A Soho staple, I’ve eaten and drank at 100 Wardour St. after stumbling through central London many times. But across my last three visits, I’ve began to see it in a new light, and have been really struck by its size and versatility.
Last autumn, I was fortunate enough to see iconic Milkshake singer Kelis perform a private gig at the club and restaurant downstairs. It was a blistering set, but extremely intimate. This definitely had something to do with the venue, which is obviously more tasteful furnishings than sticky floors, and cocktails and fizz over beer in plastic cups.
The same elegance was present when I visited the same space for the bottomless brunch a few weeks before, or ‘Fabulous Brunch, Darling’, as it was themed at the time.
Of course, this is nothing new – drag queen-hosted brunches of various levels of vulgar have been popping up at US gay bars for ages.
I’ve seen their popularity with my own eyes. (Including one in a gay sports bar in Washington, D. C. attended almost entirely by straight women; the gay male regulars, meanwhile, were confined to a separate bar and didn’t look happy about it).
I was dubious about trying out the concept for myself, but this very PC take on the trend – including a game of pop music bingo that I took far too seriously – was pretty inoffensive.
What’s more, it attracted a truly diverse crowd. More so than the aforementioned, even. At 100 Wardour, I saw everyone from same-sex couples to families complete with their elderly relatives singing along to the showtunes. More importantly, the eggs benedict were delicious and served promptly, and the good-humored staff generous with the prosecco. (So much so, my waitress totally overfilled my glass at one point!).
My most recent visit to 100 Wardour was to try out the new bar menu in the very plush and gorgeous low-lit upstairs bar. Here, you can get two courses for £18 or three for £22 (complete with a glass of wine), which – let’s be fair – is a pretty astonishing price for a decent meal with table service in central London.
For my starter I had crispy hen’s egg with truffled celeriac remoulade and parma ham, which was tasty and light. Alternatively the ‘nibbles’, which, on their own, are slightly cheaper than the starters, are heftier. (More on them later).
Indeed, the punchy tang of the celeriac is just one example of the chef’s playful use of vegetables. And while the presence of cauliflower steak on any menu is enough to infuriate yours truly, my sometimes-vegan guest was very impressed by it and the wide variety of veggie and vegan-friendly choices on offer.
For her starter, she opted for a a dense celery, spinach and mint soup; I was amazed by the vibrant color and she by the flavor. She was pushing for the mozzarella, basil pesto and tomato arancini too, but I talked her out of it, knowing I’d eat most of it and be bloated for an event the next day.
My desire to eat simply also dictated my choice of main: a refreshing Cornish crab Tagliolini paired with red chilli, garlic and white wine [pictured above]. Light on oil and moderate on crabmeat, it came in two sizes; I ordered the bigger portion.
I felt pretty elegant eating it, and found it filling – just – albeit, I felt vaguely unsatisfied after spotting my neighbor’s ‘nibble’: a generous helping of crispy squid, lime, green mango and sweet chilli that looked almost like a sculpture. I was fixated. But then again, food envy almost always happens to me when I go to restaurants!
Despite my restraint, my guest still easily beat me in the health stakes with her quinoa salad with baby spinach, cranberries, hazelnuts and feta, finished with a cabernet sauvignon dressing. Its freshness was evident from looking at it and she wolfed it down with absolutely no complaints. We finished our dishes off with french beans and crispy shallots, which were served firm and piping hot, as all cooked veg should. (Same goes for the portion of fries, which we also shared…)
In summary, the food at 100 Wardour St. is definitely affordable and of good quality. But what I’m most interested in is that contrast between the brunch and bar meal experiences – the unmistakable buzz of downstairs, compared to the laid-back ambience of upstairs. It’s an interesting one, and definitely gives this place an edge on its many, many competitors in the area.
For more information, visit the 100 Wardour Street official website.