DRG contributor ALISON BISHOP visits Old Tom & English, the new-old Soho eating establishment that’s perfect for sipping and snacking
They had me at ‘personal cocktail cabinet’. There’s something about the current trend for home-style retail that puts you instantly at ease, so I was interested to see how the idea could be applied to dining.
Soho’s latest ‘underground’ restaurant, Old Tom & English, is inspired by visiting a friend’s apartment for a dinner party where intimate nooks and crannies invite hushed tones for gossiping and lingering. The décor is imagined by interior designer Lee Broom, who has created a quietly sumptuous den, where mid-century oak furniture and marble or brass hardware provide an antidote to the opulence of a crystal decanter and plush soft furnishings. Broom’s latest marble lighting collection, Nouveau Rebel is dotted around the restaurant. “The materials are quite luxury, but the design details are clean and modern,” he says, describing the mood as “classically opulent”.
Broom collaborated with Old Tom & English founders Costas and Maria Constantinou, who wanted to create a new type of British restaurant where the social occasion of sipping cocktails and snacking on nibbles was to be celebrated – in style. Low-level lighting and laid-back seating do much to aid the relaxed atmosphere, where Maria Constantinou says the restaurant delivers a ‘complete experience’ that champions British food, vintage cocktails and British design delivered in a modern way.
And then there’s the British spin on tapas-style sharing platters. This artistic take on casual dining translates as a menu where you want to try almost everything. The dishes are small yet deceptively filling and after sound advice to limit ourselves to three starters and three mains each, my eager party of three devoured all the dishes instantly! We ordered across the menu from the strange sounding beer sticks, confit smoked guinea fowl with anchovy mayo and crispy cider, braised pig cheeks with apple and fennel sauce, to the smoked eel, battered seabass, beef onglet, seared lamb rump, accompanied by just a touch of greenery in the kale and toasted apple salad. The cocktails didn’t disappoint either; we tried the Highgate Negroni and a London Spritz to keep in the yesteryear spirit that Old Tom & English only gently nods at.
It seems only fitting that at a place where Soho’s ladies of the night plied their trade in a bygone era, this establishment offers a subtle, modern take on social extravagances – such as gimlets or cockles with a twist. Look for the iron clad, peep-hole windowless door and head downstairs for this perfect mash of old meets new Soho.
Old Tom & English, 187B Wardour Street, W1. Thanks to Old Tom & English for hosting our visit