“ Chain of bistros in London „
Bistro1 is a small restaurant 'chain' situated in London's vibrant and popular Soho district. Originally three, but now two branches of the restaurant can be found in Soho and there's one branch in Covent Garden. I have visited the Frith Street branch on a couple of occasions and never fail to be impressed with the warmth, variety and value offered by the restaurant and its excellent staff.
Situated on Frith Street, the restaurant is close to Piccadilly Gardens or Leicester Square tube stations and is nestled in amongst London's West End theatres, the London Trocadero, shopping boutiques, vibrant Soho, exciting Gay Scene and the beautiful China Town. The bistro is simply decorated with terracotta reds and burnt oranges adorning the walls. The chairs and tables are simply wooden, a little candle in a colourful jar graces the table and the menu is printed on an A4 piece of paper; absolutely nothing fantastical; but all the more charming for its high degree of simplicity and overwhelming lack of fuss. Upon entering the bistro you receive a warm welcome and are seated - bookings aren't usually required but if you are making a special trip, I would advise booking either by phone or online at www.bistro1.co.uk.
After being seated, you will be shown the wine list and given a tatty-edged single sided menu. The food is mainly Mediterranean themed with lots of houmus, Meze, kebabs, yoghurt and mint (think Turkish Hospitality-come Spanish Tapas-come-Greek Taverna). They also serve a couple of French and Italian style dishes. With 12 starters, 20 mains, 4 chef specials and an array of desserts / side dishes, you can be pretty sure there'll be something for everyone on the menu. The wine list is pretty extensive too, with Reds, Whites, Roses, Dessert Wines and Champagnes and they carry a good range of beer, lager, spirits and soft drinks.
The best thing about Bistro1 is the price. For 2 courses on a lunch time you pay just £6.90. You can add a third course for an extra £1 and for the Chef's specials, you pay only an additional £1.50. The evening menu is slightly more expensive at £9.90 for the 2 course option and though the same £1 is added for your third course, a £2 supplement applies for the Chef's specials. You can choose from either a starter and main, or a main and dessert or all three - we always get the starter and main and then can never fit a dessert in! The average bottle of wine is £14-£15 though they do have cheaper bottles depending on your taste - I highly recommend the Italian Pinot Grigio, it goes well with most menu selections.
On my most recent visit I ordered the Bistro Mixed Meze starter which comprises of a generous helping of houmus, salad and tzatsiki, topped with a single falafel, Dolma (stuffed vine leaf), Cheese Borek (Turkish Cheese Roll), Kisir (bulgar, onions, tomatoes) and Pilaki (beans). The starter plate is a little larger than a tea plate. My cousin snacked on deep-fried calamari and one of his friends had the breaded brie - all three dishes were delicious, well cooked, considerately accompanied and ample in size. For my main course I chose the calamari and fries, which again was cooked to perfection and I couldn't finish it, though I have a pretty big appetite! This time, my cousin opted for a Pancake filled with Goats Cheese and Creamed Spinach, served with rice and salad and his friend decided on Beef Bourguignon and another friend took the Kebab - in true Turkish style! He's actually from Turkey and he said it was exceptional.
The service charge is 12.5%, altogether the bill for four of us, including a bottle of wine, two cokes and two courses each came to £61.75 - or £15.45 roughly each - for the area, this is very cheap I am told! Even for my home town up North this would have represented an absolute bargain. The staff members are more than friendly, explaining what the menu entails, which wine goes with which meal, sitting down to talk with you, or leaving you to it if that's your preference. There's a lovely pavement café too, so you can enjoy a lazy summer bottle of wine, Meze and watch the world go back if it takes your fancy; or stick to a pre-theatre / post-shopping / pre-drinks / post-cinema meal!