Category: Brasserie (£££)
I had great expectations for Quo Vadis. This Soho institution in Dean Street serving quintessential British food belongs to the same team that owns the successful Spanish Tapas places Barrafina and Fino. After a revamp a couple of years back with a new chef Jeremy Lee (formerly at Blueprint Cafe), it has attracted a lot of attention and resulted in a plethora of raving reviews from bloggers and critics alike. There is no doubt that Quo Vadis is a beautiful restaurants. When I walked in I couldn’t help but admire the generous seasonal decor in the entrance hall. I was then led through a small bar to the main dining area which is divided into two bright and airy rooms. The atmosphere is classy and comfortable at the same time and the coloured window glass bathes the rooms into a warm light. I also loved the design of the daily changing menu. As I said, great expectations!
I just wished the rest of my Quo Vadis experience had matched the initial good impression! The service was atrocious. I am sure our waiter is a very nice guy if you meet him in private, but what made him go into hospitality industry will remain a mystery to me. His behaviour was bordering on rude – he frowned at me (very obviously 8.5 months pregnant) for ordering tab water and not wine and the tab water was served in tiny glasses that were never topped up without me having to ask for it. Plates were banged onto the table. When he removed the cutlery, he almost hit me with the knife and he answered our questions about the menu snippily and obviously annoyed.
It was maybe because the sun was shining in so beautifully that we noticed how dirty the plates were! Fingerprints and smears all over, which really did not fit with the sophisticated and upmarket atmosphere (and pricing) of Quo Vadis.
The food was decent but by no means memorable. Underwhelming was the starter of Herring and Potato Salad (7.5). The herring couldn’t quite decide if it wanted to be pickled or au naturale, and ended up being neither, not helped by the under-seasoned potatoes and watery salad dressing. Rather tasty however was the Grilled Ogleshield Sandwich (3.5) from the Nibbles Section of the menu – if you ignore the presentation (even I probably manage to make a prettier grilled cheese toast). The strong cheese oozing out and the seasoning with Worcester sauce and a bit of chilli was very satisfying and the perfect hangover snack (NB: I did not have a hangover).
Prices at Quo Vadis are on the high side, but for £17.5 you get a two course pre-theater menu served all day (£20.5 for 3 courses). I went for this menu option and chose the Baked Marinated Chicken. The chicken was nicely seasoned but dry and could have done with some, for example yoghurt-based sauce on the side. I absolutely loved the beetroot and squash salad it came with, in fact this was the best part of the entire meal. Subtly but very well seasoned, the sweet flavours of beetroot and squash were beautifully enhanced and the occasional leave of fresh mint went just perfectly with it. I was less convinced by the Skate (17) which was far too salty. A real discovery was the vegetable side of Sprout Tops and Cabbage (4) – the cabbage was dull but the sprout tops! I have never eaten or even heard of these leaves of intense green colour that taste faintly of Brussel sprouts but much less overpowering and are absolutely gorgeous.
As part of the pre-theater meal I ordered the Sticky Toffee Pudding which was sticky indeed and composed of a nicely done sponge and rich ice cream. I like sugary and indulgent desserts but this was too sweet even for me. Shame really, as the flavours were rather lovely.
Quo Vadis is meh – not bad, but it certainly doesn’t live up to its promise and I certainly won’t be back in a hurry to eat there. Just around the corner you pay the same money for example at 10 Greek Street, where you get outstanding food and the plates may even be clean. I leave you to make your own choice…
- Food: 6/10
- Service: 4/10
- Ambiance: 8/10
- Value for Money: 5/10
- Chances of Returning: 2%
- Verdict: Hit and miss at this Soho institution – maybe too iconic for its own good?