26-29 Dean Street
Tel: 020 7437 9585
Groucho Marx once said, ‘I’m leaving because the weather is too good. I hate London when it’s not raining’. What is it with the weather and us Brits? When it snows we hate it because it is too cold and when we experience the odd blast of Caribbean style weather we complain because it is far too hot.
In the top right corner of the new menu at Quo Vadis, the weather forecast is written; Mottled 11 degrees celsius.
I am willing to bet that, like the rest of the new menu at this Soho establishment, this final touch is from the legendary Jeremy Lee who has just taken his position behind the stove as new head chef. The Hart brothers, always immaculately dressed in Savile Row suits and tasselled brogues, have pulled off any almighty coup by uprooting Jeremy from his home at the Blueprint Cafe for 20 years and bringing him to Soho.
I’ll happily admit that I’ve always preferred the Hart’s Frith Street hangout, Barrafina, compared to QV. The stained glass window restaurant has always been more ‘Mayfair’, taking the wrong exit at Piccadilly and ending up in Soho.
The refurbishment has helped. The dark exterior has been replaced with a shade of duck egg blue and inside the room has shaken off its former image with some subtle changes here and there. The equivalent of an office worker taking off their tie and unbuttoning their shirt at the collar.
The menu is constrained, with only five starters and five mains and a few other choices including oysters, meat from the grill and today’s pie. Baked salsify and parmesan, from the bites section of the menu, is a cute combination and is cleverly simple. The chicken and duck liver pate was silky smooth and had an unbelievable shine to it. Bloater paste is a cheeky little tub of salted herring, which we discovered tasted even better when spread on the salsify.
Next up, the Lee signature dish. Smoked eel and horseradish sandwich. Chunky fillet of eel inside toasted crunchy country bread that had been smeared with creamed homemade horseradish for £6.50. Anything that good and that still gives you change from a tenner gets my vote any day of the week.
The sea bass with artichokes and gremolata was dear at £19.50 for the portion size but you couldn’t fault the cooking. The leg of middlewhite pork with braised beans and green sauce came slightly pink, always a good sign that the kitchen knows what they are doing. Delicate slices of pig with a side of beans in a caper, anchovy and parsley sauce. Ding dong.
The weather may have been mottled that day but things at Quo Vadis certainly are not now Mr Lee is in the house . The next time someone asks me ‘Quo Vadis?’, I shall simply answer yes.
Meal for two with wine including service is approximately £80