Quo Vadis Soho
26-29 Dean Street, W1D 3LL
020 7437 9585/www.quovadissoho.co.uk
Hospitality runs through the veins of brothers Sam and Eddie Hart. Their parents own Hambleton Hall, the country house hotel and restaurant in remote Rutland. Their first venture was the smart Fitzrovia Spanish restaurant Fino. followed by the game changing Barrafina tapas bar in Soho (Barrafina 2 is to open soon in Covent Garden). Then the dapper duo bought up Quo Vadis in Dean St from a certain Marco Pierre White, completely refurbished the space and created a rather louche private members club up top.
After a successful opening period the energy seemed to go out of the restaurant and in 2012 the Harts brought in Jeremy Lee as chef and partner, who at the time was languishing at the Blueprint Cafe, D&D’s joint above the Design Museum near Tower Bridge. With a subtle refurbish Lee has given the restaurant new purpose and vigour as well as a coherent and distinctive modern European approach to the menu. I’ve been there several times but a lunch trip with her Ladyship seemed like an opportune time to review one of my favourite rooms in London.
We kicked off with a well-balanced glass of sparkling Rene Beaudouin Blanc de Blancs brut (£12) and its toasty aroma and clean Chardonnay taste was a perfect foil for my starter, the smoked eel sandwich (£8.50). This is one of my favourite small plates in London. It’s a symphony in three bites, a perfect marriage of smoke, toast and the sardonic bite of horseradish combined with smooth and crunchy textures lubricated with a hint of oiliness.
Her Ladyship (this isn’t an affectation-she just happens to be) went for the Sopressata, calcot and potato salad (£7.50). Sopressata is a thinly sliced spicy Calabrian cured sausage and a calcot is a green onion from Catalonia-I didn’t know either-anyway she pronounced the plate to be quite delicious and polished it off. We had moved on to a Muscadet granit 2012/13 Domaine de Bellevile (£6) which was crisp, mineral and well matched to our rather seasonal main courses.
Bream and cucumber salad (£19)-the fish had a beautifully seared skin with its flesh still firm and full of taste; the dill mayo coated the cucumber like a lover’s caress.
Salt cod with Puntarella, anchovy and an egg (£17.50) was beautifully composed. Lots of voices intertwined to create something greater than the individual elements. The crunchy freshness of the Puntarella was particularly invigorating.
Madam’s Creme Brûlée (£6.50) had a dark crunchy top and a creamy interior. Some things don’t need improving-they just need to be done well and this was.
My blood orange and Campari sorbet (£7) was as bittersweet an experience as meeting up with an old lover who has improved with age more than you might have hoped.
Quo Vadis is a steady ship and one you should take a ride in. Service has style and the room retains enough old-school charm not to frighten the horses. You sense that Jeremy Lee is in it for the long haul and that he isn’t forced to compromise on quality for the sake of a few pennies extra profit. I will always chase the latest trend but Quo Vadis is a keeper.