Disclaimer: I was invited to review the below restaurant and our meal was complimentary but all opinions and photos are mine.
I was recently invited by Cafe Monico to try their lunch menu. Cafe Monico is owned by Soho House Group so needless to say expectations were riding high on this one. Other notable restaurants from the same group include Pizza East, Cecconi’s and Kettner’s Townhouse.
Sandwiched between the glitz and glamour of London Theatreland and Chinatown, one almost misses the understated facade.
But once inside, it’s a different story altogether. In terms of interiors, it has a very elegant, chic, 1930s style Parisian brasserie look. However, the space does not feel dated or old-fashioned but rather fresh and inviting, like the glamour of the old world charm dabbed with a contemporary sheen.
Set upon two floors, the upstairs section is a tasteful affair, with crisp white table cloth setting, plush leather chairs, distressed mirrors and swathes of warm woods on the walls and floors.
Downstairs has a very formidable bar in the centre, surrounded by bar stools and tables for a more casual set up. The atrium in the middle allows the chatter to navigate across two floors to create a buzzy atmosphere without being noisy. You can hear the delicate clinking of glasses and bartenders shaking their cocktail shakers. An oversized, shimmering chandelier hangs above the atrium and ties the two spaces together visually. Upon enquiry, I am told that this place used to be a nightclub. There is soft jazz music playing in the background and the full height windows ensure the space is flooded with natural light. It is a handsome setting for a restaurant.
Burrata | Figs |Honeycomb
Bresaola | Rocket | Parmesan
I ordered the burrata, which was perfection. It was a warm day and the cool, refreshing, silken burrata hit the spot. The salty taste of the creamy cheese paired well with the sweetness coming from the nutty figs and chewy honeycomb. It was finished with micro herbs and a generous drizzle of aromatic olive oil. The whole ensemble was absolutely divine. In terms of quantity, it was not a big starter but as a prequel to the roast, it worked out very well.
Kris’s Bresaola was thinly sliced with a nice texture to it. It was nicely chewable; like eating a fatty, beefy piece of card (in a good way); the flavours slowly unfurling in your mouth. The robust, peppery rocket and a generous shaving of good quality parmesan added some contrast. All together, it was a simple yet successful starter.
Half-Banham Roast Chicken | Duck Fat Potatoes | Steamed Seasonal Vegetables Cauliflower Gratin | Red Wine Jus
Stone Bass | Spinach, Capers & Lemon
My Sunday Roast was a refined affair. Two very large pieces of chicken – soft and delicious – arrived beautifully splayed on my plate. I am always worried about roast chicken, as they can be overcooked and taste dry but this one was spot on. It was accompanied by some nicely done sweet carrots, tender broccoli, roast potatoes and a comforting cauliflower gratin. The roast potatoes were pretty close to being the perfect roast potatoes. They were nice and crispy on the outside while fluffy and piping hot on the inside. The duck fat did a good job of imparting flavour to the spuds. My only minor complaint (and this is me nit-picking) is that I would have liked the cauliflower florets to be slightly smaller chunks under the blanket of all that cheese to absorb the flavours better.
Kris ordered the Stone bass which was a nice, flaky chunk of fish, its skin crisped on top and served on a mattress of spinach and tomatoes. The capers added a punch of saltiness to enliven an otherwise subtle dish. On the whole, he was happy with his choice.
Kris polished off the Creme Brûlée; a fine example of the classic masterpiece. It was quite the textural pudding: hard and crispy on top hiding the smooth and delicious custard within, infused with a hint of slightly bitter, burnt flavour.
I had the Chocolate Bomb. I was expecting the insides to be more gooey but it was more of a half soft mousse and half cakey consistency. The chocolate soil outside added a nice element of texture. This dessert was truly a chocolate lovers dream, great with a good cup of strong bitter coffee.
Staff served with efficiency and smiles. I was expecting an air of pretentiousness but everyone was really down-to-earth, courteous and lovely.
Overall, we had a memorable dining experience at Cafe Monico. The sophisticated French-Italian inspired menu and elevated cooking is sure to please diners. On weekends, Cafe Monico do Sunday Roasts as well as Weekend Brunch alongside their standard à la carte. Its proximity to theatres means this is an upmarket destination for pre- or post-theatre meals. It is definitely a place I would hand-on-heart recommend to friends and family for a plush yet relaxed meal out.
Location : 39-45 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, W1D 6LA