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A classy new brasserie from Soho House, Café Monico brings a much-needed sense of occasion to Shaftesbury Avenue dining. The broad modern British menu adds allure, but so too does the stylish vibe that befits the venue’s location between two major West End theatres. Carefully following The Ivy blueprint, the interior is a classic mix of dark-green leather, pleated lampshades and white tablecloths. What was Avalon nightclub has had a mezzanine level added to a double-height room, the upper level radiating around a central bar and blown-glass chandelier. The finish might be a notch down from Ivy standards, but so are the prices: Soho House has done its homework very carefully. Staff are well-dressed and drilled, jazz bubbles away in the background, and chatter drifts across the low-lit space. The (partially visible) kitchen is overseen by London veteran Rowley Leigh (founder of Kensington Place) and the menu covers breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. From options such as devilled lamb’s kidneys, chicken paillard, and sea bass with black cabbage, we chose a crispy-topped and creamy spinach lasagne. We also sampled Leigh’s signature Parmesan custard and anchovy toast, which turned out to be a rather meagre portion of flattened and salty soldiers paired with a well-balanced light custard: an interesting if forgettable dish. To follow, an almost perfectly rendered steak tartare was overwhelmed by (unadvertised) wholegrain mustard, while lamb was teamed with merguez sausages, chickpeas and a lightly spiced sauce, creating appealingly vibrant flavours. The all-too brief cocktail list offers refined mixes, and the wine list includes plenty of choice in the £20-30 bracket. We recommend a mezzanine table by the curtained windows for refined people-watching, or a seat at the back for ensconced escapism. Café Monico should be lauded for providing an accessible slice of classic London on the tourist highway.
Cafe Monico is one of the latest Soho openings and I fell in love with it as soon as I walked in the door. A large central bar beckons you in and sparkling chandeliers and mirrors, polished floors and large comfy chairs all add their welcome. The restaurant is upstairs set around the edges with tables at the front overlooking the buzzing activity of Shaftesbury Avenue.
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