Saturday night. Where to go? Soho. Looking for someplace stylish and fun but that also serves good food. A tall order. Cue the Dean Street Townhouse, which the pros (like the anonymous folks at TimeOut) have universally praised, and which the bloggers have given mixed reviews.
One thing everyone can agree on: the place deserves its high marks for decor and buzz. The be-hatted man at the door at DTH reminded me of the bowler-hatted guy greeting diners at Galvin La Chapelle, and I do tend to like what the Galvin brothers get up to. When I stepped through the doorway into the restaurant, I immediately felt like having a good time. A good Saturday night pick.
Our group of five ordered a round of aperitifs and then got down to the business of ordering off DTH’s menu of English classics, which meant that everything looked like what you’d find at a gastropub. Except priced higher because DTH is a see-and-be-seen sort of place.
Starters were good, but not great. Two friends were winners of the evening’s prize for best starter by sticking with oysters on the half shell. Fresh briney treats beautifully presented. A generous portion of prawn-and-avocado for £9 included prawns that tasted a tad mushy, but the light dressing and lovely, creamy-ripe avocados saved the dish. My scallops were slightly rubbery but were doused in so much butter and bacon that it was hard to tell. Bacon covers a lot of sins. Generally, the starters were so-so unless you stuck with the oysters.
For mains, our server highly recommended the duck breast over the chicken-and-leek pie. His rationale started with “the ladies all love duck” and ended with “it’s really good.” And yup, it was good, with most of the fat having been rendered and the meat juicy and pink. Another huge portion, though.
Mains, generally, seemed better priced than starters, mostly because there was such a wide range of prices to choose from. One friend ordered fish and chips for £13.75 (fish was moist and batter crispy); another two ordered fish courses for £16-17; and yet another tried the most expensive item, the rib steak with bearnaise and fries, topping out at £26.50. The consensus was that the food was good. Not the best you’ve ever had, but far far from the worst.
Our starters and mains had been so generously sized that it was tough to make room for dessert. My shared mousse was more like a gelato than a light-and-fluffy mousse, but rich, bitter chocolate in gelato form is no bad thing, even if it’s not mousse.
Side dishes, each priced at £4, weren’t worth the extra money. Creamed spinach was all butter, little cream; mashed potatoes came lukewarm and dense. Cauliflower cheese was the best of the bunch but I’d rather have macraoni in there over cauliflower, really. We’d ordered greens, which thankfully never came. (My exchange with the server when ordering the greens went like this, by the way — Me: “What kind of greens are they?” Server: “They’re greens.” Helpful.)
Best deals of the night were our wines, which went well with our dinner and each cost £25. For generous amounts of generally-good food, aperitifs and wine, we paid £56 a person.
Overall, DTH was comparable in price, atmosphere and quality-of-cooking to Galvin Bistro de Luxe, except Soho is more fun on a Saturday night than Baker Street. (Well, and the food at Galvin Bistro de Luxe, while comparable, is better, really). Given the noise level, DTH isn’t a good choice for a quiet night out with the love of your life, but for catching up with a group of friends, I’d be glad to return.
Dean Street Townhouse, 69-71 Dean Street, W1D 3SE; 0207 434 1775; closest tube station: Leicester Square