Covent Garden/Aldwych area. The dining room upstairs with the beautiful wine cellar is more fun despite the open kitchen downstairs. Good and easy spot to pop in if you are in the area for the theater or for a casual Italian meal.
Four to Eight ( http://fourtoeight.com/)
1-5 Catherine street London WC2B 5JZ