“ 33 Southampton Street / Covent Garden / WC2E 7HE / Covent Garden / Tel: 7379 7585. „
There are two things in this life that are guaranteed to make me smile: the first is great food and the second is getting a real bargain. Unfortunately living in London, I don't often get the opportunity to satisfy both of those fantasies in one go, but Bistro 1 lets me do just that, making me a very happy bunny.
Bistro 1 really is a hidden jewel amongst London restaurants - there are 3 different restaurants, 2 in Soho (one on Beak Street and the other on Frith Street) and one on Southampton Street in Covent Garden. All 3 of the restaurants are fairly small with tables squeezed quite tightly together, which means on the one hand there is always a real buzz to the place, at times it does get rather claustrophobic, especially in summer. The decor is cheap but cheerful, with candles on every table giving a cosy and relaxed feel.
But it's the menu where Bistro 1 really scores highly for me. The evening menu is fantastic - no a la carte menus here, it's 2 courses for £8.90 or 3 courses for £9.90 - I really don't think you can get a better deal than this in central London! The menu is full of great mediterranean food and you'd be hard pushed not to find something on it that makes your mouth water. There is a really good mix of fish, meat and vegetable dishes and even though I've been here numerous times, I've always had something different. When you sit down you get the traditional European olives and bread which whets the appetite nicely. For starters you could choose from smoked salmon and avocado salad, mixed meze (highly recommended), spicy chicken skewers, melon and berry coulis, smoked duck, deep-fried brie... I could go on! Main courses include Chicken with red wine sauce, Fillet of Salmon with creamed spinach and saffron cream, lamb with rice, moussaka, vegetarian moussaka. Desserts include tiramisu, banoffee pie, creme caramel, stuffed apricots or apple tarte. House wine is reasonable at £10.50 and they have a fairly standard wine list including all the usual suspects.
The food itself is really very good - real comfort food, simple and very tasty. Although it's clearly not gourmet food, the menu works well, with some great flavours. My favourite has to be the Sea Bream which comes on top of a huge portion of mashed potato and smoked salmon. Given the price I was worried they'd be very stingy with the smoked salmon but it was really generous and all three flavours work really well together. I'd also recommend the salmon with creamed spinach - very rich, but perfect for comfort food on a winter evening. Starters can be more hit and miss - I really enjoyed the smoked salmon and avocado but found the mozzarella and basil salad rather disappointing. The mixed meze is always worth a try, giving you a mix of falafel, dolma (my favourite!), humous, tzatsiki and other tasty treats.
If I have to fault Bistro 1 at all, it would have to be on the service. While usually I can't complain about the service, there have been occasions where it has been very lacking (including once when we were shown to a table by the door and promptly forgotten about for half an hour, after which time we left, presumably unnoticed). Other times the waiters have been polite, friendly, efficient and provided really great service. Often we arrive and the restaurant is booked up, and the waiter will take our mobile number so that we can grab a drink in the pub opposite (The Sun and 13 Cantons), then he gives us a call when the table is ready - can't ask for much more than that!
Whether you'll like Bistro 1 really comes down to what kind of person you are - it's cheap and cheerful, so if you're a fairly relaxed person and happy to put up with a few minor faults such as patchy service and overcrowding given the bargain price, then you'll love it! On the other hand, it's not the place for a romantic date, as the buzzy atmosphere combined with the close tables might not give you that privacy you're looking for. It's also not really suitable if you have small children, as there isn't a childrens menu and there certainly isn't room to have them running around! I've been here for quick pre-theatre meals, meals with the boyfriend, meals with friends, with bigger parties for birthday meals, and its vibrant atmosphere is a hit every time. Highly recommended for a cheap, casual meal out.
For more information, a full menu and wine list, visit www.bistro1.co.uk
We were looking for somewhere close to Covent Garden to go and have a spot of lunch. My sister remembered she had heard good things about a restaurant called Bistro 1 which is located not far from the Lyceum Theatre where we would be going to see The Lion King later that evening.
When we arrived I thought it was a lovely bright and cheerful restaurant that is obviously heavily influenced by Mediterranean designs and décor. The tables and chairs are beautiful, very sturdy wooden furniture that are very comfortable to sit on while I was enjoying my lunch and a drink or two. I liked that there was a nice mix of people in Bistro 1 because during my trips to London I have noticed that more and more restaurants seem to cater for either very young people or older couples. In Bistro 1 there were diners of all ages and backgrounds and I thought it was nice to see people mixing like this.
I did not see any children in Bistro 1 but it was a school day so I do not know if they are allowed in or not. From the appearance of the restaurant I'd say children probably cannot come in, or perhaps they can come in but perhaps would not be made welcome.
We saw on the menu that we could have 3 courses for £7.90 so we both ordered this because I think this is very good value for lunch in this area of London.
I had a melon and mango salad for my starter, sea bream with smoked salmon topping for my main course and a big slice of Apple Tarte Tatin for dessert. I thought the melon and mango was a very good starter because it freshened my mouth ready for my main meal and the fruit was fresh and succulent. It was topped with a mixed berry sauce that was tangy and very richly fruity.
My fish course was super and very well cooked. I think fish is very often overcooked in restaurants and it is usually too dry for my tastes. My sea bream in Bistro 1 was still lovely and moist. It was filleted and topped with pieces of smoked salmon mixed in a light and tasty saffron cream. I was quite surprised to see that a upmarket dish like this was served with mashed potato but when my plate arrived I saw it was special mash with herbs in it and very buttery. It was especially lovely when I got a little bit of mash and a little bit of fish on my fork together because all the different flavours blended in nice together.
My dessert was a bit of a disappointment because I like a strong tasting Tarte Tatin and I found this one a bit bland. They were generous with the apple filling and it was lovely and moist but I think there was definitely something missing from it and think it could have had a little more spice to it. Still it was a nice way to round off my meal and I cannot really complain when the rest of my food was so delicious.
My sister enjoyed her meal as well. She had deep fried calamari in a garlic dressing for her starter, Shish Kebabs with rice and chocolate cake for dessert. She told me that everything was perfect and even though she usually eats like a bird she ate every mouthful of every course. We shared a lovely bottle of Chenin Blanc from the wine menu which was one of the best I've had in a Mediterranean restaurant because I think they tend to offer very run of the mill wines but this one was lovely. It cost about £15
We enjoyed our meal at Bistro 1 very much and I would definitely go back again if I was in this area. I do not visit London very often but I will remember this restaurant is here because we both ate and drank our wine and our total bill was only £40 which included 2 very nice cups of coffee. Bistro 1 can be found at 33 Southampton Street in Covent Garden and it is very easy to get find thanks to the bright orange and green colour scheme of the front of the restaurant.
London is an expensive city and dining out on a budget can be hard. Luckily I have found (courtesy of a guide dedicated to cheap eats in London) a place where you can have a three course meal with wine for under £15. This place is Bistro 1 and it serves simple Mediterranean influenced food.
Bistro 1 is a mini chain with three branches. There are two in Soho and one in Covent Garden. The Covent Garden one is on Southampton Street just round the corner from Covent Garden Market and only a couple minutes stroll from Covent Garden tube station. It is quite a small restaurant with space for 80 diners so booking is advised. You can do this either by phone or online at their website.
We were off to the theatre in Drury Lane so my friend booked the table for three for 6:45. On arrival; she was already seated at a window table. The décor seemed quite plain and understated and there are tables outside to sit and watch the world go by which would be lovely on a sunny summer day. I did find the tables quite packed together so there was not much room to move about. I am not sure if this would be good for a really intimate dinner as someone might easily overhear your sweet nothings. There was a bowl of tasty fresh seeded bread and yummy olives on the table ready for us to pick at before we settled down to eat proper.
The good thing about Bistro 1 is that there are no ala carte menus. The set dinner menu is £8.90 for two courses and £9.90 for three. If you are in the area for lunch the prices are even lower. You can get two courses for £6.50 and three for £7.50. This is a bargain when you consider you can spend £3 or £4 on a sandwich. (There is a £2 supplement for four of the dishes which contain costlier ingredients and side orders cost £1.50).
What I like about Bistro 1 (apart from the bargain prices) is the menu. It has a nice balance of fish, meat and vegetarian options and there seemed to be enough choice to suit everyone. However I did not have much time to have a good look at the menu as the waiter wanted to take our order almost immediately. Luckily I had a look at it on the website or else I would have felt a little bit pressured. Ideally I would have liked to have just a couple of extra minutes to make up my mind. I selected a simple honeydew and mango salad with berry coulisse for starters. I was tempted by the goat's cheese and spinach pancake; bin the end ordered the vegetable mousakka.
Duskman was umming and arring about the Turkish spicy chicken skewers but deeded just to have a main course of bangers and hash and my friend had vegetable soup with a main course of salmon and a side order of mashed potato.
There was a little bit of confusion about our starters. First they brought spicy chicken skewers to me (not good as I do not even eat chicken) so I had to let them know I was having the fruit. Then we had to wait five or ten minutes. They brought my fruit and my friend's vegetable soup and also brought some of the skewers back! I think the mix up was caused by Duskman asking about them but not ordering them. If this was a more expensive restaurant I would have complained but since they were only a pound extra Duskman was happy to have the extra course.
I liked the food. It was nice and simple. My mango and honeydew was well presented with lovely artistic squiggles of berry coulisse. The soup was pronounced nice by my friend and the awkward skewers were not spicy at all. This might be a problem for those who like spice I suppose but Duskman enjoyed the not very spicy, spicy skewers. My moussaaka was full of chunky Mediterranean roast vegetables and lovely white sace and cheesy topping. Duskman said the sausages were lovely and meaty on a mound of mashed potatoes.
The puddings were nice too. I selected the stuffed apricots as they sounded a nice change from the usual puddings. The portion was on the small aside as it was four fresh apricots, stoned and stuffed with flaked almonds and cream. I really enjoyed them and found they were a nice change as they were not too heavy or sickly. My friend chose a nice large wedge of bannoffi pie and Duskman plumped for the lemon sorbet to cleanse his palette.
We ordered a bottle of house wine for after a dessert. This was a fairly decent price at £10.75 a bottle and was a fairly dry French wine. We sat chatting and it was the serving staff who gave us the bill. We had obviously outstayed our welcome so scampered off to a nearby pub for a pre theatre drink
The portion sizes are an adequate size but they are not vast. After a three course meal I felt satisfied but did not have that bloated tired feeling.
I would recommend Bistro1 as it is an absolute bargain. It's the sort of place that would be a good stand by for any occasion from pre theatre dinners, lunch out shopping or even a small leaving do. The food is fresh, simple and tasty. It is just a shame there was that little mix up with the starters.