We rather enjoyed our short-lived ‘Best Sunday Lunch’ column, but it’s fallen by the wayside of late. Should we bring it back?
Anyway, one classic London restaurant we did swing by on a recent day of rest was the tres elegant Dean Street Townhouse. An impeccable pre-Chicken Shop outpost of the Soho House Group, we’ve been occasional customers over the years, admittedly more for a cocktail or nightcap than dinner in its dark, candle-lit surrounds.
Dean Street exemplifies that understated English-stately-home-meets-American-diner look: hard-backed armchairs, wooden paneling, roaring fire, white tablecloths. And as for the long bar? Well, on the weekend it begs you to pull up a stool, take your pick from a dozen Sunday newspapers, and order – what else? – a cheeky Negroni.
We were having lunch with my old university friend Emma, her husband George and two year old Harry (cutely fitted out in his Sunday best). So it was a good test all round of Dean Street’s potential to provide a glam afternoon for the adults whilst tending to the needs of an – as it turns out – impressively well-behaved toddler.
The atmosphere was buzzy – every stool occupied at the bar, tables full, a sense of rendezvous and plotting – yet a less rowdy feel than on weeknights.
A set two course menu is just over twenty quid, with house wine around the same price (although the drinks list is endless). So we all opted for that, a less exciting offering, as to be expected, than the full evening a la carte; whilst the traditional fare served won’t surprise anyone, the quality is undoubtedly there.
The beef? Pretty good – rare, seductively pink, tender, and packed with flavour. But Emma ordered chicken and regretted it. Not enough flavour; a bit ordinary, she said. The Yorkshire puddings, however, were textbook pillowy, the vegetables al dente, the cauliflower deliciously creamy.Two of us opted for cheese and were shocked by the appearance of a single slim slither padded out with a bunch of grapes (for what amounted to £8). Yet a retro treacle sponge with custard was deeply comforting, and our toddler was thrilled by his ice cream. We finished with espresso martinis – tut tut – a decadent end to a meal that was solid rather than historic.
Service was typically Soho: efficient, a bit icy, an occasional flash of a smile. But the staff were accommodating with Harry, and there was no question of being made to feel uncomfortable for bringing along a young child. But the cheery charm of front-of-house at Kentish Town’s Soho House outlets is inevitably missing in what is quite definitely not a neighbourhood hang-out.
Like many restaurants in W1, Dean St masterfully balances a sense of occasion and excitement with its slightly underwhelming food offering – and, inevitably, a queasy bill to see you off blinking into the daylight. Yet its allure is all-powerful; we know we’ll be back at some point, ideally on a rainy school night, a sense of mischief in the air.
Words & Pics: Stephen Emms