The Company of Strangers. Quo Vadis.
When I write a post, I know that there are people who follow it and get an actual email telling them I’ve dropped a blog. Some of them I may even know in real life, but most of the time I don’t really think about my “followers” actually reading what I write. Even though I know that they do.
And if I meet anyone who tells me they read my blog and like it, I do a little inward cringe and wonder whether they’re just being polite. Thing is, I do this blog because I just enjoy writing. Not quite as much as I enjoy eating, mind, but there isn’t a lot in it.
So when the very glamorous J tells me that there are people who follow my blog and want to actually meet me, I find this quite disconcerting, albeit wildly flattering and a bit strange. And because I sometimes like to say yes, I agree. Why wouldn’t I? Meeting a group of strangers who know a lot more about me than I do about them and choosing the venue. Not stressful AT ALL.
So, as it becomes apparent that this is actually going to happen, I think about the usual suspects for the venue, 10 Greek St being my first choice. But they only have a private room and we want to actually be in a restaurant and you can’t reserve there. So that’s a no.
And mentally scouring the area, I think about this. I’ve been meaning to go to Quo Vadis almost forever and have been very excited about trying it now, given all the positive lurrve waves from the fooderati, since Jeremy Lee, previously of the Blueprint Café was installed here. He’s very well-regarded and the food is British and seasonal. And he gives good Twitter.
If you’ve ever been to Soho, you’ll know this place. It’s an institution. And it is a very pretty restaurant, what with all that stained glass and those nicely proportioned rooms, so that even though there are a lot of covers, you don’t feel like you’re in an aircraft hangar. And I don’t remember the music either , which could mean that there wasn’t any, or that it wasn’t intrusive or that I was simply just talking too much, which is, I fear, the most likely explanation. Because I don’t think I drew breath all evening.
I meant to steal a menu to show you, but in all the excitement, I simply forgot. Which is a shame because the menu was beautifully designed. Beautifully designed and perhaps a little over-designed, to the point where we had to have it explained to us.
There were half a dozen “bites” and we ordered all of them, whilst waiting to order. That was the joy of going out with real food lovers. None of this shall we have one or two nonsense. No. We had all of them. Some as simple as radishes with butter and salt, a cheese and onion toast, mackerel paté, and liver paté. All good, serviceable small bites, reasonably priced. And there is a theatre menu, which is decent value and there appears to be a drink of the day. I liked the feel of that menu. It had a sense of humour.
And then for me, the whole new garlic, peas, mint, tapenade and goat’s curd. I liked the goat’s curd and the minted peas, but the garlic wasn’t quite cooked enough and the individual cloves didn’t ooze out, like they do when you roast in tin foil. I had to keep scraping them out with the fork, which wasn’t particularly effective and started to feel like hard work. It was gutsy though, with clean big flavours. and that was the general consensus. Big flavours, simple dishes.
And for the main course, Pie of the Day – for there is always, I believe, a pie of the day and this day it was chicken and morel mushrooms. The crust was good but oh, the disappointment of the filling. The chicken was fine but the stock was watery and lacking in flavour and without any depth. More importantly, I had to play hunt the morel and when I did find the sliced-up bit of fungi, it tasted of rubbery nothingness. £22 for a chicken pie with a sliver or two of taste-free mushroom? Not good value.
And then I noticed that they had “Coupe Danmark”. Now, anyone who spent any time in Manchester in the 1980s will probably have eaten at Pizzeria Italia on the corner of Deansgate. I certainly did. and one of their specials (and my favourites) was Coppa Danimarka. And I don’t know why the combination of almonds, vanilla ice cream and (supposedly) hot chocolate sauce is a Danish Cup but a Danish Cup it is and if you ever get that question in a pub quiz, you know the answer now. You’re welcome.
And maybe I’ve mythologized that 1980’s dessert into a thing of beauty but this version didn’t match my memory. It was two scoops of vanilla with cold fudge-y chocolate sauce and toasted almonds scattered on top. I wasn’t overwhelmed.
And sadly, that was the verdict of the whole table. 5/10 was the general consensus on the food. Which I hadn’t expected. And in other circumstances I might be mortified.
But the evening was such fun that it didn’t matter and in a strange way, the fact that the food wasn’t overwhelmingly good helped the evening along, as we concentrated on the conversation and talked about cookbooks, work, restaurants, hotels, personal dramas (that was just me) and most notably for J and myself, our mothers. I think I may have said too much. There’s a first.
I hope it won’t be the last.