Sunday, 31 October 2010
There’s a dizzying flurry of incredible restaurant openings in London this year. Providores’ Gopapa and Hawksmoor in Covent Garden, St John Hotel in Chinatown, Bar Boulud, Les Deux Salons, Polpetto...
Quite frankly, I can’t keep up.
You know if you want to eat at these places (and I do) there will be months of ‘fully booked’ or two-hour-long waits amidst the hype. And now that it’s pretty much winter and the temperature has plunged to an unsociable degree, most nights I’m happy to nurse a bottle of red wine and sit staunchly in front of the X Factor/Downton Abbey/The Apprentice.
But it’s reassuring to know when you are out post-pub you can still stumble into the depths of Soho on a Friday night and get a no-frills humble dinner without the pressure of knowing what you should order, how you should order it, snaking queues, and above all, waiting.
Seeing the pulsing bar of Café Boheme in Soho is like catching sight of the golden arches. Yes it’s busy, crammed and London Underground-esque; but push through the bottleneck of Old Compton street crowds and you reach the oasis of a familiar faux French brasserie. You tentatively ask if there’s a table on the busiest night of the week, you begin to wince as you expect that no. And then... and then... relief! They say yes.
Perhaps it’s the relief that makes the food so good. I only ever order the steak frites with a simple side salad here. The steak is a good ol’ ribeye marbled with a wonderfully unfashionable amount of fat. It’s meaty and beefy and begging to be ordered rare. The frites are almost matchstick - crispy and even better with a coat of béarnaise. It’s not the best I’ve ever had. But it’s pretty damn good.
You can tell Café Boheme is the same stock as the Shoreditch and Soho Houses, same banquettes and French tiling, impeccable service, amazing drinks. The place is reminiscent of the upmarket Cafe Rouge feel of Pastis and Balthazar in New York, but with that London crowd piling in from GAY and the throb of Bar Soho, this is something unique. The lack of pints is an oddity (only halfs, two pint jugs or bottles sold here), but it’s just an excuse to down a G&T instead.
Boheme shouldn’t be your destination. It should be the place to go when you don’t want to end the night. It should be your golden arches because it is there, just when you need it most.
13 Old Compton Street
London W1D 5J
020 7734 0623