If you’re anything like me, Spring/Summer 2020 will have left you needing a big blowout. Forget all those bottles of Whispering Angel and rookie homemade espresso martinis I sank during lockdown… I’ve been missing real drinks. In actual bars. With music, other people, and that unparalleled feeling of escapism.
Which is why I was delighted when I heard that 100 Wardour St was set to reopen. Long one of my favourite watering holes in Soho, this legendary venue is as fun and glamorous as ever – the basement once housed an iconic club where artists like Bowie and the Stones performed.
These days you’re unlikely to catch a glimpse of Jagger down there, but you do still get live music and DJs every Thursday and through the weekend. On Saturdays, the space becomes the glitzy backdrop for “Rhythm & Brunch” – a three-course brunch served with bottomless Prosecco (optional), live DJs, and really fun vibes. Exactly what I need to break me out from my former lockdown funk.
The venue’s been given the all-important COVID tweaks that allow guests to fully relax: there’s a temperature check on the door, hand sanitiser dotted throughout, socially distanced tables, and a rigorous staff training and shift pattern regime that means everyone’s totally safe.
On arrival, I’m almost instantly greeted with a cold glass of bubbles – a solid start. We peruse the menu (you can opt for two or three courses) and settle on our starter: wild mushrooms on sourdough with poached eggs and tarragon for me; Eggs Royale on brioche for him. The portions are reassuringly-sized for what are traditionally brunch mains – and my mixture of wild mushrooms with creamy-yolked eggs have real flavour and depth. I fancy the look of buttermilk pancakes and pecan butter for a sweet choice, but there’s a quinoa salad option too (for the less hardcore bruncher).
My partner’s not one to share so we order the same main: ribeye steak with Bernaise and rocket salad, and I even manage to talk him into a side of fries on the promise I’ll “probably only have one or two” (spoiler: I did not stick to my word). Our steaks (the first we’ve had outside the house) are truly excellent. Succulent, tender and gorgeous – and we both comment on how crispy and flavourful the humble fries are too. I eye up passing dishes as they head to other tables – the truffle mac and cheese with toasted brioche crumb looks as decadent as it sounds, and even the classic chicken breast and mash appeals, thanks to a generous splash of whisky mushroom sauce.
By dessert, we’re both feeling a little full and frankly pretty tipsy – I don’t think my flute was ever less than a quarter full. Which is another big accolade for 100 Wardour St’s staff: they genuinely want you to have a great time too. This brilliant service extended to allow me a short break before dessert to ponder my choice and will some extra stomach space into existence. Which thankfully it did (I was never really in any doubt), and I get to enjoy one of my all-time favourite puds: crème brûlée with a little peanut butter cookie on the side. It’s light enough to satisfy and perfectly round up the meal. My partner didn’t even ask for a bite as he tucked into his lemon tart and raspberry sorbet, which is probably praise enough for that dessert option too.
As we emerge from 100 Wardour St a little bleary-eyed, into the hazy 4pm sun on Soho’s streets, we discuss how good it is to be back. Going out for a meal nowadays can feel strangely daunting, but 100 Wardour St welcomed us back with open (and sanitised) arms – and the same neighbourhood atmosphere it’s always had. It’s the kind of place that lets you truly forget the outside world for a few hours, in a wonderful tangle of live music, brilliant food, rippling laughter and the endless pop of bottles uncorking. This is a very special jewel in central London’s crown, and one I hope will long weather the COVID storm.
100 Wardour Street, W1. (100wardourst.com)