Quo Vadis is a Soho stalwart that has always had an alluring, magnetic effect on me. Timelessly elegant and stylish, it stands out as a serenely glamorous beacon in this energetic, often chaotic neighbourhood. For several years it was Karl Marx's home, so perhaps it's the socialist in me that's drawn there.
The premises have been used as a restaurant for several decades, going through a various hands – I recall about 15 years ago, when it was part of Marco Pierre White's empire, the good enough food and some interesting Damien Hirsts on the walls. More recently, soon after it was taken over by Sam and Eddie Hart, I went with a friend and it was good. Solid, but a touch stuffy and formal. However, late last year they persuaded Jeremy Lee to move there from the Blueprint Café and things have moved into a different gear. Jeremy Lee is one of the best exponents of seasonal British cooking and has the confidence and experience to let the ingredients speak for themselves. Certainly not cheffy and fussy. What's more, the restaurant itself has had a makeover, simplifying the decor and using lighter colours that make it feel much more airy.
Since Lee's arrival, I have been twice. Firstly to a wine lunch hosted by Australia's First Families of Wine and last month I dropped in for a spontaneous supper with some girlfriends. Looking at the menu, there is so much to tempt you – I've reproduced here as I think it's such a thing of beauty.
I love the design and layout, the little weather report and the clear boxes showing what's available on a particular day. It's simply, almost minimally worded – a contrast to so many overly descriptive menus. There are "bites", pie and mash, a couple of grilled meats, a braise, oysters and a few other goodies as well as the helpfully edited main menu and theatre set menu. I had the set menu which is generously available all day: beetroot and soft boiled egg salad, followed by a deliciously simple dish – lamb's onglet, artichokes and parsley crumbs. It was crunchy, juicy, earthy: very tasty and satisfying and good with our juicy and versatile Languedoc red. I finished with the almond cake – moist and just lovely with the fruit compote and cream.
I feel they get so much right here when so many places try way too hard and fail. What's more, there is a sense of goodwill that will keep people coming back. These are the kind of prices gastro pubs routinely charge, yet this is one of London's best and most distinctive restaurants. Enjoy!