50 � squaremeal.co.uk
1 Blandford Street, W1U 3DA
020 7935 4626 £££
In 2002, aged 23, Xavier Rousset became the world's youngest
Master Sommelier: just one highlight on a CV that includes a stint
at Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons. Rousset caused shock waves last
year when he quit Michelin-starred Texture and 28°-50° (the famous
duo he founded with chef Agnar Sverrisson). Blandford Comptoir
marks his return to the game, and we reckon it's a winner.
Friendly staff and a creative Mediterranean menu make this
casual neighbourhood joint immediately appealing. Marble-topped
tables and a smart counter for walk-ins give a classic feel to a small
dining room brought bang up to date with its petrol-blues and
pristine tiling. �e menu by chef Ben Mellor (also ex-28°-50°) focuses
on prime ingredients. Sections are headed 'Fish', 'Vegetable' and
so on. Most dishes are available in starter or main sizes, so you can
choose several small plates to share or the traditional three courses.
We began with thin slivers of raw lamb in a fresh Amalfi lemon
and mint dressing, punctuated by intense bursts of caper: the
carefully layered flavours showing deft culinary skill. A heartier
dish of tender grilled octopus and potatoes epitomised the Med on
a plate, bolstered by rich olives and the kind of tomatoes you usually
only find in sunny markets on foreign holidays. Closer to home,
plump scallops with a light pea velouté and sweet beans reminded us
of an English summer garden.
We can also recommend the quail, its rich jus balanced by the
lighter texture of a truffle and
chicken boudin. It's the perfect
match for a surprisingly silky
Côtes du Rhône from Rousset's
list - which, as you'd hope, is
an oenophile's delight. More
than 50 Champagnes, 20
interesting by-the-glass choices
and knock-out older bottles will
see wine-lovers flocking here.
Marylebone's bon viveurs have a
new reason to celebrate.
39-45 Shaftesbury Avenue, W1D 6LA
020 3727 6161 ££
A classy new brasserie from Soho House, Café Monico brings a
much-needed sense of occasion to Shaftesbury Avenue dining.
�e broad modern British menu adds allure, as does the stylish
vibe that befits its location between two major West End theatres.
Carefully following �e Ivy blueprint, the interior is a classic
mix of dark-green leather, pleated lampshades and white
tablecloths. What was Avalon nightclub has had a mezzanine
level added, radiating around a central bar and blown-glass
chandelier. �e finish might be a notch down from Ivy standards,
but so are the prices: Soho House has done its homework very
carefully. Staff are well-dressed and drilled, jazz bubbles away in
the background, and chatter drifts across the low-lit space.
�e kitchen is overseen by London veteran Rowley Leigh
(founder of Kensington Place and more recently of Le Café
Anglais). From options such as devilled lamb's kidneys, chicken
paillard, and sea bass with black cabbage, we chose a crispytopped
and creamy spinach lasagne. We also sampled Leigh's
signature Parmesan custard and anchovy toast, which turned out
to be a meagre portion of flattened, salty soldiers paired with a
well-balanced light custard: interesting if forgettable.
To follow, an almost perfectly rendered steak tartare was
overwhelmed by (unadvertised) wholegrain mustard, while lamb
with merguez sausages, chickpeas and a lightly spiced sauce had
appealingly vibrant flavour. �e all-too-brief cocktail list offers
refined mixes, and the wine list has ample choice for £20-30.
We recommend a mezzanine table by the curtained windows
for refined people-watching, or a seat at the back for ensconced
escapism. Café Monico should be lauded for providing an
accessible slice of classic London on the tourist highway.
MUST ORDER Parmesan custard with anchovy toast
LIKE THIS? TRY THESE Brasserie Zédel 020 7734 4888
Corbin and King's good-value homage to the great Parisian brasseries
Christopher's 020 7768 1290 Theatreland classic celebrating its 25th
anniversary Joe Allen 020 3544 6061 A hit with both actors and audiences
MUST ORDER Octopus with potatoes and Kalamata olives
Xavier Rousset's reputation
rests secure with this carefully
curated list, featuring some
brilliant choices for both pros and
novices. Champagne and Madeira are
highlights, along with a �ne-wine
section packed with real gems.
BEST BUY Le Laouzil St-Chinian 2014,
Domaine Thierry Navarre, LanguedocRoussillon,
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