Quo Vadis

Soho, London

A Soho institution, this Dean Street hang-out shines brighter than ever under British chef Jeremy Lee

When a restaurant has clocked up a telephone book’s worth of accolades in its time and then, instead of resting on its laurels, does the exact opposite, you know it’s a special kind of place. Witness Soho mainstay Quo Vadis, which continues to raise the culinary bar despite having a menu that has been described by food writer Giles Coren as ‘simple, perfect’.

Originally opened in 1926, it has had many incarnations and owners since – Marco Pierre White and Damien Hirst among them. Taken over in 2008 by restaurateur brothers Sam and Eddie Hart, its dining room was reduced in size to 25 covers in 2016 to make room for the Harts’ Barrafina, transplanted here from Frith Street. Fronted by jewel-covered stained-glass windows, the interior boasts an elegantly lived-in decor, with brown leather banquettes and a profusion of fresh flowers.

Heading up the kitchen is British chef Jeremy Lee, ex-Blueprint Café, whose zealous approach to the provenance of his ingredients, solid French technique and gregarious personality combine to winning effect. On our visit, the menu – deftly illustrated by resident artist John Broadley – offers a choice of five mains and five starters, along with the pie of the day, various nibbles, and the house special, a Poilâne sourdough smoked eel sandwich with Dijon mustard and horseradish.

This being the British winter, and the weather outside being quite slippery enough, we forego the eel in favour of pumpkin, pepper and bean soup to start. Robust, colourful and finished with lashings of Parmigiano Reggiano, it is a joy – and would suffice as a hearty lunch in itself. A main of supplí – arancini-style morsels with burrata melting within, set atop a vibrant green spinach purée – is comfort food of the highest order, while the hake, served in a mussel and clam broth, is notable for its freshness, crisp skin and generosity of portion size.

We end with a slab of St Emilion au chocolat – a once eaten, never forgotten affair – and a silky smooth crème brûlée, whose caramelised crown requires just the right degree of force to breach.

‘Quo Vadis’, it turns out, is Latin for ‘Where are you going?’. With food, service and a wine list as good as these, it would be silly to go anywhere. Nightcap, anyone?

Words by Julie Alpine. 020 7437 9585, quovadissoho.co.uk

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