Category Archives: Theatre

Four to Eight: high quality Italian food in Covent Garden

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.

Four to Eight Italian restaurant Covent Garden
Four to Eight used to be a sandwich bar but is now a high-end Italian restaurant

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

Costa Book Awards: celebs, gossip and a worthy winner

Costa Book Awards
First time novelist Nathan Filer with his Costa award-winning book, The Shock of the Fall

My taxi driver was very excited when I said there would be loads of celebrities at the Costa Book Awards 2014.

‘Like who?’ he asked, as he turned off Piccadilly to head towards the event venue, Quaglino’s restaurant.

‘Like, erm, Ian Hislop, and Simon Mayo… and maybe Mariella Frostup?’ I tried to think of some more A-list names who might conceivably be there but I should see his shoulders drop. He was obviously not that impressed.

Of course, it turned out I had slightly undersold the whole thing. The first person I spotted on walking down the stairs to the event was Jerry Hall, looking stunning in a massive halo of blonde hair.  Just nearby was actress Natascha McElhone, and Texas singer Sharleen Spiteri, the gorgeous Neil Pearson, and looming over all of them was the tall, brainy one from Pointless (Richard Osman – he is really rather tall). Continue reading Costa Book Awards: celebs, gossip and a worthy winner

Review: Quidam, Cirque du Soleil, Royal Albert Hall

cirque du soleil royal albert hall review

Having just a few months ago seen the jaw-dropping, mind-boggling spectacle which is Cirque du Soleil’s ‘O’ at the Bellagio, Las Vegas, the Cirque’s Quidam show at the Royal Albert Hall certainly had a lot to live up to.

But while the London show didn’t boast a 1.5 million gallon swimming pool in which acrobats high-dived and from which grand pianos emerged – the Royal Albert Hall’s insurers might have had something to say about that – Quidam was a much more intimate experience which seamlessly combined moments of exhilarating high energy with awe-inspiring displays of quiet and focussed acrobatic strength and grace which had everyone memerised.  On several occasions during the show I realised that I had forgotten to blink or swallow for what seemed like an age, and my sharp intake of breath at one stunning sequence was amplified a thousand times as the entire audience did exactly the same. Continue reading Review: Quidam, Cirque du Soleil, Royal Albert Hall