Soho is one of my absolute favourite parts of London. Constantly buzzing with life and showing off the diversity that makes this city glorious. It is a spectacular little hub of fun where gritty dive bars stand happily alongside artisan bakeries. As far as great and interesting culinary offerings go, Soho will leave you spoiled for choice. Personal favourites of mine include Ceviche, Bocca di Lupo and La Bodega Negra. However, there’s always room for a new kid on the block which is why we were super excited to get down to Soho’s latest foodie destination: Coal Vaults.
Only in its ninth week of service, this little gem hidden in a basement on Wardour Street has had the foodie community of London whispering about its seasonal cocktails and daily-changing menu since its opening. I headed down to try it for myself.
You’ll get to Coal Vaults by descending a little staircase through a black door, and find people perched on high stools at small tables. The décor is uncomplicated and warm. Exposed brick and candlelight pay homage to what the venue used to be (actual coal vaults). Dim light bulbs hang from the ceiling, and larger tables of friends are tucked away in little caves off from the main restaurant. At one end, there is a stunning handmade bar laden with homemade bitters and bunches of lavender to garnish their cocktails with, and at the other, you can peer in at the chefs hard at work in the open kitchen.The crowd is a nice mix of couples enjoying a date night, and groups of friends catching up after a days work. The cosy, informal atmosphere caters for both needs seamlessly and the space feels intimate without feeling crowded.
We were led to our table by Simo, the 26 (!!!) year old founder who explained that the menu was designed to share, but that portions were larger than tapas plates so two dishes a head should suffice. He talked us through the cocktail menu. Some drinks use seasonal veg like pumpkins and some are just their own twist on classic cocktails. The Boy went for Coxone (golden rum, carpano antica and spiced green apple) while I went for the Coal Vaults’ take on a whisky sour: Rodeo Drive (bourbon, toasted macadamia liqueur, lemon and egg white) which was the perfect warmer for the rainy evening that it was.
Before long our food started to arrive. First up were fat, perfectly cooked, spicy “Bombay” chips with a side of roast tomato, mango and lime chutney and coriander yoghurt to dunk them in. They disappeared fairly swiftly, but luckily a stream of tasty dishes continued to arrive.
Next up was a gorgeous, light, lentil and courgette salad with warm goats cheese swirled through it, and drizzled with a lemon and pine nut dressing. Goats cheese is an all time favourite of mine so this was definitely a winner. A dish that immediately caught my eye was the “pulled rabbit” with smoked black beans, sweetcorn and pineapple relish, avocado sour cream and served on flatbread. The unusual combination of flavours came together beautifully with the sour cream balancing the kick from the gamey rabbit and the black beans. Although this was probably both our favourite dish of the evening, a close second for me was the sherry braised pig cheek served with onion jam, sage and bread. It was full of flavour and deliciously tender.
The mini venison burgers (one with quince and beenleigh blue cheese, and one with rosehip and port jam) could have been a little pinker for my personal taste, but were meaty, juicy and came with a gorgeous side of sweet, battered shallot rings.
We took a little break from all the food and tried another two cocktails, trusting our lovely waiter’s judgement to choose for us. He brought us over the Dot Cotton (lavender and honey infused gin, blackberries, lemon, egg white) which I liked, but The Boy thought was a little overpowered by lavender. Maybe it’s one for the girls… The other was the Domestic Bliss which I loved. Raw and charred quince rum, caraway, cinnamon sugar and egg white mad the perfect winter cocktail that left me feeling all Christmassy.
For dessert, I wanted the lemon and olive cake with pistachio, blackberry jam and crème fraiche. The Boy wanted plum and blackberry nut crumble with calvados custard, and the waiter wanted us to have the salted flourless chocolate cake with crème fresh and clementine jelly. So we went for all three. (well, why not!?). Chocolate cake isn’t usually my thing at all, but how wrong was I, and so glad he’d convinced us to try it. Gooey and rich without being too sweet (and gluten free for you guys out there who can’t do the stuff). If we hadn’t eaten so much already, I probably would have polished this off in minutes. The lemon cake was moreish and light, but the star or the show for us was definitely the crumble. Coal Vaults, I know you change the menus all the time, but please, please leave this one on here for a while so I can come back and eat it again!!
Despite having to wait a bit longer than I would have liked for dessert, they are totally forgiven as service was otherwise exceptional. I have no doubt that this is just a teething matter. Staff are relaxed, super friendly, knowledgeable, informal, and passionate about what Coal Vaults do. Their love of this place is immediately apparent from the moment you begin talking to any member of their team, and was a big contributor to why we enjoyed our experience so much.
And, at £3 (pig cheek) to £9.50 (venison burgers) a dish, I think this is also remarkably affordable considering the location, and the quality of the food. I will definitely be back soon to eat my way through the rest of the menu but be warned, book a table! I reckon this is swiftly going to become Soho’s worst kept secret, and it’s totally deserved.
020 7434 1550
187b Wardour Street