In music theory, ‘middle eight’ refers to a type of musical interlude that differs in character from a song’s melody. You and I know it as ‘the bridge’. It’s used to inject variety through a change of key or tempo.
And Middle Eight is certainly doing that to London’s traditional – and often uptight – luxury hotel sector.
Music is at Middle Eight’s core – from the moment we arrive on a Thursday evening, the tunes are pumping, a DJ on the decks running the show.
The staff have a sparkle in their eye; the restaurant’s maitre d’ is literally dancing with some of his team. It’s more like walking into a party than a hotel. And you can’t help but join in.
If you take your ‘standard’ hotel as a Victorian townhouse – entry hall, a variety of rooms accessed from different corridors – then Middle Eight is a modern penthouse apartment. The reception, bar and restaurant are all open plan with people and music flowing organically throughout.
The fact that Middle Eight has its own inhouse speakeasy, QT, tells you everything you need to know. There’s live music and cocktails every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night with legendary saxophonist Leo Green holding court. You may have heard his Green Room show on Radio 2 – it’s essentially a live version of that.
In a former life, this hotel was a Methodist church called Kingsway Hall. Its legendary acoustics saw it become one of the world’s leading studios for the recording of classical and film music. The likes of Pavarotti and Montserrat Caballe performed here. (It's fitting that the Royal Opera House is only a few minutes’ walk.) Middle Eight continues that rich history of live music and performances – although it’s less Plácido Domingo and more Duke Ellington these days.
Food & Drink
Sycamore Vino Cucina is the main restaurant here – open kitchen one side, sprawling bar the other, and a mezzanine floor beyond.
Given the hotel’s warm and convivial vibe, Italian is the perfect choice. Tuck into creamy burrata, rich granchio cannelloni and a fresh rombo chiodato (mainly because it sounds so much better than ‘turbot’). There’s also handmade pizzas and authentic cicchetti if you want something lighter.
As it’s Italian, it’s made for sharing. Unless, you know, you want it all to yourself.
The Balcony on the mezzanine is more secluded – a cosy spot for a board meeting or board games. There’s even a curated library with books focusing on art, London, sustainability and ecology.
Sustainability isn’t just a buzzword here – with many sustainably sourced materials used throughout the hotel.
There’s wood everywhere – from the carved-oak reception desk, to the giant trunk cross-section mounted in the main foyer (it’s a slice of a giant teak tree from Sumatra Indonesia, in case you’re wondering). Even the room keys are hewn from a slice of walnut.
If music is the rhythm here, nature is the bass. Some of the suites even have indoor gardens with living walls and a skylight shining natural light into what was once a windowless first-floor meeting space in the hotel’s previous incarnation as The Kingsway.
Inside our suite, there was also a top-of-the-range Sonos Five system in the corner of the living room; and more wall-mounted Sonos speakers in the other spaces. Like the hotel itself, this suite was designed to party. There was even a cocktail-making set, martini glasses and high balls. Sadly, it is BYOB though.
The hotel may be in Covent Garden, but it does have a City connection. The managing director of parent group Shiva Hotels is Rishi Sachdev, who left behind his successful career in the Square Mile to set up a luxury hotel group that couldn’t be better suited to City high fliers.
And although the QT is more used to hosting post-premiere parties and jazz concerts, it can be used for conferences, too. Accessed via a dedicated private entrance at street level, the space also features a retractable 172” screen for presentations, private screenings or background projections. Or – if you're really ready for the Middle Eight vibe, then your own private concert. That French horn (Grade 3) isn't going to play itself…
Middle Eight Covent Garden, 66 Great Queen St, WC2B 5BX; 020 7309 9300; middleeight.com