Places To Eat In London: Horvarda, Soho
If it is on in your city, this is me telling you to go book tickets to go and see Book of Mormon. I was taken as a birthday present, and I don’t think I can remember smiling or laughing that much in ages. Now, if you’re off to see Book of Mormon in London, the theatre is across the road at the end of Rupert Street in Soho, where some pretty awesome pre-theatre dinner options are presented to you. There is a Brindisa if you’re after some Spanish tapas, and XU (which I’m reviewing next week) if you’re after some of the best Taiwanese dumplings I’ve had in ages. I’m a massive fan of The Paloma but you’ll have to be conservative with your ordering to make sure you get to the theatre in time, but if it is a celebration or special occasion, you should go to Horvarda.
It is owned by the same people who run Yosma, the fantastic Turkish place I reviewed in January in Marylebone, and has a big, beautiful dining room with impeccable service. We started with two lovely glasses of wine (Turkish red and Greek white, to go with the food, with is Greek with a Turkish twist) and the warm, delicious house bread, brought to each table with a beautifully, peppery olive oil for dipping.
We’d planned on ordering the fantastic value (and delicious looking) pre-theatre menu listed on their website, as we were visiting pre-theatre, but that was not given as an option when we sat down, so we went a la carte, starting from the ‘Raw’ section of the menu with the sea bass ceviche with tomato, avocado and red onion; not quite in keeping with the Aegean theme, but I love it and always order it when I see it on a menu as a mark of quite how good and fresh the seafood is wherever I happen to be eating. This one was bright, light and full of flavour, and had a generous amount of the bass. Just what you want to kick off the meal.
Next, from the ‘Meze’ section we had the Karides: marinated prawns with lemon oil and tarragon, and the coal-roasted peppers with mint and lime zest. The prawns were beautiful, tender, zingy and unusual. I absolutely adored them, though they don’t warn they’re just cooked in the citrus juice not with direct heat, so it is an unpleasant surprise for the dinner date who won’t eat raw fish! The peppers were a cool flavour heat; smokey and with the mint really giving them a lift. You’ll not want to miss out on all three.
Next, we each ordered something from the land and sea sections; I had the diver scallops with herb butter, lemon, chilli and hazelnuts, and he had the Kleftiko, slow roasted Ryeland lamb, lamb fat potatoes, oregano, red peppers and lemon. The lamb was mouthwatering, and a really hearty main without being too much; we’d both really recommend it. My scallops were perfectly cooked, sweet and tender, with a delicious butter. However, they were slightly too buttery, I think because you just get three scallops for £26, which bothered me as it was a lot. That is almost £8.70 a scallop, with no sides. The lamb was pricy at £29, but you got an incredible dish. They were amazing quality, but a little disappointing, especially if you think how much you can get good scallops for at specialist seafood restaurants elsewhere in the city.
The mezze was incredible, and I know it is a little pricy, but the number one reason you need to visit Horvarda is for the lokma: delicious, little thyme honey soaked and walnut sprinkled Greek doughnut balls served with cinnamon ice cream. We shared the dessert, and it was to die for; one of the best desserts I’ve had in a very long time. The doughnuts were light and tender, the ice cream rich and creamy. It was the perfect balance of sweetness and fragrance, and is the one thing you need to make sure you order over everything else.
Okay, so the mains were overpriced and Horvarda is rather pricy. Rupert Street is pricy, but the food there is always fantastic. Go for a special occasion, skip the mains in favour of as many mezze dishes you fancy, which are varied, delicious and much better value, and pair Aegean wines with your food, and stay for dessert.