In fact, the windows are the best bit. They cover a whole wall and face out to a brilliant, if slightly quirky, East London view of warehouses, skyscrapers, houses, brick, steel and glass. The evening we went the weather was warm and clear, so we sat outside on one of the bed-like sofas (shoes off, feet up) and had a few glasses of champagne as the sun went down and glinted pinks off the buildings.
There were clusters of young suited men and women doing the same – and the vibe was not stuffy, but something closer to a cool, after-work party.
Perhaps that’s because this place is a members’ club, and one of those pally ones where you have to be invited by an existing member to join. (Non-members are allowed to dine here once, though.) There were a lot of chic French people – always a good sign in the style stakes, even if they do use the ashtray on your table as their own personal one while you’re eating.
STANDARD GOOD BRITISH
In the winter there are heaters outside on the two terraced floors – Eight knows that its outdoor area is a major trump card, so it makes sure its members can enjoy it year-round. Once we’d had our drinks and the sun had set, we headed down a floor to dinner, at a table lit by candles on a balcony of wooden planks lined with shrubs.
The food is standard good British-European, nothing spectacular. We had a goat’s cheese salad that the waiter said was nice and light, but which was in fact served as two deep-fried cakes of the cheese with a few leaves and beetroot – very tasty, but not quite right for a starter. Otherwise, there’s the very respectable likes of Jerusalem artichoke and thyme soup with truffle oil and potted Dorset crab with pickled cucumber and melba toast; and the slightly odder likes of Scottish lobster cocktail sandwich and foie gras with camomile jelly.
For mains we had a nice big hunk of seared sesame-encrusted salmon with moreish, fresh-tasting lentils and an enormous steak the size of my friend’s head, with bearnaise and lovely, golden chips. The two vegetarian dishes of roast butternut squash risotto and wild mushroom and sorrel ravioli also looked well-judged and seasonal. As you’d expect of a place like this, the service is silky smooth. The wine list is manageable and organised by country and region or grape – oddly omitting Cote de Rhone, so no plummy Grenache-Syrah reds.
Eight seeks to be a one-stop-shop for members looking for good food and interesting entertainment. There’s an on-site tailor and regular pastry-making master-classes, while the afternoon tea is being pushed as the next big way to conduct your business meeting. If dark rooms, cognac and cigars represent the old City, this place is rose champagne, cakes and sunlight. But time will tell if we are really ready to go back out to play – and spend.
In a Nutshell: A member’s club that captures the spirit of the new City with a pared-down, airy feel and a young, hip crowd. Decent food plays second fiddle to the rooftop bar: possibly the best place in the City for drinks as the sun goes down.