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db eats: The QV Bar

No fanfare, no star-studded launch party, just the softly quivering grapevine that you’d expect from that haven of understated cool, Quo Vadis. Now this Soho institution has created The QV Bar, a classy but more low-key alternative to its fine dining restaurant.

A small horseshoe of seats opposite the bar, it would be easy to overlook this space as just a G&T ante-room, but browse the menu and you’ll find a level of sustenance to suit all but the most celebratory grandes bouffes.

As you’d expect from a Hart venue, the concise wine list gives Sherry prominent billing, alongside an eclectic, high-quality selection of beers, ciders, cocktails and sparkling wine.

The 12 wines on the list are all available by the glass or carafe and cover some interesting ground, from Henri Pellé’s vivacious Menetou-Salon to a juicy, brambly Faugères which leapt out of the glass without overwhelming the palate. A 1999 Rioja from Bodegas Urbina offered a touch of maturity to a selection which is, after all, not trying to do anything too smart. We were also offered the far larger wine list from the main restaurant where the big ticket treats are laid on, but decided there was plenty to keep us entertained without opening up an unnecessary decision-making minefield.

Service was efficient once we’d got going, but our waiter seemed to be waiting for the conversation to lull before taking our initial food order – a hazardous balancing act of judgement admittedly, but someone needs to take control or it becomes a very long night for all concerned.

In recovery from a vicious stomach bug, I decided to test my appetite gently with a small selection from the bar snacks. Pork scratchings with apple sauce were the perfectly crispy best bits from a Sunday roast; the salt cod fritters were light and grease-free; and the Scotch eggs were the best I’d ever tasted. Bright orange soft boiled yolks surrounded by flavoursome middle white sausage meat, a golden breadcrumbed shell and, for presentational flourish, crispy bacon soldiers. Perhaps an extra half centimetre’s thickness of pork casing would have balanced the end result, but that may be greed rather than pure aesthetics speaking.

Feeling confident in my stomach’s cooperation, we ventured on to the larger dishes. A generous starter-sized portion of crab linguine was boldly flavoured and seasoned with perfectly al dente pasta. The steak tartar relied on herbs more than seasoning for flavour, was softly textured and nicely lifted by the Tabasco supplied automatically on the side. The chips disappeared too quickly, as good chips do.

By the time pudding came along, I’d finally admitted defeat, but mustered up enough appetite to steal the gooey middle from my friend’s chocolate soufflé with pistachio ice cream. It may technically have looked more like a fondant, but when it’s light, intense and chocolatey, who’s complaining?

With snacks starting at £2 and no dish priced above £15, this place is geared towards offering good value, down to earth food, executed with more panache than most of the many pubs offering a similar line-up. Plus you get the added benefit of Quo Vadis-standard people-watching. On the quiet Monday night when we were there, Suggs was holding court on the table opposite. Or at least, after the best part of an hour staring and eavesdropping, my friend assured me it was “definitely, probably, no, I’m sure; wow he’s aged terribly but look, just trust me” Suggs.

In all, QV Bar is seamlessly adding itself to both the Quo Vadis scene and the wider Soho dining pool. You don’t need to be a member to eat here and, with reservations accepted at lunchtime only, it’s worth popping in for a light pre- or post-theatre bite. Failing that excuse, the Scotch eggs alone are probably worth a detour.

Quo Vadis,
26-29 Dean St,

Tel: +44 (0) 207 437 9585

Gabriel Savage, 08.02.2011

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