Eat: Quo Vadis
Formerly the home of Karl Marx (who lived upstairs from 1851 -1856), Quo Vadis (meaning “where are you going” in Latin) has been a celebrity hang-out ever since it opened as a restaurant in 1926. Soho without Quo Vadis is almost unthinkable and the building exudes a sense of permanence and grandeur from a bygone era.
Until recently however the food too was rather stuck in the past until it was overhauled by the Hart brothers, Eddie and Sam, who own the excellent Spanish restaurants Fino (off Charlotte Street) and Barrafina a few doors away which always has a queue of diners waiting expectantly for a place at the bar. The quintessentially English and ever-charming Harts seem to be in their element here in these venerable surroundings and have improved the comfort of the dining room without meddling with the heritage (the beautiful stained glass windows remain untouched). The decor (not unlike the Ivy) is in the grand 1920′s style and makes you wish that men still wore hats .
The Harts are masters of attention to detail and the success of the simple (British/European) menu is a testament to well-sourced ingredients. Starters of Crab Mayonnaise and Gloucester Old Spot Terrine with Sauce Gribiche (hard boiled eggs, capers and herbs) were not deconstructed, molecularly modified or otherwise – just as they should be. The mains were equally impressive – rosie grouse with bread sauce and 50 day hung Herefordshire sirloin with chips and a finer fried potato I challenge you to discover. Everyone seems to triple cook these days but results are extremely variable. Here they have got the choice of potato and oil spot on and the result is splinteringly crisp on the outside and cloudlike inside. With the little pot of bearnaise sauce you will be in chip heaven.
Marx who was not adverse to a tipple once said “Be careful to trust a person who does not like wine”. He would have approved of the list with reasonably priced bottles for struggling philosophers alongside vintage classics. Well fed and watered you might be reluctant to return to the reality of contemporary Soho. The Hart brothers (who seem to have thought of everything) have also launched a private members club upstairs which the website describes as “a warm dry handshake of a benevolent uncle”.
Quo Vadis Karl? “Upstairs mate, away from the proletarian hordes.”
26-29 Dean Street London W1D 3LL Tel: +44 (0) 207 437 9585