A couple of years ago, Tatler, the magazine synonymous with goings on along the King’s Road, said the following in its 2013 Restaurant Guide: ‘The great thing about Eight Over Eight is how consistent it is. Dinner on a Monday, late lunch on Sunday, even when the Mongol hordes descend on a Friday or Saturday night, it goes on doing what it does so well’.

It was, indeed, Friday night and the Mongol hordes – I couldn’t have put it better myself – were upon us. This being Valentine’s weekend, they’d galloped in from Essex and other far-off lands two by two, their polo necks high and their tits even higher, occupying four tops with an infuriating entourage of coats, cards and flowers. The restaurant must have anticipated their arrival because each linen-covered table was protected with cheap paper sheeting. They were clearly putting measures in place to prevent expensive laundry bills – heavily made-up faces slipping onto the tablecloths can cause nasty stains, especially when they’re loosened with tears jerked by their ‘fella’ whispering sweet nothings across the edamame.

Anyway, Tatler’s synopsis was accurate, that is if they found Eight Over Eight to be habitually very good at providing extraordinarily long waits between courses and forgetful, impersonal service. The Mongol hordes had obviously left the kitchen in hot water: “meltdown” I think was the expression the waitress used as she shredded my short rib of beef at the table a good 45 minutes after the starters were cleared. It was exceptionally good, although I was too worried about missing the opening scene of Fifty Shades of Grey at the Curzon up the road to fully enjoy it. Yes really.

A braying crowd began to swell at the bar as the ark of lovers began to burst at its rivets. “Backs!”, waiters barked as they squeezed past the queue that was forming at the matire d’s stand, and the manager complete with earpiece – because no pan Asian restaurant can be seen to lack a slick looking twerp with a bit of tech in his ear – was flushed as he apologised for the delay. What he failed to apologise for was the two forgotten drinks orders I’d already given up on. It certainly wasn’t all ‘Hurrah! Hurrah!’, although there were bits and pieces that were excellent.

Duck and spring onion sui mai, were so moreish we ordered another steamer. Together with the hoi sin dip they formed the magical combination of salt, sugar and fat that we Brits love about Chinese food. Prawn and black cod gyozas were heart-touchingly good, in fact, everything on the restrained dim sum menu looked brilliant – as our neighbours tucked into squares of pork belly in black vinegar I rued not ordering that. My short rib was certainly impressive enough to interest a couple of Americans next to me who yee-hawed in amazement as I tucked in with some brown rice.

Not quite so good were the limp edamame, the chilli salt squid – more crisp than seafood – and a pad Thai that was pleasant enough but served in that dated way that requires you to finish dressing it: little piles of cashews, chillies, spring onions and limes sat in corners of the plate.

By 9 o’clock the table was covered in saucy drops and greasy prints, the way all good Chinesey meals should end, but most of those were from the sloshes of heavy-handed waiters. Perhaps that’s why the paper sheets were down. Was it the presence of the Mongols that was wreaking havoc in the kitchen and on the restaurant floor? Or was the hospitality simply below par? Either way, the guys at Tatler were wrong. We left in a rush, paying the bill mid-way through the mains for a smooth getaway. It was one of those nights – Friday 13th as it happens – where fortune wasn’t on our side. And we weren’t going to wait around for a cookie to tell us that.


Eight Over Eight on Urbanspoon Square Meal