Tag Archives: Dean Street

A lament about eating out too much and a celebration of thai salads (thank you Rosa’s, Soho)

I have enough self-awareness to realise that I’m unlikely to make many friends by complaining about how much I eat out – I know a lot of people (especially my friends with kids) whose hearts will NOT be bleeding right now. But I thought some of you might be in the same boat (for work or if you have several different groups of friends to catch up with, for example) so I thought it was worth offering a few thoughts. As you know, this January I was meant to eat out less. And do exercise and stuff. Well, it started fairly well. Went to the gym, did ADVANCED circuits (ow), met up with Giovanna for a yoga class (first time we’d met sober in years), booked a dance class.

But then the eating out creeped up on me. Post-theatre meal with Emmissima. The Chef’s birthday supper. Today The Ledbury (hurrah), meals out in Vienna, Burns night, tea and cake at the School of Life, lunch with school and Uni friends, the list is fairly endless. I think I eat out at least 3 times a week for dinner and at least once for lunch which has got to be bad. I decided that I was only to eat out once a week from now on (which is already loads). But then I looked at my diary for February and I’m eating out at least 4 times in the second week already. At least it’s not as bad as living in Brussels, where I ate Italian for lunch and steak frites almost every night and put on 3 stone. But still it’s not great.

However, when I meet up with friends I want to talk and talk and talk. Talking is good for you, at least an hour a week, uninterrupted. And that’s hard in a yoga class or a dance class or the cinema. The ideal is to go for a nice long walk and ideally I’d arrange that more often, or to talk to your partner if you live with them, but it’s rubbish weather at the moment and I live alone. And I like catching up with friends as often as possible, and trying new places regularly. This blog is my downfall perhaps (but a fun downfall). Any suggestions of good ways to catch up with friends and being able to talk that don’t involve being outside, food or wine, then please let me know. But bet we can still find a way of fitting wine in…

Anyway the other night with Emmissima, we were peckish, it was 10pm and we’d had some wine. We wanted a quick and fairly healthy bite to eat and I thought of Rosa’s – that lovely Thai place in Shoreditch and on Dean Street, and a friend of the HPL. And for the first time I ordered a thai salad – we shared the beef sirloin steak salad topped with spiced mint and chilli sauce and the mixed seafood salad topped with spiced mint, lemon grass and chilli sauce with Tom Yum soup. Oh and a carafe of wine. And all for about £15 each.

I don’t know why the hell I have never ordered Thai salads before but they were absolutely delicious – the sirloin tender and spicy and delicate and the seafood was yum too. A little kick and freshness and (I think) they were vaguely healthy. Bonus. And the service, especially at that late time, was wonderful. On reflection, I think the key is that if you have to eat out a lot – for work or pleasure – then you need to vary salads and soups and healthy things with 7 course tasting menus and burgers and steaks and similar, you need to get in a ton of exercise, eat healthy breakfasts and when you’re in, eat something small or not much at all. If you’re haven’t deleted this email in disgust already then I am genuinely grateful for your thoughts!

Rosa's Soho on Urbanspoon

Polpetto, 49 Dean Street, Soho, W1D 5BG

A bit of background in case you haven’t heard about this place. Polpetto (means “small octopus” in Italian) is the smaller, younger sister of Polpo (“octopus“) which opened in Soho to fantastic reviews. Little sister Polpetto is above the French House on Dean Street, a pub full of character and rammed to the rafters with squiffy media types, so named as it was home to the expat French resistance during the war (I love the French House – it gets a mention in my homage to Dean Street here). Both make Venetian bacaro food - shared small tapas-style plates (many of you will have eaten this in Venice. I went to Venice and ate in McDonalds, which is why you should never go to Venice as a skint student). Both have a no-reservations for dinner policy which is good for them but means I have tried and failed to eat at Polpo several times.

Relaxed, retro and romantic inside

However, Emmissima and I went to Polpetto at around 7pm last Friday and got a table straight away, a nice one by the window. In fact there were no groaning queues the entire time we were there. And it’s lovely inside – you wander up narrow wooden stairs past old framed photos to a small, intimate, dimly lit restaurant which could be in Brussels or Paris, filled with couples and friends. (Apparently it looks like a New York West Village resto too – am long overdue a trip). I was impressed that even though it was busy, you can take your time to eat, there’s no rush or hassle or table-turning nonsense that can ruin an evening out. So we ordered a bottle of Sangiovese (£16.50) – which you drink in cute little wine glasses – and went about ordering.

We started with polpetti (£3) and white bean crostino (£1)  - both delicious but tiny which was understandable if you consider the price. Then the flank steak with rocket and white truffle cream (£7) which was absolutely gorgeous – perfectly tender meat and the truffle cream was delicious. Decent sized portion too. And then a bit of a wierd one – I ordered cuttlefish in its ink (£7.50) because (a) I have never to my knowledge eaten cuttlefish nor (b) anything cooked in its own ink. This was a bit of a mistake – the cuttlefish was lovely but the ink was black and thick and gloopy and stained our tongues and lips and teeth. I also had flashbacks to ingesting half a fountain pen refill capsule at school and panicked a little bit. Probably a bit over-inky and in any event not something to order on date night. I’m still glad I tried it though. We finished with proscuitto and fig bruschetta (£7.50) which were again simple and delicious.

Polpetti

White bean crostino (lovely but order more than 1)

Bloody delicious flank steak with white truffle cream

Cuttlefish (nice) in ink gloop (stained entire mouth and still pulling out of teeth 3 hours later)

Delicious proscuitto and fig bruschetta

All in all it was £48 or £24 each for all this food and sharing a bottle of wine and we whiled away a nice relaxing two hours in the process. I will definitely be back to try more things in the menu – first on my list is the osso bucco with rissotto and the chilli prawns.

Polpetto on Urbanspoon

Prix Fixe restaurant and general homage to Dean Street

Oh Dean Street, I love you, especially on nice sunny evenings like last night.  Its the beating artistic heart of Soho, and what a proliferation of brilliant places on one little street:

  1. Experimental and great value theatre and comedy at Soho Theatre  - good bar too.
  2. Drinks and larfs with media luvvies at the French House pub.
  3. Thai food at Rosa’s.
  4. Gorgeous dinner and cocktails at the Dean Street Townhouse (not been but reviews are wonderful). 
  5. Pizza Express jazz club (jazz & pizza = brilliant)
  6. Home to the mysterious Graucho Club.
  7. Cheap, relaxed food at Pierre Victoire (avec pianist compris) and Prix Fixe, of which, more below.

Prix Fixe

 

Sitting outside at Prix Fixe

It can be hard to find outside space in Soho, but what better on a sunny day than sitting with great friends on the pavement outside a resto, sipping wine and watching the crazy (rather tipsy) world of Soho unfold before your eyes. 

I’d put Prix Fixe in the Pierre Victoire category. Unpretentious, inexpensive, relaxed, rustic, French-style, decent food.  Perfect for a post-work dinner with friends that is likely to begin with a bit too much wine, tremendous gossip and a lot of time taken to order food.

Delicious meze/mezze

A perfect example of British food sharing – no-one will EVER take the last one of anything….

We ordered a la carte (super cheapo fixe prix deal before 7pm only) with a lovely pinot grigio rose (around £16.50). We started by sharing the meze platter  -  very tasty especially the humous and veggies which were amazingly fresh and delicious (falafel a bit dry my only complaint).  I never know how to spell humous, hummus, hoummous, mezze, meze, hmm.  Anyway, I finished off with the seabass with polenta and poached egg. It was incredibly good especially for that price – tasty, light and more-ish. Apparently the menu changes weekly and the waiters were lovely.

Grilled seabass – yummy and virtuous (mostly)

All in all, for lots of rose, shared starter and delicious main we paid £75 between 3 so around £25 each.  Definitely a great post-work, lazy dinner kind of place – I like mucho.

Prix Fixe Brasserie on Urbanspoon

Pierre Victoire, 5 Dean Street, W1D 3RQ

Ah Pierre Victoire.  Like most Edinburghers, I have very fond memories of this place.  Pierre Levicky opened his first restaurant in Edinburgh in 1988, and expanded quickly.  Soon there were two on Victoria Street, specialising in good French food on a budget.  It was very popular.  I went there at 15 to eat moules marinieres, and had my first (and last) waitressing experience there  at 18 – I wasn’t asked back after the chef passed me a boiling hot plate without warning me first and I managed to drop it in a customer’s lap, and the head waitress was infuriated at my lack of knowledge of wine (I was 18 – my experience of fine wine was Maddog 20/20 and whatever my mother served).

Pierre’s rapid expansion backfired and the chain folded in the late nineties.  So, I was surprised to find Pierre Victoire safe and well on Dean Street.  Turns out this was a franchise bought by Batuhan Isiksalan in 1998, which survived the bankrupcy of the chain, and kept Pierre’s name and traditions going strong.

As part of  The Happiness Project London rules, I have to try new places every time I eat out, so having researched restos in Soho (and unable to get through to Andrew Edmunds which I also want to try) I went along last night with my good friend Jo, and was very impressed with what I saw.  The relaxed, homely French restaurant I knew was still evident, with rustic wooden tables and chairs, candles in wine bottles, and a pianist in the corner.  Coupled with the hearty, tasty food and modern French menu, it reminded me of one of the better restaurants which fill the streets of Paris or Brussels.

The atmosphere is warm, relaxed and cosy –  Jo and I were seated in a table in the corner and were able to happily natter all evening.  The wine list was great and we got a nice Chilean cab sauv for around £15.  Before 7pm, they offer a 2 course set menu for £9.90 which has to be the best value in Soho, but even without the offer it was pretty reasonable.

As a nod to the past, I had moules marinieres to start and Jo ordered scallops (around £5 each) and we had honey roast duck with gratin dauphinois and pak choi, and ribeye with mash, blue cheese and peppercorn sauce, as a main.  It was all good French cooking – simple, tasty, flavoursome, although in Paris or Brussels I’m sure the meat would be a little pinker.  Service was good and friendly but we were also left alone to chat.  The total cost was £35 each which is really good for London dining.

It felt like a relaxed local resto, with a nice friendly atmosphere, and filled with a low-key crowd, not the usual Soho trendies - the kind of place we used to eat in every weekend in Brussels.  I’ll definitely be going back, and this time I’ll order my steak rare.

Pierre Victoire on Urbanspoon