Andy Campbell @ 23 Romilly Street - Reviews - Food + Drink - The Independent

Andy Campbell @ 23 Romilly Street

Now this is what Soho is all about. An unmarked doorway on a side street. A dark stairwell leading up to a crepuscular first-floor dining room. Guttering candles casting pools of light in a shadowy room of shiny black and sexy red. Light slanting through Venetian blinds on to crisp white tablecloths. All the scene needs is a woman straddling a chair while unpeeling a stocking and we could be in a Jack Vettriano painting.

Maybe it could be called The Kissing Manageress. Sashaying towards me through the gloom comes a stylish woman with an incredible husky voice, like Campari poured over cracked ice. When I give her my name (or rather the name I've booked under) she leans in to greet me with a kiss on the cheek. I've never met her before, as far as I know. But this sultry little restaurant is the nearest thing you'll find in Soho to an underground dining club, and as soon as you cross the threshold, you're made to feel like a member.

Opened by Andy Campbell (ex-head chef of Zilli's) and his partner Alessandra, she of the sexy voice, the restaurant is on the first floor of a private members' club (though anyone can book a table). After a quiet opening in March, word has spread that here is a Soho restaurant of the old school; offering decent food in a raffish, bohemian setting.

The Friday-night clientele lived up to the billing: a little bit Fashion Week, a little bit rock'n'roll, though disappointingly transvestite-free (Wednesday is their night, apparently). Waiting for my friend in the semi-darkness, it didn't seem quite right to bring out the Evening Standard; ArtForum perhaps, or maybe just Forum. So I sipped a Negroni – brought up from the new HQ of cocktail king Dick Bradsell, two floors down – and people-watched. It all seemed charming to me, but my friend Sharon was unsettled by the tackiness of the pub-style carpeting and the weirdness of the atmosphere. "It's not weird, it's bohemian," I corrected her, as an enormous man with tattoos, jewellery and long blond hair loomed out of the darkness.

The menu changes daily, with a few classics – fillet steak and fries (£20) and classic Caesar salad (£6) – making repeat appearances, bolstered by appealing pan-European brasserie-style dishes such as mussels with white wine, confit chicken leg with dauphinoise potatoes, and gravadlax cured in Hendricks Gin. Most of what we tried was pretty good. A coleslaw-like salad of barrel-aged feta cheese, red cabbage, apple and walnut was better than it sounded, if reminiscent of something from a Marks & Spencer recipe book, circa 1981. Gruyère cheese and caramelised onion tart was properly crisp of pastry, and the accompanying salad leaves notably zippy (Campbell has created his own kitchen garden on the roof).

The DIY ethic extends to the charcuterie; we admired the home-made Jaegerwurst sausage, smoky and close-textured with a hint of fennel seed and other aromatic spicing, which came with proper, buttery mash and red onion gravy, plus a nose-clearing caraway beer mustard. My own main course of whole sea bass was, in retrospect, not something to be attempted in a nearly dark restaurant. My first attempt yielded a mouthful of tiny bones, and subsequent efforts left me feeling like I was flunking the skills test on Masterchef; I could almost hear Monica sucking her teeth and murmuring, "Chef won't be happy with that". Despite my efforts, the fish was really good, well-supported by a broth of clams and mussels, roasted potatoes and perfect green beans.

The brevity of the pudding list – just cheese and two desserts – reflects the limitations of the kitchen, which only has room for Campbell and a sous-chef. We ordered a chocolate Nemesis to share, and our wry, pony-tailed waiter, who looked like he might once have been on the alternative cabaret circuit, placed it between us saying, "I'll leave this in the middle and you can fight over it like the wild beasts that you really are".

Which really summed up the quality Andy's has in spades: personality. The front-of-house team, the other customers, the chef, who pops out regularly to commune with staff and greet customers; even the food, which like the best type of Soho character, is mildly eccentric, but designed for pleasure. With a couple of glasses of wine – well, we are wild beasts, after all – our bill totalled around £90, including service.

Ever since the 1950s, people have been telling each other that Soho isn't what it used to be. But really, the area is now a hellish scrum at weekends – the days when the Groucho Club didn't open on Saturday nights because the area was deserted are long gone. For the nostalgic Soho boho, or the merely curious, it's good to know that places like Andy's still exist.

As part of the London Restaurant Festival, Tracey MacLeod will tonight be taking part in Starter For Ten, a food-related quiz pitting restaurant critics against top chefs. Vinopolis, SE1, 6pm. See londonrestaurantfestival.com

Andy Campbell @ 23 Romilly Street 23 Romilly Street, London W1 (020-7734 9050)

Food 3 stars
Ambience 4 stars
Service 4 stars

Around £45 a head including wine and service. Set menu £12.50/£15.50 for two/three courses

Tipping policy: "Service charge is 12 per cent, of which 100 per cent goes to the staff; all tips go to the staff"

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week