I’ve been on a theater kick lately (the second half of Arcadia is a stand-out, by the way), and one of the major challenges associated with theater-going is finding a place to eat that’s quick, tasty and near the theater. So I finally got around to trying Princi, the Alan Yau-backed London branch of a Milanese bakery chain.
First, the pros:
- The decor is super attractive — all beige marble and sleek water fountains.
- The displays of hot food and baked sweets are similarly attractive.
- The food is inexpensive (e.g., you can choose a cold salad plate that includes generous portions of two dishes for £6.50).
- The tiramisu was deliciously creamy, not too sweet, and zippy with coffee flavor. Good value for £3.50
- The service is fast and efficient, despite the crowds (see “cons” below).
Now, the cons:
- The place is a total zoo. Even at the early hour of 6:30 pm, it was almost impossible to find a space for two. So don’t even think about going with a group for a sit-down meal.
- The food Jon and I chose tasted so-so despite favorable appearances:
A beetroot-and-blue cheese salad was skimpy on blue cheese.
A tasty-looking slice of pizza for £2.50 was strangely flavorless (the biggest flaw being the sauce with no zing).
A lasagne, which Jon loves (because he goes to Princi somewhat regularly for lunch), but which I thought was ridiculously salty. To be fair, I always prefer a tomato-sauce-based lasagne over a béchamel-based one like Princi’s.
Arancini and ricotta-filled pastry puffs that, again, looked lovely, but tasted stale. Given the crowds of diners, you’d think rapid turnover would prevent this sort of “sitting around for a while” issue.
Including a £15 cheap-and-cheery rose, our tab totaled £40 for two people. If the place had been 95% calmer and quieter, I think our meal would’ve counted as a good value on the basis of stylin’ decor and quality ingredients, but £20 a person for what is essentially high-end cafeteria dining was unimpressive.
Everything about Princi *looked* great, but if there’s a next time, I’ll pick up only desserts and only on a takeaway basis. For future West End pre-theatre dining, I’ll stick with a quick bite at Leong’s, which remains a trusty standby.
Princi, 135 Wardour Street, W1F 0UT; (0)20 7478 8888.