by Nick Harman - Sunday February 16, 2020 4:02 pm
6 Walker's Court Soho boulevardtheatre.co.uk
Nick heads to the theatre for a bit of culture, preceded by a BAFTA winning dinner
The gentrification of Soho has good and bad points. I miss the old Berwick Street market and the interesting shops, and I kind of miss the sleaziness.
To be fair though the genuine sleaziness and edginess went a long time ago and what remained was just simply grubby,The grubbiest bit was Walkers Court, the alley that came off the bottom of Berwick Street and led you through into Brewer Street. Serious sex shops and peep shows with burly blokes on the door and classic raincoated men going in and out.
And it was of course the home of the famous Raymond Revue Bar.
2015 saw it all change for the better. An extension to The Box nightclub, the re-opening of Madame Jojo’s and the ‘reimagining’ of the Boulevard Theatre.
This last now occupies a very modern building, accessed by a glass bridge across Walkers Court. It has a restaurant open from 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. and bijou theatre showing interesting stuff.
I’m a big fan of Cormac McCarthy, a superb writer of among other things No Country For Old Men. One of his short plays, The Sunset Limited, was made into a film for TV starring Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson. Otherwise it’s largely forgotten.
So hearing the Boulevard Theatre was putting that play on, and the restaurant was good for a pre-theatre meal, we hurried on over.A restaurant in a theatre is such a good idea - I hate that sense in ordinary restaurants of crisis that comes when the waiter has disappeared with your bill and you still have a walk ahead of you to get to the show before curtain up.
No worries here, the show is thirty seconds away.The room is art deco inspired, very cool, elegant and relaxed. The people in it are much the same.
When we arrive at 6pm it’s clear that many are here for the show, but others just seem to be here because of the atmosphere and the menu.And that makes sense. The menu is skewed heavily toward plant-based, so is very fashionable and of course very much what lovers of the thespian arts are into.
The main menu is packed full of interesting things, but the pre-theatre menu seems equally attractive and at £29 for three courses a bit of a steal too.
With the play tickets just £12 each, this is a good value night out.Rutabaga is American for yellow turnip. Putting ‘turnip’ on the menu might presumably make people think of Baldrick from Blackadder.
So, this starter/small plate dish on the menu is a rutabaga fondant with pomegranate molasses, bay cream and pickled onions. What I got was definitely rutabaga, and yes that may have been pomegranate molasses, but I didn’t see any cream and there was a lot of toasted buckwheat.
I don’t think rutabaga is going to become a new trendy vegetable; it didn't taste of much. The most interesting part of the dish was the buckwheat. Uncooked and toasted it was nutty and worth chasing around the plate to get every last grain.
So bit of a let down there, but P is very happy with her whisky cured mackerel with a celeriac remoulade spiked with horseradish.
Mackerel is a fish that really likes horseradish. Add to that the always underrated (in the UK) crunch and flavour of celeriac and you have a guaranteed winner.
Curing has taken down the ‘fishiness’ of the mackerel, which has then been usefully charred while the whisky added a sweet note. As you may tell, I ate a lot of her dish.
Mains were double winners, a roasted curried baby cauliflower with black dhal, fresh coconut, crispy onions and lime was mine.
The cauliflower was rich and ‘meaty’ and full of flavour that was pointed up by an electric drizzle of lime, it’s not easy to make a cauli interesting, but this was.
I always love black dhal. This had not been given the full long and slow cook needed to make it properly creamy, but that wasn’t an issue as it had all the taste required, if not the exact texture.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to do with the bowl of crispy shallots, though - shake them over the dhal? Put them on the cauliflower? I ended up eating them straight up. Sorry chef.
Roasted squash with an onion and tahini puree, and a happily herbaceous pile of coriander and rocket all strewn with pine nuts made P’s night as far as food went. That smooth squash loved the sesame rich tahini and the peppery bite of the rocket.
One of the many good things about eating veggie is that while one can feel happily full up after mains, one rarely feels totally stuffed. Which is good news for dessert eaters.
Only two desserts were on offer, but I was more than happy with meringue, crème fraiche and mango.
The last was wonderfully sticky and rich, which partnered up with the crunchy meringue and always irresistible crème fraiche very well.
A New York cheesecake with banana caramel had the correct slightly-sour tang that a proper cheesecake needs to have, as well as a firm biscuit base. Full marks there too.
We drained our wine in a bit of a hurry, only to be told it’s allowed to take glasses into the theatre. Damn.
And what of the play? Excellent, the intimate theatre working well with an intimate two hander.
If you fancy a night out with guaranteed good food and a good show that won’t break the bank, ignore the bright lights of Shaftesbury Avenue, and the Russian roulette of the local restaurants, and stroll down to the Boulevard.