Opening a new restaurant is stressful enough, opening a restaurant in an iconic building, well that adds a whole new level of pressure. There’s more hype, namely will the restaurant do justice to the building? Or have they left the building to do the talking with the restaurant being more of an afterthought to the architecture or the views?
So, when caterers, rhubarb, announced they would be opening their next restaurant, VIVI, in Centre Point, it was received with anticipation. They’d be up against the likes of Aqua Shard, SUSHISAMBA and even one of their own, Sky Garden. Except they’re already on the back foot as they don’t have the views that the others have given it’s at the base of the building, oh and the blinds are being kept down to hide the construction going on around them. Still, that can’t be helped, so a week after opening we decided to head over to see how it was doing.
The name is taken from the Roman numerals for 66, because along with winning the World Cup and the Beatles playing their last concert, it was also the year that Centre Point was built. And the Sixties are the inspiration for both the interior and the menu. Designed by Gordon Young Architects LTD, the restaurant is said to be reminiscent of the 1960s Italian design, French Art Nouveau and German Bauhaus modernism. There’s original listed 1960s floor tiles and art deco dog tooth patterning. That said, with navy velvet banquettes, dusty millennial pinks and brass fittings its very ‘now’ and I like it.
They’ve really captured the playfulness and freedom of the the era with pop-art pieces, humorous neon signs and a plexiglass chandelier inspired by PlayPlax – the popular ’60s toy. Whether the 60s vibe is apparent or not, the place is sleek, inviting and for a new restaurant they have already achieved that relaxed, laid back atmosphere. And it’s big too, divided into the main dining room, a bar, the relaxed gallery, a liquid lounge and two private dining rooms. For central London, they’ve secured an excellent spot. So far so good.
The menu takes popular dishes from the decade and then modernises them, which can only be a good thing if my parents’ description of their school meals is anything to go by. You’ll find a prawn cocktail (a must if you’re a fan of prawns according to my friend), a signature chicken kiev dish, quiche Lorraine, artic roll and trifle. I started with the Keen’s Cheddar twice baked soufflé, beautifully light and served with a Provençale peppers and a mornay sauce which cut through cheddar which was strong enough to satisfy any cheddar fans.
We followed this with the 10 oz rib eye Hereford steak which was declared to be perfectly cooked and served with roasted mushrooms, tomatoes and shallots. The chips were rather dry and due to a mix up in the kitchen we ended up with two portions. Just as well really as another confusion saw them forgetting the mash potato to accompany my steamed venison and chestnut pudding and honey roast parsnips. The pie itself was exactly the comfort food needed for a rainy February evening, but the mash wouldn’t have gone amiss. Three waiters later and with still no mash arriving I settled without – I have been trying to cut back on my carbs anyway, maybe this was just a helping hand. Cauliflower cheese lacked the golden, molten cheesy topping you’d expect but the sauce was good for dipping our chips and the bread in which was unfortunately too dry. That said we finished off on a winner with a decadent treacle tart and clotted cream which I highly recommend.
I like VIVI, I really do, and I hope as they find their feet that the hiccups that we encountered will be cured. As they say a terrible atmosphere can ruin great food and it’s true vice versa, and I think with time and once any mistakes are smoothed out they’ll have nailed both.
VIVI at Centre Point, 11 St Giles Square, WC2H 8AP