Wednesday 24 August 2011

Quo Vadis, Soho

Barbary duck with caramelised carrots

It was a rainy Saturday afternoon when the telly broke. The papers were read, my book was boring, and there's only so many times TPG can colour code his wardrobe of cashmere V necks. Particularly when they're all a minor variation on navy blue. On the positive side, I did re-discover a love for my old Transvision Vamp CDs. We stared at the blinking theatre sign just down the road from our apartment and pondered.... What to do, what to do....

Although we live in the West End, we have become completely out of practice at going to the theatre. Would not even occur to us if the latest Judy Dench number sidled up to our front door and performed a monologue through the keyhole. But finally, my friends, the penny dropped and after a few last minute phone calls we found ourselves high-fiving ourselves all the way to the ticket box. (We saw Betrayal - quite good too, and particularly if you don't mind a bit of 'sleb sighting since it stars Kristin Scott Thomas.)

But before all that, we had to snag ourselves seats for some pre-theatre dining. Because as if anyone can wait until after the show. (Does anyone ever do that? Please comment if you do so I know you exist.) Arbutus was in the running but a quick call revealed their normally great value pre-theatre menu for the night had mains of risotto and pasta only (zzzzz....) and so I finally got to see what was behind the beautiful stained glass windows of Quo Vadis.

Beetroot gazpacho with horseradish

Inside wasn't as impressive as the outside. I think I had imagined a kind of elegant, ritzy version of The Ivy, but instead it was all quite formal and stiff and low ceilinged and white table clothed, with some lovely art deco mirrors and hotel foyerish modern art and lots of grey haired customers in pastel twin sets. And the odd glammed-up younger couple about to go to the theatre.

The pre-theatre menu is good value at £17.50 for 2 courses or £19.50 for 3 courses (the set lunch menu is the same price). The regular menu is pricier (but still looked ok) with entrees ranging from about £6.50 (Scotch egg, bacon and little gem) - £11 (Dorset crab, Heritage tomato salad) and mains generally around £17.50 (battered pollock, chips and mushy peas) - £21.50 (rump of lamb, broad beans and baby onions).

We expected good things since the restaurant comes from Sam and Eddie Hart who own the fabulous Fino and Barrafina. And all the food was really quite good - classic, cooked well, very nice, if nothing earth shattering. (To be fair, it's rare to feel the earth shatter on a pre-theatre menu.) Starters of sardines (fresh and lemony) and a silky beetroot gazpacho with a kick of horse radish were perfectly done. A chunky piece of roast plaice the size of my head was slightly overcooked but memorable for the size if nothing else. TPG's duck was cooked to a lovely pink, with a good gamey flavour and came with caramelised carrots.

Service ranged from ok to fairly hopeless in the case of 1 waiter who plonked dishes on our table without a word and forgot to return with things we'd asked for. But my main beef was with the staid, hushed atmosphere. Where's the sizzle of Barrafina, the pizzazz of Fino?

Humungous plaice with Jersey Royals

So despite a really decent meal, perhaps its the combination of the old fogey like room and the average service that left me feeling like I'd ticked something off my to do list, but with no real inclination to return. Still, at least we weren't at home playing charades in front of the dead TV.

Quo Vadis, 29 Dean Street, Soho, London W1D 3LL (Tel: 020 7437 9585)

Quo Vadis on Urbanspoon


  1. I ended up at Quo Vardis one night after a long afternoon at The Sanderson Long Bar. We did notice the staid atmosphere but it didn't worry us, due to our slightly elevated mood, I'd say. I thought the food was great value for money.

  2. I didn't mind Quo Vadis too much when I went, I remember we had amazinglt sweet razor clams and a delicious crab linguine! Tis a little uptight though, I agree with you on that.

  3. glad you enjoyed betrayal-extremely ridiculous prices for a play that initially performed for 2 quid a piece-if you're ever looking for theatre check out my blog! for some recent, new, raw theatre. Next up? Royal Court's Faith Machine starring Hayley Atwell (Captain america, Brideshead Revisited)

  4. Last pre theatre we did was at Le Deux Salons- was a pretty good deal- but for me, the real delight is post theatre- it doesn't feel like a special night out without ending up sipping campari on the rocks at the Savoy. Last time we went was after 'in a forrest dark and deep'.Great, but afterwards we needed a bit of sweetness and light.

  5. The theatre industry eat post show dahling... that's when you want to go and get involved... ;-) The Ivy, Sheekey's and Joe Allen particularly do well post show. QV wasn't part of that scene even in it's MPW heyday (too arty and cool for us theatre types). Those that are, tend to be set up for it, and buzzier as a result, though there's never any need for service that bad, sounds like it was newbie night...


  6. I agree about pre show. can't last that long with some food! and possibly a drink or two... I've found the Gallery Mess in Sloane Square (attached to saatchi gallery) to be good for pre theatre. Not too badly priced either. :)


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