Covent Garden is known for its hustle, bustle, and thriving shopping scene, but at the top of Long Acre and across Drury Lane, just a stone’s throw from the thick of the action, you’ll find the quiet enclave of Great Queen Street, where new and exciting luxury hotel Middle Eight has recently opened its doors.
Close enough to all of the best the capital has to offer, yet nestled in a somewhat more subdued area that offers a welcome break from the throng, this stylish hideaway exudes sophistication and opulence right from the word go, with a cream exterior, gold lettering and all-round elegant design aesthetic that creates a luxurious feel even before you head inside.
The latest opening of the Shiva Hotels group, the project is overseen by founder Rishi Sachdev and was built on the foundations of legendary performance venue, Kingsway Hall, not far from the iconic Connaught Rooms.
Inside, the lavish aesthetic continues, with accents of gold, shimmering copper and burnt orange. The high ceiling of the lobby, adorned with sycamore leaves and copper detailing, is a ‘wow’ feature you can’t help but stop and admire, and offers a warm welcome that creates an impressive first impression that is very much a sign of things to come.
Within glimpsing distance, the marble and gold bar is a show-stopping feature that comes alive at dusk with affluent revellers, and with tactile, velvet furnishings and extravagant embellishments all adding to the sumptuous appeal of the space, it’s little wonder that Middle Eight is fast becoming a place to see and be seen.
The hotel features 168 rooms in total, including 12 lavish suites. The latter pick up on the theme of the site’s musical past and references to songs with memorable ‘middle eights’ – the middle part of a tune, and the hotel’s namesake. Two suites come complete with their own outside terraces, offering a covetable haven of tranquillity in central London that connects guests with nature in a new and unique way through their innovative living walls and drench these ‘rooms within rooms’ with natural light thanks to the overhead skylight.
My suite – Downtown – was spacious and wonderfully imaginative in design, comprising a range of high-tech features that made the entire stay not just more comfortable, but more fun too. The touch screen-controlled lighting offers up a multitude of different effects including futuristic multi-colours, and you can choose how and when you want to light up different areas, like the indoor garden, for a unique experience I’ve never had the pleasure of encountering elsewhere.
The sensor-activated lights that come on when you enter the bathroom were another great touch – and handy should you need to find the toilet in the middle of the night. Add to that the remote-controlled curtains and user-friendly switches, of which there were plenty strategically located around the room, and it’s clear to see that every element of the guest experience has been carefully considered.
The overall design of the suite felt thoughtful and authentic, yet didn’t skimp on luxury. The colour palette was natural and calming, and the high thread count Egyptian cotton linens ensured that the sprawling king-size bed was so sumptuously comfortable that I didn’t want to get out of it in the morning. Bespoke furnishings, including stylish Italian armchairs and green Carrera marble coffee tables all add to the sophistication of the set-up, and luxury lovers will appreciate the fine attention to detail.
The bathroom itself was equally plush, with slick, black-slate floors, a free-standing bath and a rainforest shower, with eco-friendly Anatome products all part of the lavish pampering experience on offer within. The super-soft Boca Terry bathrobes, made from recycled plastic bottles, were another great touch, as were the wooden room keys – and another nod to the hotel’s commitment to sustainability.
If you’re someone who struggles to find the perfect mirror during hotel stays, then you’re not alone. So often, the angle is wrong, there isn’t enough natural light, or there is no full-length offering – but not so at Middle Eight. Not only is there no shortage of different mirrors to choose from, but they are also beautifully positioned for hair-drying – simple and practical details that are surprisingly often overlooked.
In my eyes, a mini bar is an essential feature in any luxury hotel, and here, the contents is free and includes a bottle of wine and a selection of local beers and soft drinks, as well as a regularly-replenished supply of water.
Food and drink
Dining here is just as much of a treat as you’d expect, with head chef Paul Robinson’s authentic Italian menu in the opulent Sycamore Vino Cucina a highlight. Serving up mouth-watering cicchetti dishes – small Italian plates that are similar in concept to Spanish tapas – must-try dishes include the burrata with heritage tomatoes and salsa verde, the crispy polenta with gorgonzola fondue, and classic homemade pastas like Roman favourite, Cacio e pepe.
Heading down to the restaurant for dinner, I was immediately struck by the spacious interior and low-ceilinged cosiness, which was perfectly offset with muted tones for a relaxed and laid-back feel. The open kitchen adds to the theatre of the dining experience, and I watched on with interest as my starter of ‘gamberi alla griglia’ – or grilled prawn – was rustled up in front of me. Served with warm potato salad and cornichons, the prawns were meaty and delicately sweet in flavour, making for a simple yet tasty dish I wouldn’t hesitate to order again.
Just as all good Italian restaurants do, Sycamore Vino Cucina offers up a selection of different pizzas to choose from. For mains, I opted for a classic margherita; the base was light and crisp, with plenty of fresh mozzarella and basil, and the perfect tomato sauce, but it was slightly overseasoned for my tastes with oregano.
Onto dessert, and I was tempted by the decadent Crostata al cioccolato – a rich, dark chocolate tart served with Italian meringue and hazelnuts. Sweet and satisfying, with a welcome crunch, it was a delicious way to end the meal – alongside a classic Italian cappuccino, of course. Other options include classic Italian delights like panna cotta and Tiramisu, which looked equally sumptuous as I saw them passing by on their way to other tables.
Presentation across the board was simple and unfussy – not revolutionary – with chef Paul Robinson allowing the flavours to do the talking for a tasty menu that offers something to suit most tastes.
Breakfast is also served in the Sycamore, and was utterly divine. The signature ‘Sycamore breakfast’ was the obvious choice, and comprised two eggs cooked according to taste, thick cut Old Spot pancetta and salsiccia, tomatoes, and sourdough toast. Made using high-quality ingredients that are reminiscent of northern Italy, it was an inspired twist on the classic English breakfast, and has no doubt already proved as popular amongst other guests as it was with me. The service at breakfast was a little slower than I’d have liked, and seemed a little disjointed in places – but thanks to the excellent food, it didn’t detract much from the experience.
The adjacent main bar and lounge on the ground floor is a lively offering, carefully positioned so that it can be glimpsed from the entrance. Crafted in show-stopping, statement gold and marble, with mirrored shelving and velvet chairs, it’s definitely a highlight you won’t want to miss out on visiting. And with a lively atmosphere and a seemingly magnetic pull, it draws in the affluent party-goer and is a playground for the wealthy, offering up a comprehensive list of Italian wines and sophisticated cocktails.
As well as the Sycamore restaurant and ground floor bar, the hotel also has little-tucked away spaces to explore, such as The Balcony, a first-floor lounge-library area, perfect for business meetings or to simply relax on your own with a coffee. While the subterranean QT – a bar-club-like space in the basement – will curate the best of London’s live music scene.
Located close to the heart of iconic cultural hot spots including the Royal Opera House and the Theatre Royal, there is plenty to do in Covent Garden, whatever your tastes. From the plethora of modern shops and antique markets to the engaging street performers, a stroll around the area is an experience in itself, and even adrenaline junkies are catered to thanks to an impressive eight-metre ice wall that is yours for the conquering.
Leicester Square, Soho, Bloomsbury and the Thames are all within walking distance, but thanks to excellent transport connections, the entire capital is your oyster, making the Middle Eight an excellent place to base yourself for any stay in London.
In a nutshell
An opulent and well-located haven of tranquility in the heart of bustling Covent Garden, Middle Eight is fast becoming one of the most sought-after luxury hotels amongst the affluent – not to mention, a place to ‘see and be seen’. Chic, modern and fresh, this trendy hotspot, with its lavish interior, innovative rooms and suites, and great foodie scene, should definitely be your next port of call when visiting London.
Double rooms start at £300, year-round (£800 for suites) and include breakfast and complimentary Wi-Fi.
Address: 66 Great Queen St, London WC2B 5BX
Telephone: 020 7309 9300