Timelessly elegant and stylish, Quo Vadis stands out as a serenely glamorous beacon in Soho, notable not just for carefully judged seasonal food, but excellent value for money. What’s more, just a few moments from Tottenham Court Road station, it’s a convenient choice for an easy journey home on the Northern Line.
As well as having been one-time home to Karl Marx, the premises have been used as a restaurant for several decades, going through a various hands – I recall maybe 20 years ago, when it was part of Marco Pierre White’s empire, the food was good enough, but overshadowed by the Damien Hirst works displayed on the walls. Now it’s owned by Sam and Eddie Hart who, after a rather stuffy and formal early spell, lured chef Jeremy Lee from the Blueprint Café. At this point it became a real destination. 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 without being cheffy and fussy.
Since Jeremy Lee’s arrival, I have been several times and, apart from a busy Friday lunchtime close to Christmas, it’s been rock solid. What’s more, without being flouncy, the room is comfortably furnished so you can actually hear what people are saying.
Looking at the beautifully designed menu*, there is so much to tempt you. It’s produced daily with a little weather report and food options appear in different boxes. It’s simply, almost minimally worded – a contrast to so many overly descriptive menus. I tend to have the “theatre set” menu that’s available all day: £18.50 for two courses, £21.50 for three. I’ve enjoyed dishes such as beetroot and soft boiled egg salad, followed by deliciously simple lamb’s onglet, artichokes and parsley crumbs. Crunchy, juicy, earthy: tasty and satisfying and great with some fruity Languedoc red, finishing with almond cake, fruit compote and cream. Wines are sensibly priced for the location, with plenty of options available by the glass or carafe and many decent bottles between £20 and £30. However, you can seriously spoil yourself on larger budgets, and if you like sweet wine and/or sherry, you’ll also be very happy. Cocktails are good too.
They get so much right here when so many places try too hard and fail. Quo Vadis reminds me a bit of The Ivy in its heyday (but with better food) and the combination of slick management, lively, yet comfortable room and great chef make it one of London’s best and most distinctive restaurants.
Update: as of August 2015 the price of the all day “theatre set” menu now includes a glass of wine making it even more of a bargain.
*Picture: copyright Quo Vadis.