We knew we wanted to launch a top-end dining experience. My business partner (Sam Morgan, the owner of Craft, in which About 8 is based) and I went for a lot of meals in good restaurants but found the experience to be quite samey. We wanted to create something different with a story behind it so I came up with the idea of basing everything around the number eight, which was the date I first started working in restaurants. He thought I was crazy at the time, but I think it’s worked.
Tell us about the food
I came up with the name of the restaurant and the concept before I really thought about the food. We serve eight courses to 16 people and they’re all based on the number eight. For example, we serve a vegetable tart and a vegetable broth that’s been reduced eight times that’s inspired by the vegetable drink V8 and we serve a fish dish with a sauce based on oxidised wine because 8 is the atomic number for Oxygen.
Sounds a bit esoteric…
The concept might be, but my food is straightforward. I'm done with all that over-complicated bollocks. The more I've eaten out in good restaurants I've realised that less is usually more. And since About 8 launched (the restaurant opened in 2020) I’ve become more confident and stripped things back even more. I've also reduced the portion sizes. The only people we get here now are proper foodies, so I don’t need to worry about people saying ‘is that it?’. That means I can use amazing ingredients, such as A5 wagyu, and do very little to them.
The interior is quite... trippy
I want people to walk in and say 'what the fuck is this?'. I love movies. A lot of the design features are inspired by films, for example the lights above the counter are inspired by the lights on ET’s spaceship and the pass lights that we use to cook (the restaurant is very dark) are based on the strip lights on the car in Back To The Future. The space might look like a nightclub but it’s comfortable and we’ve thought hard about the guest experience, for example we have a box at each setting that contains all the cutlery each guest will need for their meal so we’re not constantly leaning over.
You have a rather unusual approach to drinks…
Yes. We don’t have a wine list. We get a small amount of pushback on that but people always come round in the end. We offer a drinks pairing for each course that’s focused on drinks we make in house, at the moment there are only two wines on there. Part of the reason behind this is that wine lists and wine service in general was something that really intimidated me when I was a young chef looking to experience good restaurants.
Tell us about the drinks you make in house
We make a few drinks that mirror the flavour profile of wine. One of our most popular creations is Not Chardonnay, which references the fact that a lot of customers will say ‘anything but Chardonnay’ when you ask them which white wine they would like. It’s a vodka-based cocktail that we infuse with oak and then infuse again with dehydrated grapes before mixing with a little tokaji and seasoning with salt.
Why not just serve a nice white Burgundy?
Admittedly we sometimes ask ourselves the same question as we’ve made a lot of mistakes and lost a lot of cash on weird experiments. But when they work they really work. Besides, opening a nice bottle of wine and pouring it really isn’t that hard. We like to challenge ourselves, and when a customer asks how it’s made we can tell them exactly how we do it and what’s in it.
Tell us about your upcoming dessert bar
The builders are on site now (the space is adjacent to About 8). We’re hoping to be open by the end of the month. It will be a place for people to go for desserts and after dinner drinks in the evening (About Eight is opening for four evening services a week Wednesday through to Saturday) but we’re also going to open it in the day as a desserts-only restaurant. It’s going to be called After 8.
How will that work?
We’ll seat people at about 2pm for an eight-course tasting menu that starts at the more savoury end of desserts and gets sweeter as the meal progresses. Serving eight very sweet dishes in a row just isn’t going to work. The desserts will be themed around the eight planets of the Solar System. I’m currently developing a mushroom and truffle-based dessert and a sweeter dessert that resembles a bleeding human heart inspired by Mars, the god of war.