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|Address:||26-29 Dean Street, London W1D 3LL|
|Tel:||020 3641 5837|
|Price: £46.00||Wine: £19.00||Champagne: £55.00|
|Opening Hours:||Mon-Fri 8-11am Mon-Sat 12N-3pm 5.30-11pm|
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If your experience at front of house is the same as mine, you're going to love Quo Vadis. Familiar with the standard issue, perfectly groomed clones, staring into a computer screen while you wait patiently to be noticed? Not here. They're quick, charming and efficient, making you feel instantly welcome. I was so overcome an emergency glass of blanc de blanc was required!
The room has been sensitively refurbished (a big improvement on its MPW days) creating more light and buzz while retaining unique features such as the stained glass windows. So far so good.
But while we wanted to love the food, and there was lots to commend it, there was a slight “work in progress” feel about it. Perhaps Jeremy Lee is still settling in after his move from the excellent Blueprint Cafe, but it didn't quite hit the heights we expected.
Having said that, the (shared) smoked eel sandwhich lived up to everything you've read – punchy, balanced and irresistible. This was followed by starters of squid with fennel and skewers of pork & rabbit livers. The squid was underwhelming – completely devoid of seasoning and lemon, it was far too bland. A slight chewiness to the squid didn't help. And to add insult to injury it even looked bland; nothing to break up the white-on-white.
But you couldn't accuse the livers of being underpowered – they were perfectly cooked, nicely gutsy with just the right amount of pancetta to lend some seasoning and balance. A good dish that might have been improved with a little salad to break the richness.
And so to the mains. Mutton was a must (why don't we see this on menus more often?) but it created some debate as to whether it actually was mutton. Served pink, and tasting suspiciously lamby, it didn't have any of the characteristics you would normall expect. Was it actually hogget? Anyway, whatever the truth it was enjoyable, only let down by a celeriac gratin that was overwhelmed with cream and under-seasoned.
Middlewhite pork was another good effort, served nicely moist and with good flavour. It came with an interesting white bean accompaniment that complemented the pork nicely. A side of cabbage and carrots was exactly that, and none the worse for it.
Someone has obviously put a lot of thought into the concise but nicely balanced wine list. Mark-ups are not too unkind and plenty of bottles have a bit of age to them. It follows the current trend towards natural and organic wines, a welcome development, and features some excellent small producers. A few more wines by the glass and carafe would be welcome, but overall this is a list that you wish others would copy.
Neither of us having a sweet tooth, we decided to skip deserts and coffee (although I was nearly persuaded by a tempting Vin Santo).
Quo Vadis is a good package. Prices are sensible for this part of town and the uncomplicated food on offer. Service is good and it has the right balance between buzz and privacy. It's not hard to see why it is such a hot ticket currently, and we'll certainly be back.
But you can't shake the feeling that, with more precision to the cooking, this wouldn't be a good restaurant, it would be a great one.