In order to refresh my musical knowledge and furnish myself with all the appropriate puns to write about a hotel called Middle Eight, I came across a muso blog by a guy called Peter Crosbie with a post entitled ‘Why a middle 8 isn’t a bridge’. He talks about the function of a bridge as a transition and the middle eight as being more contrasting, enhancing: an interlude. And I know what I prefer when I’m looking for a luxury hotel.
The first thing that makes Middle Eight stand out is the design. The lobby has a wall like a sweeping metallic wave, juxtaposed with natural wood tones and eye-catching furniture. The reception area looks as though someone has tipped up a box of giant matches and a high slice of gnarled tree decorates the wall opposite the entrance. And it looks fantastic.
The room we were given was fantastic too. One of only a couple of rooms in the property too good to have a number, the “Rocks” room on the fourth floor is a one-bed suite dedicated to the Rolling Stones. As well as the a couple of piles of rock music themed books, there is a drum skin signed by the whole band and presented in a frame with photos of a Stones gig. The bed was enormous, with a full height sliding door to connect it with the bathroom. Lots of thought has gone into the look and feel of every corner of the room, including inset lighting, ample sofa area in the living room and seats on the cute little terrace. In the midst of Storm Eunice, we opted not to wrestle with the excitedly shuddering outdoor furniture, but a sunny day would make this West End hotel room quite a treat. In the bathroom, the black flooring gave a very luxurious feel to the room, even more so when we discovered that the twin walk in shower also had a steam room function. Definitely not somewhere you just throw down your bags and head back out – this is a hotel room to be savoured and discovered!
The slick design continues in the bar and restaurant areas, where the ceiling is entirely covered in golden leaves, as though autumn has been turned upside down. It’s a great place for an aperitif before heading into Sycamore Vino Cucina, the tucked away corner of the open plan lobby floor where Middle Eight serves breakfast, all day dining and a good array of wines.
Sycamore is a feast of teal tones, a dash of mustard and an oddly incongruous blue and white print on some of the chairs. I’m no designer, and it certainly didn’t spoil my dinner, but looking at the photos to write this I found myself thinking why again… The menu is Italian, with some classic northern Italian traditional rustic specialities and a series of dishes that invite sharing, from pastas and pizzas to little cicchetti, Italy’s version of tapas. We began with the crab cannelloni, with courgette, ricotta and parmesan, served in a deep dish, and the pumpkin tortelloni, with pumpkin’s best friends, butter and sage, and crushed amaretti biscuit. Being pasta lovers, this is always a great way to start a meal and we were very happy to find at Sycamore the authentic simplicity that Italian cuisine does so well.
We continued with a succulent tagliata di manzo with 35 day-aged Dorset beef sirloin, rocket and parmesan, sprinkled with tart and fruity balsamic, and the bone-in turbot, served on a bed of broccoli, capers, shrimp and olive. The turbot was well cooked, the meaty texture and delicious flavour able to hold the loud voices of various garnishes and a big red wine. The wine was a Innocenti Chianti Dei Colli Senesi, rich and robust; I love big Italian reds and this one was quite tasty, perfect for a stormy winter evening.
After dinner, we ventured to the hidden depths of the Middle Eight hotel to experience the underground QT bar. A modern speakeasy of sorts, you can sit at little tables with your date or your friends and enjoy table service from the bar while enjoying live music by music legend Leo Green and his band. Playing a host of pop and jazz classics, it wasn’t long before the audience were on their feet and dancing away. While the atmosphere is amazing, we did have an issue with our wine bottle, which was standing in a cooler beside us, being knocked by an over exuberant fellow customer and falling horizontally where it filled with water! Mishap aside, this bar is a great hidden gem in Covent Garden, the kind of place where you can really let your hair down and listen to some really excellent live music, which we have all been missing for the last few years!
So, to labour the musical analogy, the Middle Eight Hotel is certainly not a bridge. A bridge connects two things; in music it’s a transition, in architecture it’s a functional way to cross a barrier. Some of them are pretty, but they’re not usually a destination in themselves. A middle eight, though, is a change of pace, something different and new that gives you a new perspective on the surrounding melody. It’s got a character of its own. And so, Middle Eight is not just a place to stay, not just a location from which to explore the West End, not just a bridge between where you were and where you are going tomorrow. It’s a destination in itself.
66 Great Queen Street