Do you have one of those friends who desperately clings onto their golden years, perpetually harping on the good old days when debauchery was their middle name and their veins coursed not with blood but Grey Goose? Maybe they’ve added a 90s henna choker to their wardrobe arsenal. Maybe they’ve got that cheeky ‘M.O.B.’ white tattoo because Money Over Bitches, am I right? No matter the particular incarnation, they want you to know that they are, in fact, still cool. Soho could not escape the futile, furious clutches of its very own DUFF, 100 Wardour Street.
Fondly remembered as the venue that showcased the Rolling Stones in their very first performance before playing host to droves of movers and shakers from Fleetwood Mac to Jimi Hendrix, 100 Wardour St has now been revamped and reopened by D&D London. Born from the flames of Floridita, the restaurant is not afraid to play with fire, with most of its menu making use of an open robata grill and a Josper oven. While it wants to become “a new living room for Soho,” its décor is so sickeningly sleek that only the Sex and the City gal pals and high class escorts could be comfortable here. The spot sops up the dregs of the ‘hood, taking in strays and Soho House rejects, in their aim to foster the creativity and eccentricity that already runs rampant without 100 Wardour St’s help.
The Kilim-upholstered sofas and carefully curated kooky details are bathed in the warm glow of red fluorescent lighting. Carrera marble, leather banquettes and poured concrete abound. The design team painstakingly ensured no design trend was left behind. 100 Wardour St’s own Instagram is peppered with awkward hashtags sure to make even the most unironic among us cringe: #sexysoho #opulence #indulge #art. Simon Schama would be proud, as this is truly an embarrassment of riches.
The menu is similarly outlandish, geared toward a very specific crowd. Foodies will rejoice. Eaters will sneer. Nearly every dish sports a buzzy ingredient thrown in just for the hell of it. The granola’s got quinoa in it, the brioche is slathered in goat butter, the tabbouleh’s topped with bee pollen and the scampi is battered with beer. And, don’t you worry, there is plenty of truffle to go around.
With Chef Liam Smith-Laing, a veteran of La Petite Maison’s beloved kitchen, at the helm, I ignored my initial urges to turn my nose up at the pretension. After all, these bold flavors and expensive ingredients are favoured for a reason, even if the menu is unimaginative and a bit trite. It haphazardly toys with cuisines and flavor profiles, effectively becoming a jack of all trades and master of none. Sadly, not even the irresistible appeal of pork belly or confit duck could save
They say that blondes have more fun, but this mentality should not be adopted when it comes to frying. The squid with chili and lime is not golden and crunchy as it should be, but rather as sallow and limp as I am after a winter spent in hibernation. Despite its crispy claim, the pork belly was nearly as pale, and so stringy you could save yourself a trip to the dentist and use it to floss.
Though not hugely inspired flavour-wise, both the garlic chicken skewers and the Japanese-style glazed eel are well-cooked, really honoring the hot coals of the robata grill. They pick up an earthy smokiness from the grill, without losing all of their moisture as the pork belly does. The kitchen has reimagined the staid oysters Rockefeller into fried oysters with cucumber and sweet corn relish. With a fine filigree breading, the oysters are light and almost crackle like popping candy. Paired with the bright relish, the dish is quite a knockout.
Both the Galician fillet of beef and the veal ragu pappardelle fall victim to an overzealous line cook, heavy-handed with the salt. All snobbery aside, the fresh linguine with black truffle is perfectly al dente and has a generous helping of truffle without overwhelming the dish completely.
Even with the lure of the promise of acts like Craig David, I most certainly will not be spending even one of the seven days in my week at 100 Wardour St. You’ll be handed a hefty bill, with no culinary credentials to back it up. This restaurant should come with a health warning because, in my opinion, secondhand embarrassment is far worse than secondhand smoke.