Savour Soho's continental makeover
If you're bored by cooking at home, spice things up at Shack-Fuyu in the West End, where eating outside is the order of the day
Friday, 24th July 2020 — By Tom Moggach
Shack-Fuyu’s Kinako French toast – the stuff of legend
SEIZE this chance to savour Soho’s unique experiment in al fresco dining. In a bold move, Westminster Council has banned all cars from certain streets to allow bars and restaurants to serve outside.
On a summer evening, the results are truly glorious. The happy hum of conversation drifts through the air. Thousands of Londoners are enjoying life once again – at the appropriate social distance.
We started in Old Compton Street, with a drink at Bar Termini (book a table to skip any queues – http://bar-termini-soho.com/bookings/). This classy joint mixes some of the best negronis in the capital. Before Covid-19, you squeezed into dimly-lit booths in one tiny room. Now the place has been turned inside out, with table service by charming waiters in white, complete with matching and branded cotton facemasks.
Westminster Council call this a “continental makeover of the West End” and have similar plans for parts of Covent Garden, Chinatown, Mayfair, St James’s, Paddington and Marylebone.
In Soho, businesses are allocated half of the street each to set their tables, which results in some interesting cross-pollination. We sat exactly two metres from diners at the Italian restaurant opposite, the stench of car exhausts replaced by wafts of fragrant basil.
For dinner, we headed for Shack-Fuyu, a Japanese restaurant that specialises in Yoshoku cuisine. This is a place to try if you’re bored by cooking at home. Umami flavours are cranked up high; spicing is clever and full throttle.
Don’t miss their slippery aubergine starter, heavily glazed in miso and sprinkled with sesame seeds. For another, springy shiitake mushrooms are quartered then lightly pickled – tingly with vinegar and fresh red chilli.
We shared fluffy bao buns stuffed with duck; dipped chopsticks in a bubbling cauldron of molten beef short rib in a spicy sesame sauce.
Dessert here is the stuff of legend – just one dish, called Kinako French Toast and invented by an evil genius. The soft serve, subtly bitter matcha ice cream offers the perfect counterbalance to the caramelised toast.
For the full Soho experience, your best bet is to visit on weekends – Thursday to Sunday is when the area is buzzing.
Similar al fresco plans are also in operation in Camden. In Belsize Village, restaurants are spilling out on the square from noon to 9.30pm, Tuesday to Sunday, in a project called “The Streatery”. This has inspired the council to consider a similar scheme for Goodge Street, Warren Street, Drummond Street and South End Green.
In future histories of London, this exceptional period of eating out is bound to have its own chapter. It’s entirely weather dependent, of course, which makes it all the more compelling.
If we turn out in force, it may well continue in future years and be an unexpected silver lining to this terrible pandemic.
14A Old Compton St, W1D
020 3019 3492