I have sat watching Will & Grace in some of the finest hotel rooms in the world. Sometimes with a glass of wine, maybe a potato-based snack, maybe even a same-sex companion. It might be tropical sunshine outside. There may even be water sports on offer but nothing makes a holiday like lying in bed, watching your shows, getting crumbs in the sheets, especially in a bed like the one at Middle Eight.
It’s not just because it’s a modern take on the four-poster, with enough room for three (well, I’m assuming six pillows was hinting at that) or because the outsize TV comes right up out of the bottom of the bed itself. And not because the whole room – the whole suite! – is controlled from a panel right by the side of the bed meaning there’s no reason at all to get out. Or that, just beyond the screen showing Karen dissing Grace’s blouse, there’s a little in-room courtyard area with a living wall and a fully-integrated Sonos system. But that’s some of it. Even regular rooms are in beautiful colours – like Tiffany blue with gold pigeons flying across – and all seem to have cocktail shakers, which is always a good sign.
Middle Eight couldn’t be better located if it tried. Right on Great Queen Street near the corner with Holborn Kingsway, you’re five minutes from Covent Garden, seven from Soho while the Southbank is a ten-minute stroll across Waterloo Bridge. There’s even a Greggs a minute away! It used to be another hotel but the refurb has been so extensive and so brilliantly done that you can’t actually remember how it used to be, even if you actually went in.
The name Middle Eight is a reference to the musical term, the bit of a song where Westlife would stand up from their bar stools and walk towards the audience, their bow-ties insouciantly untied by this stage in the game. And the whole hotel has a musical theme, but not one they shove down your throat, theme-hotel style. The rooms are named rather than numbered with those names often quite obscure musical references. Ours is Bay and we frankly have no idea where that comes from and we’re former music editors on national newspapers!
Musical motifs play across the glass on the interior doors, the stacks of books in the sitting-room part of our suite have a musical bent and downstairs in the mezzanine where you can have afternoon tea, there’s a saxophone, while behind the reception there are wooden bars that you can’t help but read as sound bars and which no doubt help the acoustics of the place. Same with the leaves all over the ceiling of the bar: it all helps keep these huge spaces feeling intimate.
Because downstairs those spaces are spectacularly big. The bar, with the huge central island and seating dotted about, even in the windows, and the restaurant, which heads yonder to the back of the building. The style of the restaurant, Sycamore if you’re on first-name terms, is chic modern-retro, so a light mid-century modern feel but with 70s flavours: mustard circular banquettes, broad parquet on the floor, glazed turquoise tiles on the columns, and brass, brass, brass.
The food is upscale Italian from Piedmont, Lombardy and Tuscany so antipasti, pastas, pizzas, whole baked sea bass, braised chicken in pancetta, porterhouse steaks and vegan options along roasted cauliflower and stuffed courgette lines. Fresh, tasty, not too stodgy and in an atmosphere that is light and bright and fun.
It’s a big deal opening a hotel this size right in the middle of town. So much to get wrong. But by throwing money and great designers at it, leaving what needs to be left (the dilapidated brick wall as you go down to the enormous downstairs party space, QT) and not being afraid to be bang up to date, Middle Eight has emerged from its previous incarnation as a whatever mid-town hotel into a smash hit. This is one remix we want to buy on 12-inch.
66 Great Queen Street, London WC2