Friday, 8 August 2008
Quo Vadis, Soho
Quo Vadis is, as everyone will tell you, an "institution". Perhaps this explains why the room felt a bit like a padded cell (boom boom), but perhaps it's also why they feel they can get away with charging a £2 "cover charge" for a teeny pot of green olives and tap water and why, barely a month after opening, they've jacked their prices up a good 30% average against those listed on their website. Compare, for example, their online food menu with my blurry iPhone shot from last night:
One of the few items that doesn't seem to have suffered from inflation is the "Tomato Essence with Crayfish", which is just as well as at £12.50 for a small bowl of unremarkable consommé with a couple of tiny bits of crayfish floating around in it, any more really would have been burglary. Bear in mind that this is crayfish, rampant vermin of our waterways and one of the cheapest crustaceans money can buy - I'm thinking particularly of that sandwich in Pret-a-Manger which comes stuffed with the blighters and costs about £2.50. If there had been a whole lobster tail floating in the bowl, £12.50 would have been about right. But for a dish whose raw ingredients must have cost literally pence (tomatoes, crayfish and basil, for heaven's sake) this was inexcusable. A companion's crab linguine (up from £8 to £9.50) was, to be fair, pretty good. Not £9.50 good, obviously, but just slightly less violatingly expensive than mine.
My main course was a prettily cut pigeon in a nice thick red wine jus, and although was more cooked than it needed to be nevertheless tasted pleasingly gamey and had a nice crispy skin. It was up from £19 to £23.50 - about the same price as my entire meal, including beer, cost at Dim T the other week. But because neither my bird or my companion's Dover Sole (£25 up from £21.50) came with any sides these were ordered as extra and along with a small pot of admittedly gorgeous house chips (up from £3 to £3.75) and a salad of more of those boring tomatoes and some sliced fennel (up from £3.50 to £4.75, a massive 36% increase) the bill mounted up.
The raspberry trifle was a new addition to the pudding menu, thus saving it the comparison with the old prices. It was actually very nice, and prompted me to wonder why we don't see more jelly on modern restaurant menus. I might start a campaign to rehabilitate jelly as a dessert ingredient - it's sad that these days you are more likely to find jelly in your starter (I'm thinking particularly of Maze's "BLT" with tomato jelly) than where it belongs, with summer fruits and vanilla cream and accompanied by a chilled glass of Sauternes. And yes, a Summer Pudding was tasty enough as well, but at £7.50 (up from £6.50) it contained too few summer fruits inside its inch-thick bread walls to excuse the price point.
The bill, including service, one and a half bottles of wine and that bloody cover charge, came to £98 each. That's about what I would reasonably expect to be charged for some of the best restaurants in the city (last time I visited The Square, for example, the bill came to about £89 a head), and this food, although perfectly pleasant, in no way justified those prices. Quo Vadis would be a standard mid-range restaurant and I would have no problem in recommending it if the bill had been about half as much. As it stands, inflated to the point of cynicism, I can only suggest you stay away until someone comes to their senses and realises that charging £12.50 for a bowl of tomato soup does not win you friends.