100 Wardour Street review: flavourful feasts where the dessert steals the show
Live music is a perfect accompaniment to Tim Tolley’s menu
Who would pass up an opportunity to spend an evening at 100 Wardour Street? You’ll find the elegant lounge and eatery nestled in the heart of Soho amongst some of London’s busiest streets and buzziest spots.
My dining companion and I were ready to take on the menu, crafted by head chef Tim Tolley - but we were less ready for, and very pleasantly surprised by, the live music that accompanied the evening. With our plans of attending a festival this summer already twice delayed, we relished being able to sit back and enjoy two live sets - the first from Tom Diesel, and then THE BEACH. Our waiter assured us that both are sure to be big names, and they are among an extensive line-up of artists performing at 100 Wardour Street this summer.
As the performers took centre stage in the elegant, dimly lit restaurant, we were happy to trust another of our accommodating waiter’s tips - sampling the cuvée Jean-Paul Rose. A light, easy drinking wine that’s surely best enjoyed in the summer, we trusted that it would pair with the fresh and flavourful dishes that the evening had in store for us.
And so came our most difficult task: choosing what to try from the wide-ranging menu. Tolley’s dishes have perhaps been designed with sharing in mind, a joy given that in-person socialising still feels somewhat of a novelty. Inspiration has been sought from both the Mediterranean and North Africa - and as one might hope from that promise, tagines, mezze plates, tender meat steaks and paellas are all on offer here.
The offering proves so tempting that we opt away from our usual choice of starter (like many millennials before us, yes, it’s a burrata) and instead go for two seafood options. Bites of raw yellowfin tuna are delicious, dressed with almond and ginger tahini alongside chunks of fresh avocado. The fried squid with saffron aioli is one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes, we’re told, and it seems rude not to give it a try. It’s punchy and well seasoned, and we can see why it’s a firm favourite.
The waiting staff are quick to offer side plates, clearly accustomed to diners helping themselves to one another’s choices. It adds an informality to a restaurant that creates an atmosphere of decadence that could only in error be described as stuffy.
For the main event, I stick with the fish offerings and tuck into a grilled salmon fillet with caponata, a signature slow-cooked Sicilian dish. Yellow courgettes, tomatoes and tangy olives conjure scenes from sun-soaked meals enjoyed during pre-pandemic holidays - the setting may have changed but the experience is equally refreshing. My companion enjoys the smoked aubergine paella, a generous portion with rich flavours that make it very difficult to put your fork down. A side of patatas bravas more than hits the spot too.
Meat aficionados are sure to be satisfied by the grill and main options too. A Moroccan spiced lamb shank tagine and grilled spatchcock chicken are accompanied by colourful additions; apricots, chickpeas, cumin spiced cauliflower, the kind of ingredients that any menu drawing from North African and Mediterranean cuisine really ought to feature. Otherwise ribeyes and fillet steaks are available, cut from cows reared on British farms, dry aged for 35 days before being prepared on the josper grill and served to your liking.
In my experience, it’s rare for a dessert to steal the show - but a strawberry pavlova, stacked high with chantilly cream, fresh berries and a touch of basil comes close to pulling off the feat. My fellow diner is equally pleased with a crème brûlée, combining vanilla and white chocolate with lemon thyme, and completed with a macadamia biscuit.
Though the sweets’ centrepieces stray slightly from the menu’s theme - pavlova, fondant and cheesecake not necessarily being dishes you’d associate with the Med or Morocco - the proof is in the puddings’ accompaniments. A scoop of sorbet with fig and almond biscotti, or manchego cheese and blackberry to taste with your baked cheesecake deliver the subtle freshness that gives this menu its kick.
100 Wardour Street, Soho, London, W1F 0TN; 100wardourst.com