The welcome: Shaftesbury
Avenue’s not normally been associated with upmarket places to eat, but after
the recent advent of Talli Joe and now the opening of Café Monico (in what used
to be an awful sports bar), there is the happy change that anyone wanting
something more sophisticated as a pre-theatre spot now has some more appealing
options. And they don’t get more appealing that the new Café Monico, a Soho
House standalone restaurant that has managed to recruit the great Rowley Leigh
as its consultant chef. First impressions are of switched-on, smiley staff.
Will it last?
The room: Something
of a cross between The Ivy and nearby Les Deux Salons, the elegant dual-level
space features a number of cosy banquettes and intimate tables for
dinners-a-deux, many of which face out on to the perhaps less than glamorous
surrounds of Shaftesbury Avenue. Yet the whole thing has that lovely
timelessness that the nearby Dean Street Townhouse did so well, and the prices
are surprisingly low for central London; there’s a 2 for £10 lunchtime offer
and a two-course deal for £15.
The food: This isn’t Rowley Leigh on groundbreaking Kensington Place or Le Café Anglais
form. (He wasn’t in evidence when we visited, although we’re assured that he’s
been in regularly.) Not that it’s at all bad, for that matter. The menu plays
it safe, with a range of Franco-Italia classics, although Leigh’s signature
parmesan custard with anchovy toast is in evidence. Nonetheless, everything we
try is excellent. Starters of crab ravioli and grilled octopus wouldn’t
disgrace somewhere at twice the price, and mains of rib eye with tangy
béarnaise and well-presented veal schnitzel (with egg and anchovy) are as good
as anywhere round about. The disappointments come in the side dishes; the chips
with the steak are soggy and bland, and a ‘creamed tomato’ dish sounds
intriguing but fails to deliver.
Wines come at sensible prices and we’re pleased to see that
the 500ml carafe is available – perfect to share. A Pinot Grigio is light, dry
and minerally, and a Barbarossa is suitably full-bodied for the mains. We try
the ‘coupe’ desserts and are pleasantly surprised – essentially an apple
crumble ice cream and a concoction of coffee and chocolate, they’re well priced
at £6 each and taste delightful.
Would we go again? At
these prices in central London, with this atmosphere and style? Of course.
Let’s just hope that Rowley ends up having a bit more of an input.
|What||Cafe Monico, Soho|
|Where||Cafe Monico, 39-45 Shaftesbury Avenue, London , W1D 6LA | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Piccadilly Circus (underground)|
22 Jun 16 – 17 May 17, 9:00 AM – 12:00 AM
|Website||Click here to book your table|