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Darting between Turkish and Greek cuisines, this Soho grill isn’t quite sure where its culinary expertise lies. Nevertheless, Hovarda (‘vagabond’ in Turkish) is an enchanting spot, its glamorous dining room decked out in aquatic blue and gold tones, its waiters dressed in crisp white shirts. Small plates may be commonplace in London nowadays, but the concept is welcome here thanks to such accomplished cooking. Rings of battered squid dipped in a sharp squid-ink sauce made a promising start to our impressive meal. Strips of coal-roasted red pepper were enlivened by hints of mint and lime; hollowed-out red mullet arrived uber-fresh and mixed with juicy chunks of tomato and avocado; and crispy rolls of filo pastry contrasted well with their delicate crab meat filling (although the tart lemon sauce that accompanied them wasn’t needed).
Dish of the night was an intensely smoky, delectably tender ox cheek paired with thick baba ganoush. We’d recommend not skipping dessert either – our pick being the miniature balls of fried pastry (lokma) that arrive drizzled with sweet-as-can-be thyme honey, a sprinkling of walnuts and a scoop of cinnamon ice cream. On your way out, stop by the stand-alone cocktail bar that turns out plenty of diverting concoctions, including the signature Hovarda cocktail where yoghurt and coffee are blended to create a creamy mix that is more subtle than you might expect. Service is perhaps slightly too attentive and prices can add up, but overall Hovarda is a welcome addition to Rupert Street’s already impressive gastronomic line-up.
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