German Gymnasium (Kings X)

I find myself in Kings Cross – an area I don’t know, but have heard much about since its redevelopment. Caravan and Grainstore are two on my list that have been recommended recently.

Those of you that know me will be astounded that a) I had not heard of German Gymnasium before and b) I am not in charge of choosing today’s venue. I’ve left the choosing to a gentleman friend and he chooses extremely well.

The building is beautiful and was England’s first purpose-built gymnasium, with funding coming from London’s German community. It was built in 1865 for the German Gymnastics Society and hosted the indoor events London’s first Olympic Games, back in 1866. History lesson over.

The inside of the restaurant is almost cathedral like. Huge timber framed ceilings, enormous arrangements of flowers and an imposing staircase leading up to a first for gallery restaurant.

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We don’t have a booking but blag a table amongst some post marathon runners toasting their achievements. We have a drink at a the bar – a striking marble topped counter overlooking the friendly barstaff at work.

So to dinner then. The menu is Mittel-European (middle Europe to the uneducated (me)) You’ll find dishes and wine from Germany, Austria, Luxembourg and Romania amongst others.

To start with I choose a marinated French bean salad with squid and heritage tomatoes. Its packed with flavour and is lovely and light before course two. My friend picks herring on sunflower bread with an apple, onion and sour cream salad accompaniment. I thought I didn’t like Herring due to memories of jarred rollmops but this was in another league.

Main course is all about the sausage. We’re sharing tonight so go for a trad Bratwurst and a smoked grilled sausage with cheese in it. To go with these porky beauties we choose teeny tiny jersey royals, sautéed spring greens with kale and some sauerkraut. Sides were presented in mini le Creuset pots which pleased me greatly. Everything went together brilliantly – sausages were excellent particularly with the German mustard they came with.

We share a dessert – a chocolate pot which looks lovely and tastes heavenly despite being richer than a Panamanian bank account.

We drank a delicious Riesling – a wine I didn’t think I liked, so another new discovery.

This restaurant is a D&D outpost so they know what they’re doing. Service and food are excellent and the place really looks the part.

Never has getting yourself down the gym been more appealing.






Sagar (and cabaret)

My visit to Sagar in Covent Garden was an impromptu one, as was the burlesque caberet show that followed. My Thursdays aren’t usually that eclectic.

If you like curry and you’re on a budget, I cannot recommended this mini chain highly enough. I’ve been to one of their branches three or four times now so wanted to share this little gem.

Sagar is vegetarian (I’m not) but also offers a fully vegan menu. You’ll find reasonably priced vegetarian wines too plus wheat and nut free food options.

The decor is basic, but light and airy with seating upstairs. Service is pleasant, friendly and unobtrusive. Clientèle is mixed: students, pre-theatre goers and workers.

Chefs hail from Udupi, a small town in the coastal region of the Western Ghats, in Southern India.

Lentils are one of the star ingredients but not just in dal. Lentil pizzas (uthappams) are a speciality with seven varieties on offer. Next time I will try this…I also spotted a lentil doughnut.

We picked a bottle of fab South African Chenin Blanc and at £14.50 in Covent Garden this is a small miracle.

We decided to share a few dishes to maximise on what we could sample. Poori bread – deep fried fluffy dough arrived masquerading as two delicious inflated airbags.

I picked a french bean curry cooked with coconut, cashews and cream, which was delicious and a break from the norm. My usual favourite of spinach and paneer did not disappoint either. A golden dal and rice also went down very well me and my friend.

At £25 a head Sagar is a bargain and excellent opportunity to try south Indian cookery and also have a meat free day or spoil a vegetarian/vegan for choice.

And if you fancy a bit of post curry cocktail and cabaret Cellar Door is just round the corner…





Four to Eight – Covent Garden

Whenever I book a pre-theatre deal I think I subconsciously lower my expectations. I assume we’ll be rushed through to make way for the proper full paying customers, portions will be small as we’re paying half the price of the normal menu and service will be substandard.

When I pick a restaurant Italian is never my first choice. Don’t get me wrong I love Italian food I just always go for other genres first.

So you’ve guessed it – this blog is about an Italian pre-theatre meal in the heart of Covent Garden. I’m pleased to say that on this occasion all my misconceptions about dining deals were blown out of the acqua.

Four to Eight is located away from the madness of the Piazza – nearer to Aldwych. Tonight I’m out with a couple of the work ladies so we’re here to catch up with some obligatory prosecco. There’s a deal for £23 for 3 courses which includes a glass of the fizzy stuff. Done.

The pre-theatre menu has three options per course with a veggie choice on each. We all tentatively choose the crispy pig’s head. We nervously wonder if a medieval looking dish will appear snout and all. As the picture shows we were somewhat off the mark. Two cubes of crunchy porky loveliness arrive with kohlrabi and piccalilli and some more pork in a hammy form. Just the right size for a starter and not a trotter in sight.

On to the main courses and I keep up with my far from vegetarian choices. My friend did utter the words Old Macdonald as I worked my way through the farmyard line-up. I order calves liver served with baked mash and hispi cabbage. I don’t think I’ve eaten calves livers before, but they’re a world away from bitter rubbery liver from yesteryear. The liver is soft and delicious and the vegetables perfect. And look at the plate – so pretty!

The girls both choose roast gnocchi with porcini, sage and almonds. I have a taste and it’s lovely. They agree.

After a little break we order a dessert. Another first for me I go for a mascarpone affogato. Ice-cream with a tiny jug of hot coffee to pour over. I am converted. Susie G (as we like to call her) enjoyed a pumpkin semi-freddo which looked pretty fine too.

So why the name Four to Eight? The restaurant believes in sticking to just four to eight ingredients. Simple Italian cooking – can’t argue with that. It says on their website everything is cooked from scratch – a nice thing to hear when so many restaurants clearly don’t follow this mantra.

Service is friendly and attentive. The restaurant is simple and stylish.They have over 100 wines on offer and also serve cocktails too.

The restaurant sits on the site of a sandwich shop of 16 years ‘Gino and Franco’. It’s owners Gino and Leo always wanted a restaurant and this is the result.

If you’re in town for the theatre or spot of shopping Four to Eight is fantastico.

Ciao for now

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