Founded back in 1926, this quintessential Soho sanctuary has been a stalwart of Soho’s bohemian frivolity for nearly a century, hosting everything from drinks parties to raucous banquets along the way.
Quo Vadis isn’t drifting quietly into old age, far from it in fact; a 2023 refurb has given the restaurant a new lease of life, doubling the size of the dining room and brightening the old brown-leather banquettes to a rather more fetching ruby red. Still, this isn’t a total reinvention of a classic - QV still has all the cosy, wood-panelled charm as in previous years, and the jewel-like stained glass windows remain too, though they’ve been lightened a touch. Perhaps most importantly of all, the exuberant Jeremy Lee remains steadfastly behind the stoves, gently ushering lovely plates into the dining room.
Lee’s cooking has always been a joyful celebration of the seasons, and it’s no different now as it ever was. Our meal starts in time-honoured QV tradition with oysters and mignonette, crisp salsify batons loaded with an indulgent pile of Parmesan, and the famous smoked eel and horseradish sandwich - built with generosity rather than stability in mind with four big, meaty chunks of eel balanced precariously inside.
There’s so much more to appreciate on the menu as well. Beautifully-cooked guinea fowl arrives with juices dripping onto a bed of polenta, which itself has both fluffy innards and a lovely crisp exterior. We were also rather enamoured by a salad of cuttlefish, fennel, monksbeard and three-cornered leek, which sounds innocuous on paper, but came together in perfect harmony thanks to meaty, tender cuttlefish and a nice hit of black pepper, made all the better by a glass of buttery Chardonnay.
Any gripes were minor, limited to a touch of overseasoning here and there. All is forgotten when a piece of lemon tart arrives with a spoon of creme fraiche on the side. Sweet, sharp and with a pleasing density and bronzed pastry casing, it’s an ideal end to proceedings. The surroundings may be new, but Quo Vadis is still a slice of old-school Soho that everyone should experience.