Rex & Mariano, Soho, no longer with us which is a real shame

By all accounts London has a vibrant and diverse dining scene and if you look hard enough you can find good even great food for all budgets. I'd agree that this is indeed the case except when you want fish and seafood. Fish has always been expensive in this country. This was bought home to me back in my graduate trainee days at Ross/Youngs Seafood when I tripped a freezer belt stop switch and ruined over a ton of cod portions! When going out fish tends to be the expensive option, not everywhere does it and a lot of places can't cook it. Interestingly the best fish dishes I have had in this country were at high end places like Scott's and Le Gavroche. Yet if I think back my 2 favourite fish dishes ever was a fish thai green curry from a shack restaurant on the Cook Islands and battered scallops and chips from a chippy on the beach in Sydney which were inexpensive yet fresh and delicious. It's puzzling that we live on island surrounded by sea and yet good fish is out of the reach of most pockets. Well the ever busy folk at the Goodman group have picked up on this and opened Rex & Mariano in what was previously Soho's favourite chav bar Vodka Revolution on St Anne's court. It's not an obvious site for a restaurant as St Anne's court is a pedestrian cut through. However these guys never do anything by halves and a lot of effort has gone into the fit out.

The restaurant is big with a bar along the back wall offering wines and beers on draught which is a nice innovation. There is something very relaxing about having wine from a carafe. To the side is a raw bar featuring oysters and other crustaceans round to a big open kitchen. Seating is at a mixture of tables and booths. Each table has a stack of plates lots of cutlery and an ipad for ordering. I'd tried the online ordering thing at Grill Shack and couldn't really see beyond it being just another gimmick to create a bit of buzz. However here it works. The menu is a mixture of raw shellfish, ceviches and tartars and then cooked mains and a selection of sides. Because your order through the ipad (though dishes are delivered by charming staff) you can dictate the pace of the meal. Done like this the sharing concept works as you can ensure there is always enough food and you aren't beholden to the capriciousness of the kitchen. Having said that all this would be immaterial if the food isn't up to scratch but it is. I've been about 4 times now and tried pretty much all the dishes and they are very good, some are excellent. The pan fried Cornish sole they often have on as a special is fantastic, the best fish cooked the best way. Frito Misto, which banished the memory of some ropey offerings at an Italian restaurant, is another highlight. When I went with my lovely wife we tried the tuna tartare which was lovely but I was less keen on the trio of ceviche (salmon, monkfish, tuna) but then I don't get ceviche. Shellfish is good especially the Sicilian red prawns and the huge langoustines. The mussels served steamed in white wine were particularly nice. Sides consisted of crisp Moreish zucchini fritti, decent chips and a rather unusual whole artichoke which I rather enjoyed.

They also bake their own bread on site which is very much the done thing these days. It's very good too especially when combined with the lovely burrata salad they do. I've never got as far as dessert but I can vouch for the lovely Limoncello they do which has finished a couple of my meals there off nicely. It's a good fun spot and deserves to do well. In general you are paying a lot less here for your seafood than anywhere else in central London. By all accounts they have got a good direct supply that keeps prices reasonable and by only adding a 5% service charge fish becomes affordable. I do hope they continue to develop their menu as there is a lot more they could do such as fish soups or curries. With the seasonality of fish there is a good opportunity to refresh the menu. I'm already looking forward to my next visit.

Monday, March 02, 2015
Overall rating
Food 8 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 9

Antidote, Soho, good but I don't get the hype about it.

Flaming Cow, Eton, a mate's place but it is really nice