Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Quo Vadis: that's where I'll be going

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 CafĂ© 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!

Square Meal

Quo Vadis on Urbanspoon


  1. I love Quo Vadis too and the big card menus are my favourite. In my book, EATING MY WORDS I describe a night out in QV with the PA to the arms dealer I had been a private chef to. It was owned by Damien Hirst and Fernando Peire (ex Ivy)at the time. Fernando got me a bit tipsy on Champagne and I managed to knock my glass over, smashing it on my plate of lobster. He stopped me from picking out the shards and continuing to eat. Oh happy days!

  2. Great stuff! Back then I was once there when Jarvis Cocker (and I think the rest of Pulp) came down from the upstairs bar and took a table in the restaurant. The whole room was distracted by this and later on in the evening I couldn't resist, rather tipsily, going over to say "thank you" to him. So love Jarvis.