While Shaftesbury Avenue is known for being at the heart of London’s theatre land, it’s also known for rather lacking in great restaurants. Café Monico, owned by Soho House and opened in collaboration with veteran chef Rowley Leigh, has changed all that bringing a stylish space and tasty reasonably priced menu to the area. Inspired by the original Cafe Monico opened nearly 140 years ago by brothers Giacomo and Battista Monico, the vintage decor brings the old world of London’s West End to life.
The downstairs bar is gorgeous with wood panelling and leather seating, but the best seats in the house are on the restaurant’s mezzanine level where you can admire the beautiful central chandelier or sit by the window over looking the hustle and bustle of Shaftesbury Avenue and China Town.
As we were here for a review we were given a sample menu to try from brasserie-style selection – I loved the bresaola with sharp bitterness of the rocket off set by the parmesan. The burrata with caramelised figs wouldn’t be something I’d actually order as I don’t like figs but I still enjoyed the creaminess of the cheese.
We also enjoyed a glass of prosecco each served in this gorgeous glassware. The same glassware is used across all the Soho House venues, I love it so much that I actually bought these glasses as a gift for my sister from the Soho Home website.
We also had a really good crusty loaf with delicious salty melty butter! I will say though the service was a little odd as we received our starters before our drinks, and didn’t get the bread until after the starters were taken away but the staff are very friendly.
Again we received the chef’s selection including one of my favourite dishes sea bass with spinach, capers and lemon. The sea bass has a perfectly crisp skin and beautifully cooked flesh, I loved the perfect balance of the bitter accompaniments with the slightly sweeter fish. The gnocchi with ricotta, tomato and pesto was tasty but not a particularly exciting dish and more of a starter-sized portion.
Mr S was still hungry so we ended up ordering moules mariniere with frites too. The mussels themselves were tasty but the mussels to sauce ratio was off and there wasn’t enough sauce. The frites were great though!
A chocolate bombe is always a good idea and it was tasty; as was the savarin with rhubarb, white chocolate ice cream but both were a little stodgy and lacking the light touch I crave from a dessert.
Though we found the food a little hit and miss, Cafe Monico was overall an enjoyable experience as the location is really convenient, the food is really reasonably priced and I really liked the decor.
39-45 Shaftesbury Avenue,
0203 727 6161
I was invited to review a set menu.