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Dine Online Guide to Soho - Frith Street

NB: All prices are shown in pounds sterling

Frith Street runs North South from Soho Square to Shaftesbury Avenue. It is rich in restaurants serving a wide variety of cuisine of many cultures; jazz fans flock to their own particular Mecca, Ronnie Scott's. We've left out quite a few cafés, pubs, bars, Indians and pasta places, and have stuck to what we perceive to be the more serious restaurants. There's more of a village atmosphere on Sunday when it all gets very sleepy.

So let's take a trip down Frith Street, starting from the Northerly end at Soho Square walking South on the right hand side of the road. We'll come back from Shaftesbury Avenue on the other, East side of the road. Examples from menus were recorded in March 1997.

Bruno Soho, 64 Frith Street W1. Tel: 020 7734 4545

Bruno Loubet is one of London's top resident French Chefs. His main restaurant L'Odeon is a splendid room overlooking the grand curve of Regent Street. In this informal but stylish bar restaurant he has been developing a new fusion of North African and Levantine cuisine together with French finesse. This is a natural marriage, since the Midi has always been a melting pot of Mediterranean cultures.

Starters: Pan fried Red Mullet with chickpea pancake and red salsa 3.50; Spicy chicken sausage with mixed pulse lemon and coriander 5.50; Assorted mezze 6.00.

Mains: Lamb shank with cinnamon and prune Tagine 11.00; Couscous royal with merguez, lamb shoulder and chicken 14.00; cassoulet of monkfish and tomato 14.00;

Desserts: Saffron poached pear with almond ice cream 4.50; Dried fig mascarpone with anis ice cream

dell'Ugo, 56 Frith Street, W1. Tel: 734 8300

One of several restaurants run by Antony Worrall Thompson, this is a buzzy, popular place on three floors with a café bar on the ground floor, a smart bistro above and a more comfortable restaurant above that. The bistro and the restaurant share the same menu, and the same prices. Style is modern Med with a bit of Pacific Rim. We had a good light lunch in the street level cafe-bar: two courses for a fiver included a good home made soup and a large stuffed tomato with a rocket salad. The two floors above were still pretty full of lunchers by 2.30pm.

Starters: seared scallops, sweet potato crisps and avaocada salsa 6.95; Rabbit & pork terrine 6.25; Piperade Basquaise, rocket salad 5.95
Mains: poached halibut with mussels clams and saffron 13.25; Roast suckling pig, stuffing, greens and sage jus 10.95
Puddings: Burnt caramel chocolate and vanilla ice cream with pecan shortbread 4.95; apple and maple sable with clotted cream 4.25.

Est Grill Restaurant, 54 Frith Street, W! Tel: 437 0666

Est was another cocktail bar that served good food, but it's under new management, some refurbishment is about to take place and the accent in future will be more on the food. Dishes on the current menu look pretty good, so expectations are running high:

Starters: Bressaola with rocket and shaved parmesan 3.50; Moules Marinière 4.50
Mains: Chargrilled squid with chillies, rocket salad and potato cake 9.50; Goujons of lamb fillet in Arrabbiata sauce and fried cumin rice 9.00; Ostrich fillet with roasted pear and blueberry jus and a timbale of wild rice 11.50
Vegetarian: Spinach gnocchi with gorgonzola cheese sauce 5.50; Oyster mushroom risotto with shaved parmesan and truffle oil 6.50; Feuilleté of Asparagus in Hollandaise sauce 7.50

Alastair Little, 49 Frith Street W1. Tel: 734 5183

Alastair Little is one of the begetters of the Modern British school of cooking. Simplicity and the use of faultless ingredients are the hallmarks of his style. The minimalist decor means that you can more easily concentrate on your sense of taste.

Starters: Fish soup with rouille, gruyere and croutons; Veal and bacon terrine with Cumberland sauce; Oysters with Chinese dumplins; Soused Pike with potato salad.
Mains: Chestnut mushroom and stilton pie with beetroot salad; Monkfish with baby artichokes and gremolata; Scotch beef fillet with polenta and green sauce
Puddings: Pavalova with mango, raspberry and passion fruit cassanande; Lemon curd ice with semolina short bread; British Isles Cheeses and oatcakes
Lunch 25 pounds for three courses; Dinner 28 pounds for three courses.
Closed Saturday Lunch & Sunday

Chiang Mai, 48 Frith Street W1. Tel: 437 7444

Vatcherin Bhumichitr has published a book of recipes, so you can look at the recipes of what you are eating before perpetrating your attempts at Thai cooking on unsuspecting family and friends. The place looked quiet but pleasant and I am told that the vegetarian dishes are particularly good. Starters around a fiver; Mains six to nine pounds; side dishes from 1.50 upwards. Closed Sunday

Ronnie Scott's, 47 Frith Street W1. Tel: 439 0747

No tour of Frith Street would be complete without mentioning this famous London Jazz Club. All the greats have played here: Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy G, Bob Berg, Charlie Watts et al. Grub is optional - you can snack or sit down to a fairly traditional, reasonably priced a la carte dinner.

You don't have to be a member to get in and the Club is open from 8.30pm until 3.00am. Major bands usually play two sets, one around 10.30 and the other around 1.00 am finishing at 2am, leaving time to wind down before closing at 3am. It's also a good spot for some Salsa dancing. No wonder Frith Street is more or less shut on Sundays!

There is nothing of note for foodies from Ronnie Scotts down to Shaftesbury Avenue - though I may well be doing Caffe Nera and the Delhi Brasserie a huge disservice - sorry!. So, it's time to cross over to the East side of the street.

L'Osteria, 28 Frith Street on the corner of Romilly Street, 437 2829

This is rather a posh looking Italian, but it doesn't seem to feature in the guides. Starters run from 4.95 to 11.50 for the grand antipasto, heavy on the sea food. Mains go from 8.50 for calves liver to 13.50 for baked sea bass. Meat dishes around the twelve pound mark.

Latino, 25 Frith Street W1 Tel: 287 5676

There's a little bar at street level that gets packed on account of its really good cocktails. Upstairs there's a simple restaurant, and the South American tapas are good. The chef has changed since we visited in the summer, and there's a substantially new menu drawing on the same broad themes.

Starters: white bean and aubergine caviar 2.75; chicken in pumpkin and almond salsa 2.75; chorizo seared with cashew nuts 3.50; garlic tiger prawns 5.50 - all served with fresh bread
Mains: refried bean bocadillo 4.75; mussels criolla with fries 6.25; Argentinian beef carbonade cooked with peaches and wine with almond rice 6.25; fritos variados: fish, sardines prawns squid etc 6.95
Open 7 days

Little Italy, 21 Frith Street W1 Tel: 734 4737

There's a street level café-bar at the front with two smart split level dining rooms at the rear. The atmosphere is cooly metropolitan with menus to match. Dishes of the day look particularly good: Chicken soup with fine ribbon pasta and cep funghi 5.60; steamed red mullet with spring onion infused oil, and tomatoes stuffed with mixed vegetables 10.80; Fine pasta ribbons with mixed seafood and monkfish 9.40; Medallions of leg of lamb, chargrilled, with a puree of chickpeas and canelloni beans 11.20; terrine of veal and spinach topped with mozzarella gratin with tomato and basil sauce. The coffee is very good!
Open to 4.00am, Sunday 'til midnight.

Bahn Thai, 21a Frith Street Tel: 437 8504

Claims to be one of London's first Thai restaurants, opening in 1982. The word is that it's not what it was, but perhaps it's the competition that has improved. Set dinners 18.50 to 27.50, average a la carte 30.00.

Garlic and Shots, 14 Frith Street Tel: 734 9505

What the Romans would have called a vomitarium. The warning on the door of this bar doesn't exactly say Abandon Hope all ye who enter, but strictly for garlic lovers. Foodies might well interpret this to mean strictly for foodies, but the dishes seemed a bit perverse to me. There's even garlic beer to wash down your garlic and anchovies, and you can have garlic coffee with your garlic cheesecake. Open 7 days.

Cafe Rouge, 15 Frith Street W1 Tel: 437 4307

Serious foodies tend to scoff at this faux-French chain of bistro brasseries, but we have found some branches to be pretty good -see our report on the Esher branch. Open 7 days to 11pm.

Soho Soho, 11-13 Frith Street Tel: 494 3491

Large, buzzy brasserie on a corner site near the Soho Square end of the road. Tables are bare pine with Van Gogh type chairs, and the rotisserie style is making a big come back. There's a restaurant upstairs that's a bit bit dull by comparison with the fun going on at street level.

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