Olivo, the Italian restaurant on Eccleston Street near Victoria station, used to be a lunchtime favourite of mine but for some reason I haven’t been back there for about ten years. However when I finally returned this week I was delighted to find it hadn’t changed a bit, which isn’t always a good thing but in the case of Olivo was just perfect.
The bright yellow wallpaper was the same, the friendly welcome was the same, and the top notch Italian food was also the same – fresh, bright dishes which looked great and tasted even better. This is no fuss, no frills Italian cooking – which after all, is what Italian food is all about. The menu was clear and concise and full of great dishes, with the set menu a very reasonable £24.50 for two courses and £29 for three.
We started with deep fried squid with fresh tomatoes, rocket and a balsamic dressing, and red endive and artichoke salad, with parmesan shavings and truffle oil. Both were great, the artichoke salad giving off a great mouth-watering but not overpowering truffly smell, and the squid looking picture-perfect with vibrant red of the tomatoes.
While any of the other mains would have done, neither of us could resist the black tagliatelle sauteed with cuttlefish ragu which was delicious and the perfect portion size for a lunch when we both had to reluctantly head back to the office afterwards. I certainly won’t leave it another ten years before I’m back at Olivo again this time.
The ever-changing nature of London’s restaurant and bar scene means that not infrequently I go to eat or drink somewhere and spend most of the time thinking: ‘What used to be here?’
Thankfully with Four to Eight, a new Italian restaurant in London’s West End which has opened right in the heart of London’s Theatreland – it is in fact located right in between those West End behemoths Mamma Mia! and The Lion King – the answer is easy to find, because the previous owners are the current owners too.
Gino and Leo Zambito, Sicilian brothers who came to England in the 1960s, used to run the Franco and Gino sandwich bar on the same site, where every actor from Sir Michael Gambon to Felicity Kendall popped in for a cheap bite to eat.
Their new foodie incarnation is certainly a step up, even if Gino still talks wistfully of providing cups of tea and sustenance to London’s cabbies day and night. Four to Eight is bigger, for a start, with the ground floor dining area surrounded by huge glass windows so you can watch the world go by, and a massive and fittingly theatrical central wine cabinet right in the middle of the room. Downstairs is a more intimate, darker affair but still buzzing thanks to the open kitchen where diners can watch the chefs in action. Continue reading Four to Eight: high quality Italian food in Covent Garden→