Reservations only? No queuing round the block in the rain for a soggy £14 lobster roll? Yes please. Old Tom & English in Soho’s Wardour Street is the brainchild of brother and sister team Costas and Maria Constantinou (of the Arts Theatre Club), who have opened their latest project to focus on ‘unpretentious British food and vintage cocktails’. I’m not sure how unpretentious it is to enter via ringing a doorbell, but so what, it’s fun.
The name references the 18th century British ‘Old Tom’ gin recipe, as well as being a nod to Soho’s colourful history – apparently ‘Tom’ is a bygone term for a prostitute, for whom all the little nooks and crannies are named. We were shown to a little area called Cora, who I’m sure was a lovely lady. The décor is 60s but sumptuous and expensive, and makes you feel like perhaps Don Draper or James Bond might just be relaxing around the corner…?
Dinner comes in the form of several tapas-style dishes that are meant for sharing, although you probably won’t want to. The food is elevated to something special by the little touches that accompany each dish. Our confit smoked guinea fowl was so smoky, with such rich, gamey meat that nothing would have complimented it more than the anchovy butter it came with.
Crispy braised pig’s cheeks were sitting on a tart apple and fennel sauce, and the tiny cubes of goat’s cheese sprinkled over the scallops and courgette puree brought an unexpected sharp element that added a point of difference from your usual scallop combination, if you tend to go for that sort of thing. Triple cooked chips, almost universally a pleasure, were even more delightful dunked in the little bowl of mustard mayo. Battered seabass, and eggs and mushrooms on toast all excellent also.
Although not normally a dessert fiend, I dived in with unusual enthusiasm. Banana cake was light and not too banana-y, and whiskey cream made it feel extra naughty. Chocolate cake was rich and fudgy, and the hero for me.
The top-notch food, excellent service and luxurious furnishings makes the place feel expensive, and it’s a lovely spot to know about if you’re looking to impress, don’t want to queue or just fancy a bloody good dinner.
A version of this post first appeared on Foodepedia
*We were guests of Old Tom & English