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26-29 Dean Street
Founded back in 1926, this quintessential “Soho sanctuary” isn’t drifting quietly into old age: autumn 2016 saw the ground-floor dining room reduced by two-thirds to make space for Barrafina Soho (both are owned by the Hart brothers), following the latter’s eviction from nearby Frith Street. The room looks the same, with brown-leather banquettes, “beautiful fresh flowers” and jewel-like stained glass windows, although there’s less all-round hubbub than before. Head chef Jeremy Lee’s menu is still a joyful celebration of the seasons, so expect anything from a warm salad of grouse and elderberries to a strapping leg of lamb garlanded with a pick-and-mix of gently cooked mushrooms. Lee’s refined repertoire also makes room for simple comforts such as chunky, lightly fried chips or steamed lemon pudding with rhubarb, while the trademark smoked eel sandwich is a must-order. None of this comes particularly cheap, but thanks to great service, really good Martinis and a dash of British eccentricity (John Broadley’s distinctive illustrations are a hoot), we reckon it’s great value.
To celebrate the Year of the Woman, SquareMeal is running a series of interview profiles with top female chefs. Read here how Angela Hartnett made it to the top, launched her own group of restaurants and how she describes the secrets of her success.
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SquareMeal 2 Stars
26-29 Dean Street
Tottenham Court Road Tube Station 182m
Leicester Square Tube Station 390m
Soho Theatre 47m
Prince Edward Theatre 110m
Mon-Fri 8-11am Mon-Sat 12N-3pm 5.30-11pm
Food & Drink:
Rate & Review
Food + drink: 4
It's heaving in Soho on a Saturday evening, but step in here and all is calm and welcoming. The place is bigger than it looks with several interconnecting rooms but the beautiful flowers, mirrors and through-views keep it all together. The menu is quite brief, but there are plenty of things you want to eat. I had grilled squid with blood orange and fennel - the bitter orange making a nice foil for the fish with crunchy breadcrumbs sprinkled over. We expected our other starter of chickpea, artichoke and spinach to be a type of salad, but it turned out to be a pot of layered purees, good with the crisp baked flatbread that came with it. We both had cured salmon with a vibrant green herb sauce that arrived with a little pot of cucumber in mustard dill sauce as well, the salmon slowly cooked until soft and barely beyond translucent. Sides of pink fir potatoes and purple sprouting broccoli worked well with the sauces. Then we were off to see a comedy show so no time for dessert, but we'd had plenty. There's a lively atmosphere and quite a turnover on tables but it's all managed very well. Recommended.
Food + drink: 5
This has become one of my favourite restaurants because it does everything well. The food is the sort of thing you wish you could make at home; relatively unfussy but immaculately prepared with first class ingredients, typified by one dish we had, the mackerel. Very fresh (which this fish in particular has to be), simply, but perfectly cooked. Cooking fish looks easy but to get it spot on is a skill.
The building makes for a great dining space and the staff are well chosen. Very friendly, knowledgeable and engaging but efficient at the same time.
The menu is limited but that is this place's modus operandi, so if you want a choice of 30 or 40 dishes go elsewhere, and it does change at least once a day. Considering how popular this restaurant is and where it's located, the prices are very reasonable.
Clearly some people have had a few disappointing experiences but all I can say is that I haven't.
I'll be back shortly for the fourth time in the past few months.
We took my mother to Quo Vadis for a birthday dinner last night and, after informing the staff of the occasion, they pulled out all the stops on making it a special night. A couple of generous complimentary items, together with the excellent and friendly service, provided a master class in front of house skills. The food was reliably excellent and staff were able to knowledgably discuss the provenance of both the ingredients and our wine choice. A delightful venue to celebrate a special occasion.
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