Dean Street Townhouse, 69-71 Dean Street, London W1

Richard Caring's new hotel and restaurant used to house a branch of the Pitcher & Piano chain, a spiritless wine bar past which one used to hurry without any desire to join its clientele of onanists and poseurs. The Dean Street Townhouse, by contrast, brings style and warmth to the heart of Soho, and you can't move for people trying to get in.

Walk through the entrance on a face-slicingly cold, snowy lunchtime, and you feel instantly at home. Caring and Nick Jones have taken the best bits of their respective empires and melded them seamlessly together: vintage class meets modern arty hangout; J Sheekey meets Soho House. Check out the wooden floors and monochrome tiles, the pale-green-with-white-spots walls, the trendy artworks by Mat Collishaw and Peter Blake, the charming caricatures of Soho sacred monsters from Jeff Bernard to Shane MacGowan – how well they all go together. Marvel at the long wood bar, lit by little lamps, and the array of wine bottles inside lead-glazed wooden cupboards. The mirror has been "distressed", to look as though it's been a fixture for years. The dining-room is all low-slung banquettes in red leather with white tablecloths and dagger-like cutlery. There's a distinctly boudoir feel to the private dining area: look closely at the red wallpaper's leaf design, and you'll find it's full of naked bottoms. As I say, this isn't a place you feel like leaving in a hurry. Then you open the menu, and feel a crushing disappointment.

What on earth? Fish and chips with marrowfat peas. Fillet of cod. Mince and boiled potatoes. ("Mince"? Not even "ragu" but "mince"?) Starters include avocado with prawns, pressed ham with piccalilli, onion tart... To call this pub/nursery grub unadventurous would be like calling Russell Brand a bit of a ladies' man. Then you spot the "Savouries" section just before the puddings, and it becomes clear: this restaurant is a throwback to a gentleman's club, the Savile or Garrick, in the 1970s, sensible British food with no messed-about Frenchy muck or foreign nonsense.

Unenthusiastically I ordered twice-baked smoked haddock soufflé. It was the size, hue and shape of a crème caramel, drenched with a buttery chive sauce, and was absolutely gorgeous, soft and light as a dream, while the smokiness of the fish came through robustly. My friend Adam's Dorset crab mayonnaise was perfectly cooked, the white crabmeat miraculously fluffy, with a fine rouille of tomato and paprika on the side. "If I'd been served this in Sheekey's," he said, "I'd be very pleased." Even the garnish – finely sliced cucumber and fennel with chopped dill and a final dab of oil – came in for praise.

Since the Townhouse was so determinedly blokey, I ordered their only signature dish, the Townhouse mixed grill. How could they do anything new to this trencherman's feast? But they did, by bringing out the unique flavours of all the constituent parts. The Cumberland sausage was taut and peppery like the handmade sausages in my childhood. The bacon was both crunchy and sweet. The fillet steak was juicily perky. No lamb cutlet in history was as tender as this lamb cutlet (had they marinaded it in lamb stock for hours?). The kidney was cooked à point, and carried a faint whiff of pee, not unpleasantly. The liver was as disgusting as I've always found liver to be, and I gave the lion's share to my companion ("Delicious, John," he said, shaking his head at my folly). And the bubble'n'squeak was a delicious foil, if a touch lumpy. Most mixed grills are served without any liquid agent. Here, a lovely savoury jus kept everything moistened and enriched. How did they do that?

Adam's red-leg partridge, with braised lentils and root vegetables, was hearty and tender but surprisingly light. "Lovely cold-weather stuff," said Adam, "and terribly English – apart from the lentils." Savoy cabbage offered some nice friction, while roasted sliced parsnips stood in for game chips.

We washed it all down with an £18 carafe of Argentine Malbec, and agreed that if this was an example of whiskery clubland cuisine, we were signing up forthwith. Unable to resist, we shared a £10 sherry trifle for two, which arrived in a glass chalice, its lovely colours glowing like sunset over Montego Bay. What can you say about Manzanilla-drenched sponge, cooked sliced plums, custard, nuts, cream and bits of meringue? Nothing. We devoured it in silence. "It's not a word I use much," said Adam afterwards, "but cor..."

I couldn't agree more. The Townhouse is self-consciously old-fashioned in many ways, but its appeal is straight to the stomach and the heart, in that order. It brings out the greedy schoolboy in the most sophisticated media tart. If ever there's a London restaurant to enter out of the winter snow and fall in love with, this is it.

Dean Street Townhouse, 69-71 Dean Street, London W1 (020-7434 1775)

Food 4 stars
Ambience 4 stars
Service 4 stars

About £120 for two with wine

Tipping policy: "Service charge is 12.5 per cent discretionary; all of the service charge and the tips go to the staff"

Side Orders: True Brits

The Three Fishes

This 400-year-old pub specialises in British fare; try the comforting heather-reared Bowland lamb Lancashire hotpot.

Mitton, Nr Whalley, Lancashire (01254 826888)

The Albemarle

Mains include braised wild rabbit in cider and roast wild duck with gamekeeper's pie at this glamorous dining room at Brown's Hotel.

Albemarle Street, London W1 (020-7493 6020)

River Restaurant

Ribble Valley free-range chicken with Inglewhite goat's cheese potato cake is a typical dish at this stylish modern hotel restaurant.

Lowry Hotel, Manchester (0161 827 4000)

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
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

    Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

    £32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

    Guru Careers: Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Chef

    £27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...

    Guru Careers: Events Coordinator / Junior Events Planner

    £24K + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Events Coordinator ...

    Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: Chief Executive Officer

    Salary 42,000: Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: The CEO is responsible ...

    Day In a Page

    Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

    Please save my husband

    As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada
    Birthplace of Arab Spring in turmoil as angry Tunisians stage massive sit-in over lack of development

    They shall not be moved: jobless protesters bring Tunisia to a halt

    A former North African boom town is wasting away while its unemployed citizens stick steadfastly to their sit-in
    David Hasselhoff's new show 'Hoff the Record': What's it like working with a superstar?

    Hanging with the Hoff

    Working with David Hasselhoff on his new TV series was an education for Ella Smith
    Can Dubai's Design District 'hipster village' attract the right type of goatee-wearing individualist?

    Hipsters of Arabia

    Can Dubai’s ‘creative village’ attract the right type of goatee-wearing individualist?
    The cult of Roger Federer: What is it that inspires such obsessive devotion?

    The cult of Roger Federer

    What is it that inspires such obsessive devotion?
    Kuala Lumpur's street food: Not a 'scene', more a way of life

    Malaysian munchies

    With new flights, the amazing street food of Kuala Lumpur just got more accessible
    10 best festival beauty

    Mud guards: 10 best festival beauty

    Whether you're off to the Isle of Wight, Glastonbury or a local music event, we've found the products to help you
    Unai Emery’s passion for winning and eye for a bargain keep Seville centre stage in Europe

    A Different League

    Unai Emery’s passion for winning and eye for a bargain keep Seville centre stage in Europe, says Pete Jenson
    Amir Khan and James DeGale’s remarkable Olympic performances were just the start of an extraordinary journey - Steve Bunce

    Steve Bunce on Boxing

    Amir Khan and James DeGale’s remarkable Olympic performances were just the start of an extraordinary journey
    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf