Top Tables

Milk Beach, Soho: It’s hard not to love it as much as it loves itself

It may feel too freshly minted for its grungy-gorgeous ’hood, but this new addition to charming old Soho brings 10/10 food and a convivial atmosphere, says Lucy Thackray

Friday 23 December 2022 06:30 GMT
The courtyard is a future sun trap
The courtyard is a future sun trap (Milk Beach)

On first glance, the glassy, sculpted Milk Beach Soho doesn’t belong in its namesake neighbourhood. London’s Sohophiles come here for local institution pubs, indie shops and ancient, often unchanged restaurants, alongside the odd new hole-in-the-wall bistro or wine bar hoping to make it among the area’s heroes. In actual fact, Milk Beach – London’s second outpost of this swanky Aussie concept – is tucked slightly away from Soho’s regal old grid, reached through a curious mini-archway on Greek Street.

When you do duck under, there’s an Alice in Wonderland-style shift in perspective: the neat, low-rise vintage streets give way to a towering, hyper-modern courtyard. At one side is the restaurant’s sculpted glass facade, trimmed with mermaid-scale turquoise tiling, plus chic patio seating slung with blankets. Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Soho anymore.

Luckily, when you do slink into this high-ceilinged hotspot, the welcome is warm enough for any Sohophile. It may look upmarket and glossy-new, but Aussies do informal and embracing hospitality like no one else. We’re led to a corner table, through pockets of fashionable couples and young groups tucking into sharing plates. Seductively dressed locals loiter at the bar; a youthful workforce buzzes about with tempting-looking plates. This place has made a name for itself with its weekend brunch, but it seems dinnertime is just as raucous.

The menu here is instantly an exercise in narrowing down your favourites: everything sounds almost annoyingly alluring. My partner and I make cases for our choices, knowing we can only possibly squeeze in three or four small plates as well as two larger ones. Or two small and four large? No, we’ve forgotten the oysters. With some help from a kindly waiter, who advises on top choices, dish sizes and the best combinations, we start with oysters and cocktails, and compromise on three small plates and two larger sharing dishes.

That monkfish curry of dreams (Milk Beach)

Martini fans should make for the subtle but genius Milk Beach Martini – a gin number infused with Bondi-like surf by a spritz of “ocean-infused vermouth”, sea salt and celery. It comes with a dainty, unfamiliar leaf pegged to the delicate glass. This I’m instructed to nibble between sips – it’s an oyster leaf, another friendly twentysomething server tells me, tasting lightly of the sea with just a slight musky undertone of mollusc. Good thing we ordered the oysters.

Being “modern Australian”, the selection is eclectic; the main things that unite the dishes on this menu are quality produce and time spent on a grill. Giant typhoon shelter prawns are doused in fermented chilli butter, but presented simply, while the house hit chicken “schnitty” (schnitzel) comes with a chilli mayo and chicken salt chips. It may sound basic or fast-foody, but everything is cooked to perfection: chicken moist and just lightly powdered with seasoning; chips fat and fluffy; prawns juicy and well-spiced.

The beachy, laid-back interior (Milk Beach)

Grilled corn cobs, another basic-sounding choice, absolutely sing with sweet, comforting flavour – they’re served with an umami-packed miso butter to roll them in. Yes, you will get your fingers sticky here. Pork rib dumplings are light of dough and punchy with coriander and chilli; but the thing we linger longest over is a dish of monkfish and mussel curry, in a coconut-creamy, mustard-yellow sauce crunched up by choi sum and basil leaves. The monkfish is more heavenly in plump, meaty texture than any I’ve had before – clearly, the chefs here pride themselves on precise and flawless cooking techniques.

As you’ve probably guessed, the Asian influence is strong – this is more Sydney-as-a-gateway-to-the-world than an outback experience. We can’t squeeze in the house take on prawn toast or the aubergine karaage, but going on the success of the dumplings and curry, we’d definitely come back for them for round two.

Grilled yakitori kebabs (Milk Beach)

The service, too, is pitch perfect – it feels like every server has tasted the dishes and has strong opinions on the best way to go about your feast. Plus, they always appear when you need them. There’s a quiet confidence here; a pleasure in dishes and a concept that they’d love for you to love, too, but will stick with regardless. As my boyfriend puts it: “It feels like the staff wouldn’t mind if you kicked off your shoes and lounged around barefoot, so long as you enjoyed your dinner.” If the food had been less ooh and aah-worthy, we’d perhaps have spent more time people-watching – this joint was packed to the rafters on a sexily lit Friday night, and alive with the chatter of deals being struck and pals catching up.

We come away feeling that it’s truly rare that a new venue strikes such a good balance on glam atmosphere and quality food in its first few weeks. Perhaps a new Soho star is born.

Milk Beach | 14 Greek St, London W1D 4DN | 020 4599 4271 |

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