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Quo Vadis - review

The status Quo - the return of Jeremy Lee to Soho

Written by . Published on May 25th 2012.

Quo Vadis - review

Quo Vadis, as in where are you going… Or where to go by inference. The arrival of Jeremy Lee after many decades at the Blueprint Café on the Thames has breathed a zip into proceedings at this old, once Italian, Soho matron. We have moved into 2012.

With all this retro stuff going on, we may even rediscover our own cusiine of 100 years ago

QuocrabQuo the crab consommeThere were three things about this meal that were above excellent. First there was the crab soup which was not the usual rusty sludge but a deep sherry glass coloured consommé and something of a bargain at £5 considering the labour and time it takes to evince such intense lyrical flavours. It came with Melba toast and a pink rouille that had too much new season garlic so it burned like swallowing a chain of scalpels. What it really needed was a brown crab meat crouton, but nothing could distract from the sheer elegance of the soup. In the photo it looks like treacle but it was clearer than that but bounced the flash back like it was a black hole.

QuopieQuopieSecondly was the chicken pie which like St John’s Eccles cake was one of those dishes that reminded why a chicken pie could have once been emblematic of our national cuisine and probably, surely, on a different page to any chicken pie you are likely to have ever eaten. This was a pie you wanted to eat, with mash for the creamy herb jus.

Quopie2Quopie2With all this retro stuff going on by the end of the decade we may even surprise ourselves and rediscover our own cuisine of 100 years ago. There was also posset on the dessert list.

But Lee is not a traditionalist or even especially English, more a London chef who moves with the seasons around different techniques – there is pie every day, from the grill was onglet, there was also a braise and a good value pre-theatre menu - there was kid on the menu, there was ox tongue (less good, thin and soupy), there were sweetbreads with almonds and fresh garlic leaves.

QuoasparagusQuo the asparagusAnd there was this very good pre-starter which shows how his technique is also informed by what he feels like – so unusually there was steamed Evesham asparagus, wrapped in filo and fried crisp like a Chinese wonton, served with Parmesan shavings. Not often you see a different take on asparagus and it works very well, especially when each of the components is of the best quality. (Elsewhere young guns like 10 Greek Street are dong this week asparagus with duck egg, and Dabbuos with rapeseed mayonnaise and hazelnuts, so there is innovation here technically ahead of the pack). A few weeks ago he did the same trick with salsify.

QuoeelQuo theeelI had also read that the eel sandwich was a great dish which just shows you a lot of people do not know what they are talking about – it is a great supper snack masquerading here on the restaurant menu, chunky eel lightly smoked with horseradish on toast. It is a great eat but not a dish per se.

This a menu that is deliberately at ease with itself, not showing if, if the produce is good enough, it is there, so there was also a variation with mackerel on toast with poached egg, so there was a simple assembly of cuttlefish strips, of peas, of leaves, a little emulsion.

QuotongueQuo the tongueThe ox tongue did not really cut it for me although its two sauces, beetroot and more horseradish (there are quite a few big flavours knocking at the door of this menu) , herb green were excellent but for me tongue needs to be cut thick so it does not bring on those memories of parsimonious school catering which is a little too old English for me. As was the water it swam in. The meat wanted parsley sauce, old school, ironically.

What was good – the service and the linen cloth setting included – was very good, and what went wrong can be put down to a general sense of a kitchen shuffling the pack of ingredients day to day, more than forgiveable a failing in my book.

QuomenuQuo the menuWith two glasses of Languedoc it was not expensive at £80 all told. A proper restaurant.

Service 4
Atmosphere 5
Cooking 8
Total 17/20

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