Dinner at Soho’s favourite bar

Cafe Boheme
13-17 Old Compton Street, W1 5JQ
Tel: 020 7734 0623

Cost per person without wine: £35

WHO hasn’t begun, ended or whiled away a night at one of Café Boheme’s little street-facing tables? With Soho’s best vantage point on the corner of Old Compton and Greek Streets, no discernible closing time (the website says 2:45AM but really?) and an aesthetic that makes you feel you’re in the Paris of Hemingway and Picasso, it’s everybody’s favourite Soho hangout.

But what’s the food like?

I’d had plenty of just about drinkable table wine and good coffee here but had never taken tried its “French bistro” dinner.

My verdict is: if you’re hungry while people-watching, want to eat among a hip ‘n’ happening, dynamic and above all, not stuffy crowd (expect spillover from nearby members’ clubs Soho House, Black’s and the Groucho Club) – then eat here.

If you want delicious, exciting French food – don’t. Go to Terroirs in Charing Cross or even “modern European” Arbutus on Frith Street. Go Spanish at nearby Barrafina (also Frith St) or American-style at Spuntino on Rupert Street. But maybe you don’t want to go to those places because you want to be exactly here in the throbbing heart of Soho.

Don’t get me wrong. The food is fine, just boring – the only real shocker was the limp, overcooked and seriously miserly portion of asparagus with hollandaise that eventually came out (having been forgotten by the apologetic waiter).

Salad of crab and avocado was somehow unsatisfying, as though it had been thrown together by an amateur. Though the ingredients were promising and this combination can take flight, it needs some flair (or at least a good dressing) and this it lacked thoroughly. Roquefort, pear and walnut was better – another classic, rather more intense and satisfying.

Mains were also ok, but not memorable. Perhaps we didn’t order quite fairly – seabass with courgettes and hake with leeks rather than more classic bistro fare like fillet au poivre and fish cakes, also in “mains”.

Dessert is nice, though. Chocolate fondant and lemon tart are just as you’d want: big, creamy and sinful.

There are good French wines to be had, but we had the house – which, like the food, is serviceable.

But Café Boheme is still special. And if you’ve got a good table here, leaving is a shame. So why not stay and tuck in? You won’t regret it, even if you won’t remember it.