I know what you’re thinking; those lazy swines from London Piggy have finally taken a break from liking Instagram pictures of pugs and added a new post to their website. They must’ve gotten it for free.
Well yes… we’ve been tempted out of blogger retirement by the nice people from Soho House who asked if we’d like to try out their new(ish) place in town, Cafe Monico.
Several critics went to size it up a few months ago, just after its opening and overall it probably got 6/10 from them – not bad but could do better. We were interested to see if anything had changed and find out if it was another viable alternative to the tourist traps of Piccadilly Circus.
The restaurant sits between two theatres on an unlovable stretch of Shaftesbury Avenue and provides welcome respite from the tourist tat shops and hordes of ambling, ponderous bodies blocking the pavements.
As you’d expect for a Soho House restaurant, it’s a pretty slick operation inside and out. They’ve clearly gone all out for European brasserie vibe; bartenders in white jackets, a lot of expensive dark wood, oh and let’s not forget that magnificent chandelier.
It’s a step back in time, well it’s not but you could probably convince your Gran that it’s the Original Cafe Monico that opened nearby in 1877. She’d probably approve of the menu too because there’s very little to dislike here. It’s never going to set your culinary world on fire, nor does it aim to. Instead, you’ll find French-Italian brasserie classics, many of which were executed very well indeed.
Starters of burrata salad and grilled octopus with chickpeas were both great but the soft, smoky octopus stole the show. Lamb rump was served blushing pink as requested and was a good-sized portion, however the jus could’ve had a little more body. Hell, actually just give us some gravy. Veal Holstein was generous as expected, a perfect order for a glutton like me. The chips were a bit sad but on the whole so far, so good.
We probably should have left it at that and had a coffee and left, but we are greedy bastards so in reality that was never going to happen. Paris Brest and rum baba it was to be. My Paris Brest was a looker but sadly not so much a taster. It was more salty than sweet and the choux pastry was just a bit too hard and dry. The rum baba was boozy, that was its redeeming feature but it offered little else. So, as with a lot of restaurants, desserts didn’t quite live up to the standard of the savoury dishes – at least not the ones we ordered.
For the price we paid you could do a lot, lot worse in town. The restaurant has a great feel when it’s full of people and the savoury courses were very enjoyable. So we found Cafe Monico to be a solid dining option, especially for their added value pre/post theatre menus. If you’re looking for somewhere traditional, civilised and (yes) nice in Soho without breaking the bank, then it could be for you. They make a mean negroni too.
39-45 Shaftesbury Ave,
020 3727 6161