db eats: B-Soho

Does the UK need another pizzeria? For that matter, does Soho in London have room for another restaurant at all? That single square mile of the capital contains a density and diversity of dining options that easily outdoes any other UK city and yet, it seems, there’s always room for one more.

A warm welcome then to B-Soho, a pizza and cocktail joint that squeezed its way onto the scene early this Autumn. While it’s difficult to argue that London is crying out for another pizzeria, B-Soho certainly offers a refreshing break from the high street’s identikit pizza chains, filling their covers with voucher wavers on a cheap night out.

For starters there’s the buzzing upstairs bar, complete with football table, and the model-calibre staff who greet you on arrival. Then there’s the live music that makes this place feel like an indie take on the nearby Pizza Express Jazz Club.

At first it looked as though we were going to miss out on all the action as we were led down to the quieter basement restaurant area and its tranquillising Damien Rice ambience. On second thoughts, if you actually want to hear what the rest of the table is saying over dinner, then head downstairs, safe in the knowledge that the top bar is waiting to lead you seamlessly into a more upbeat after-dinner party.

With separate bars on each floor, the quieter restaurant area also meant we had the undivided attention of a rather under-used barman. That said, it still took until halfway through our starters for the cocktails to arrive, but they were almost worth the wait. The sizeable list runs through plenty of classics, adding a number of twists along the way. Hence my “Begroni”, which offered a tasty alternative – although perhaps not an improvement – on the classic Negroni; while my sister’s B-Mojito with its dark rum offered a more sophisticated take on this ubiquitous favourite.

Among the 30 house specialities that BMA guidance dissuaded us from exploring further was the Prescott’s Punch, which no doubt lived up to its name given the dose of absinthe involved in the recipe.

The food menu was more conservative in its options – after all, there’s only so far you can stretch the pizzeria format – but what makes this place stand out from the crowd is the quality of its ingredients. We received a promising hint of this with the arrival of our mixed cheese and meat shared starter. From the chalky, creamy mound of goat cheese to the salty chunks of parmesan and deep flavoured slivers of ham, you don’t get the impression they’re stocking up from the local cash and carry.

This was confirmed with the arrival of the pizzas. B-Soho may trumpet its super-authentic Neapolitan furnace which subjects the pizzas to a 90-second, 450°C blast, but its the quality of the toppings rather than the admittedly well-judged crust that really makes you sit up. Had I known, I might have broken my vegetarian tendency (restricted firmly to pizzerias) to avoid that inevitable encounter with plastic-textured pepperoni. While my Vegetariana was indeed generously endowed with cheese-draped fresh vegetables, the slice of spiced sausage scattered Piccante from my sister’s plate was the real deal.

As the live music started drifting down from upstairs to kickstart some extra atmosphere in the basement, the only adverse distraction was a sporadic but unwelcome whiff from the loos. Let’s hope it was a temporary issue – inhaling another slice of pizza provided an adequate short term solution.

With the top two red and white wines offered by the glass and carafe on the reasonably priced, confidently Italian list, we opted for the Gavi and Sangiovese over the Trebbiano and Primitivo. The aroma and generosity of the Gavi provided a nice refuge for hardened New World white drinkers, while the Sangiovese was a little more rough and ready. Ideal for cutting through swathes of melted cheese and pizza crust, it would perhaps have felt more comfortable served in jug and beaker instead of B-Soho’s upmarket glassware.

We trifled in a half-defeated fashion with a tooth-tingly sweet but light pear and ricotta tart and a homemade tiramisu. “If it was me, I’d have put more alcohol in it,” was my sister’s only feedback on the latter, criticism that can be taken to reveal as much about her as the pudding. Either way, the problem was solved by a double measure of grappa di Barbera. Had we been gearing up to join the party developing upstairs, it would have been the perfect rocket fuel; as it was, the digestive properties eased us comfortably on our way home.

London may not exactly need any more pizzerias, cocktail bars and live music venues, but a place that successfully combines all three in a single go? Yes please.

B-Soho, 21 Poland St, London, W1F 6QG

Tel: +44 (0)20 7287 1661

Website: www.b-soho.co.uk

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