Prawn cocktail, steak and Black Forest gateau and not a hint of irony.
The sign in the men’s loos said ‘’hello handsome’’ – so I knew they’d been expecting me… I gave my Chelsea boots a quick brush, checked my reflection in the mirror and went back out into the latest hot joint, Vivi Centre Point, where Twiggy was waiting for me…
Well, a picture of her, anyway. And a large poster of this true 60s icon is a fitting adornment to VIVI, a smart new restaurant set in another 60s icon, Centre Point. Like it or loathe it, as a visitor to the West End you can’t ignore Centre Point but you really won’t want to ignore VIVI.
VIVI is an all-day British brasserie and bar serving classic, comfort-food favourites but tries to give them a modern twist. If you don’t remember the 60s (because you were actually there) VIVI will help you bring it all back to you, Proust-like, with old school British dishes, re-imagined for the 21st century.
As well as the prawn cocktail, steak and Black Forest gateau, other menu highlights include starters like Cornish crab (a light, fresh cylinder of Granny Smith apple, crushed avocado, devilled vinaigrette), gravadlax, farmhouse pâté, quiche Lorraine (although real 60s men didn’t eat it), steak tartare or cheese soufflé (a fluffy, cheesy pillow made with top-notch Keen’s Cheddar and red peppers).
If classic salads (Caesar, Waldorf) don’t appeal, there’s VIVI’s signature plates – Chicken Kiev (crispy and garlicky with braised lettuce, mash), duck à l’orange or lobster Thermidor (add a glass of Moët and it’ll come in an old-style coupe for that Lady Penelope vibe).
Other mains include Madras roasted monkfish, salmon hollandaise, proper Dublin Bay scampi and the VIVI burger. There are also some tasty vegan/veggie dishes.
There’s no doubt that unlike 60s Britain, the cooking at VIVI is excellent and uses the best ingredients. When is all said and done, however, there are limits on how far the best chefs can elevate a chicken breast with garlic butter – a Chicken Kiev is still a Chicken Kiev.
Sadly, prices have risen somewhat since 1966. While that pound in your pocket won’t go very far these days, you don’t quite have to be Michael Caine to eat here, there are many affordable menu options.
For dessert, the millionaire’s chocolate bar and sorbet was rightly recommended and was a deep, dark choccy delight. Or there’s treacle tart, apple and rhubarb crumble, rum baba or sherry trifle. There’s a great looking and tasting Arctic roll but no Angel Delight – I would love to see what VIVI’s chefs could do with that.
The Bar offers up a comprehensive drinks list (unfortunately no Babycham…) to enjoy alongside a short menu of VIVI bites and light snacks. Because of licencing restrictions, at VIVI you must order some food with all drinks but this is really no hardship. The bar menu helpfully suggests cocktail/food pairings which include Coronation chicken beignets, cauliflower cheese croquettes, and even a VIVI Wagon Wheel.
As an all-day brasserie, VIVI offers menus for breakfast, brunch, lunch, afternoon tea, pre- or post-theatre. The restaurant space has been zoned into four areas. The Dining Room is an elegant, elevated circular eating area lined with banquettes, with a stand-out chandelier as centre-piece.
The Gallery and the Liquid Lounge are more informal areas running the length of the restaurant and look out onto New Oxford Street or Centre Court Square through an impressive expanse of plate glass. The Gallery’s long sharing tables are perfect for lone diners or groups.
VIVI’s Liquid Lounge with its retro booths is open for breakfast but transforms during the day into a casual spot for lunch, afternoon tea or cocktails and dining by night. VIVI also has two other special spaces to seat up to 14 guests in a more intimate setting.
The service at VIVI is attentive, friendly and efficient, just as you might expect in such a classy place. VIVI has great style but the overall atmosphere is relaxed, with a musical background of easy jazz. The loudest sound you’ll hear is probably the energetic rattling of the barman shaking up a mean cocktail.
When Centre Point Square is finished it will be a busy plaza, set on the edge of London’s own Midtown, and overlooked by the picture windows of VIVI. Put the food, the style and the location together and VIVI’s really got that wow factor. Although it’s in its early days, when it’s fully up to speed it could well become a London landmark in its own right.
VIVI claims to give a nod in Roman numerals to 1966, the year Centre Point was born. But it does more than just nod – it takes its hat off and bows deeply to the clean modernist style, but does it with a 21st century take – it’s the 60s before it went all horribly Jason King.
So if you’re a dedicated follower of fashion arriving on a Vespa, leaving in an E-type or going home on a milk float, VIVI is the place to channel your inner David Bailey or Jean Shrimpton.
VIVI, Centre Point
11 St Giles Square
London, WC2H 8AP
Tel: 0300 500 0958
Breakfast (Mon-Fri) 08:00-11:30
Lunch (Mon-Fri) 12:00-16:00
Dinner 17:00-23:00 (Sundays until 22:30)
Weekend Brunch 11:00-16:00
Post theatre 21:45-22:45 (Sundays 22:00)
Disclosure: We were invited to review as guests of Vivi. All content is editorially given.
Other restaurants you may like to try in Central London include Burger and Lobster in Leicester Square, Vijays Bar and Lounge at Lokhandwala in Fitzrovia or Samarkand, also in Fitzrovia and not far from Centre Point