Getting seated at 100 Wardour Street takes around fifteen minutes and nerves of steel. You’ll know the venue by the cordoned-off queue: a snake of Louboutins and Isabel Marant, IDs in hand like they’re waiting for a teenage disco and nervously shuffling towards three hefty bodyguards guarding the red velvet ropes. Once you’ve run that particular gauntlet, you’ll need to navigate multiple reception desks and a host of high-heeled hostesses, and pray that someone uncovers your booking. The place walks a dicey line between ‘aspirational’ and ‘minor Soviet Union state’.
However, all the trouble it takes to get in surely ought to be worth it as soon as you reach the downstairs club. 100 Wardour Street’s cavernous underground space in is an ode to the hidden jazz clubs of 1920s New Orleans, only with a modern twist on decor and sultry crooning replaced by wildly energetic Bruno Mars covers. I was excited to get stuck into the action at a table by the stage, however as I was led straight past it, round a corner, up a flight of steps and to a small gallery at the very back of the restaurant, I realised that things may not be going to plan.
Oh, well. After all, it was a busy Friday night and we were here to drink cocktails! Following the success of its last ‘Creative Disorder’ drinks offering, the bar team at 100 Wardour Street have decided to capitalise on the crazy political climate right now and curate a second menu, this time inspired by political satire. Enter ‘The Politicians’, the menu that transforms the world’s most renowned political characters into cocktail creations (not literally, fortunately. Or unfortunately). Drinks are designed around amusing caricatures of political leaders – including one of Kim Jong-un heading a cocktail simply entitled ‘Boom’. We nabbed two – ‘The Wall’ and ‘Pride’, and turned our attention to the starters.
And this, ladies and gentlemen, is where 100 Wardour Street really got it right. The tuna tartare with sesame and soya was partnered with tuile-delicate wafers of nori, perfect for scooping. It was exactly what any tartare should be – high-grade, moreish, juicy and refreshing. A veal carpaccio served with tuna mayonnaise, gherkin and a quail’s egg, was a brazen offering. Unlike the supporting acts that accompanied the tartare, this was the Destiny’s Child of dishes: a concoction of ingredients that, whilst each independently brilliant, together became a catfight for the culinary spotlight. Each jostled for attention amongst similarly bold flavours. I’m yet to decide whether it was down to luck, genius or my worrying love of salt, but somehow it worked: hands-down the best thing I ate that night.
I was busy sighing and making ‘come hither’ eyes at my plate when the drinks finally arrived (slightly late, but again, I put it down to Friday night). On the menu, ‘The Wall’ had of course depicted Donald Trump. The drink itself was a witty ode to Mexico – mezcal, sugar snap peas, fino sherry, agave and lime. The idea was clever, and I wanted to love it, but the execution? Se quedó corta. Pride’s image was fabulous, a headshot of Putin decked out in full drag get-up, and the drink itself a vodka concoction of all things, well, not stereotypically associated with the former KGB officer president’: vodka served with peach, blackberry, vanilla and prosecco.
Starters done and drinks mid-swig, our main course arrived – a sharing platter of ‘surf and turf’: ribeye and tiger prawns. Sides are extra. We decided on the tenderstem broccoli served with sunflower seeds. It would be fair to say that by this point, cracks were beginning to show. A little like my cutlery, a view of the stage, or the (numerous, never-the-same-twice) waiters, it never turned up. The drinks had missed the mark slightly and despite the surf and turf coming in at £70, the ‘surf’ amounted a paltry handful of prawns. Having said that, the beef was cooked perfectly and there was a hefty chunk of it. Coupled with a trio of sauces, including a bearnaise that was whipped to perfection and heavy with tarragon, it made for a mainly decent main. A trio of cheeses with a juicy quince jelly, and a sticky toffee pudding that had been experimentally doused in cinnamon rounded the night off.
Ultimately, 100 Wardour Street has some serious potential. If you’re looking for decent food, thought-provoking drinks and a thoroughly entertaining dinner setting (provided you sit in the right place), then this is the venue for you. Perhaps the fairest way of describing the night would be to compare the experience to a hospitality lucky dip – while the food, drinks and service can be bang on target, they can also be way out on a wind-ravaged mountaintop. As a package, 100 Wardour Street really has it all, but it’s the little details that make a night, and it was these details that let it down.