I’ve always been a sucker for Italian food; it’s the fresh, seasonal ingredients, simple-yet-vibrant dishes and carb-heaven plates of pasta and pizza that get me. I was lucky enough then to stumble upon Sycamore Vino Cucina in Covent Garden, a gorgeous new restaurant located on the ground floor of the snazzy Middle Eight hotel.
From the moment I walked through the doors, I was met by slinky interiors. The bar has a contemporary Art Deco vibe, with a mesmerising copper installation of sycamore leaves on the ceiling. My partner and I were immediately offered cocktails to ease us into the evening, which we decided to take on a sofa in front of the tinted windows (which are perfect for people watching by the way – especially when witnessing the carnage before England play in one of the knockout Euro games).
With an extensive list of classics and signatures, it was hard to choose our tipple. But after much deliberation (and a few suggestions from our bartender), we went for the rosemary negroni (£12), which was a more subtle version of the classic with a smoky nature to it, and the Sycamore (£9), a refreshing concoction of Beefeater gin bouncing off elderflower cordial, grapefruit bitter and prosecco. We sipped on these while nodding our heads to the funk and soul tunes of the night’s DJ, which made the venue feel inviting, relaxed and pretty darn cool. Once we'd made our way through the drinks, we were escorted to the stylish dining area.
Now, let me tell you about the food. At the kitchen’s helm, Paul Robinson (previously of The Coal Shed and Temper), combines his love for quality meat with authentic flavours from Northern Italy. To start, we went for the burrata, heritage tomatoes and salsa verde (£12). The shiny bulb of gooey cheese went perfectly with the fresh, zingy tomatoes that tasted as if they'd been picked that day. Next up, the carpaccio of Longhorn beef, pickled mushrooms, potato crisps and truffle aioli (£14). I usually like my beef slices to be a little bit thicker, as these were hard to peel off the plate without slightly mushing them together. However, the succulent cuts, combined with the flavours and textures of the accompaniments, more than made up for this.
We also indulged in a cheeky side of cacio e pepe (£5), which saw thick, hand-rolled pasta mingling with pecorino, black pepper and butter – it was rich, powerful and absolutely delectable. After being recommended the gamberi alla griglia, of grilled prawns, warm potato salad and cornichons (£10), we had to try it. Unfortunately, this was the one dish of the day I wasn't mad on, as while it was presented beautifully, the prawns were a little overcooked for my tastes. Alongside these dishes, we were given warm, freshly baked focaccia and sourdough to mop up any remaining sauces, as well as crisp bottle of Madregale Bianco (£24) to wash it down.
The feast continued as our waitress suggested the bistecca di manzo, of Longhorn porterhouse steak (£35), which we ordered rare. The cut of beef was simple yet oh-so delicious, and came with a béarnaise sauce that made each bite feel like a party in your mouth. We shared this alongside the vitello alla milanese, a veal escalope accompanied by lemon and pickled cucumber (£23). The milanese was superb; tender on the inside and perfectly crispy on the outside. As this was a seriously meaty affair, we decided to even it out by ordering a side of melanzane alla parmigiana (£5), which complemented the meal perfectly.
The DesignMyNight Digest
I'm not going to lie to you, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit. While I wouldn't go as far as to say the restaurant is cheap, it's incredible value for the quality of food, beautifully presented plates, impeccable service and gorgeous setting that you get. If you're looking for a swanky new spot for date night or even just a pretty place to guzzle down a few classy cocktails, Sycamore Vino Cucina is a top shout.
💰 The damage: £154 between two, plus service charge.
📍 The location: 66 Great Queen Street, London WC2B 5BX.
👌 Perfect for: Date night dinner or cocktails with your pals.
⭐ Need to know: If you're looking for good vibes, go down on the weekend as they have rotating DJs that play to the bar and restaurant.
On the hunt for more fabulous restaurants in Central London? Read our guide here.