Cafe Monico

Restaurants, Contemporary European Soho
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 4 out of 5 stars
(19user reviews)
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A double-height grand cafe from the Soho House group.

Forget Tardises and DeLoreans. If you fancy a spot of time travel, step through the doors of Café Monico. This new ‘grand café’ has been styled in the manner of the belle époque, France’s so-called ‘beautiful age’ (pub quizzers: we’re talking 1870-ish until the outbreak of the First World War), a time when art, culture and ‘society’ flourished. So yes: wood panelling, cosy lighting and bartenders in crisp white straight-off-a-washing-powder-ad jackets. But this is no vintage bore: the music is loud and jazzy, the room bustling. It is, after all, from the Soho House crew, who know a thing or two about creating a buzz. But one thing they’ve never been strong on – as anyone who ever ate at Café Boheme will attest – is delivering plates of classic French food. Until now.

It’s tempting to put this down to new group exec chef Rowley Leigh, he of Kensington Place (a fave of Princess Di’s) and later Le Café Anglais (a brasserie that proved shopping centre restaurants don’t have to be crap). Sure enough, when I look at the menu, his signature parmesan custard with anchovy toast waves hello. But of everything I ate, this was the biggest disappointment, a shadow of the original, with loose, wobbly custard and a plate of too-timid toast.

Happily, the rest was elegant and comforting: think Chanel Slanket (relax, Herr Lagerfeld, it’s just a metaphor). The menu here plays to the crowd like a Vegas regular, offering up a greatest hits of Continental cooking, with French brasserie fare the main act.

There’s a plate of fat, juicy prawns, chargrilled in their half-shells: buttery, garlicky, spiked with chilli and chives. Then a huge leg of confit chicken – terrific value at £14 – served with creamy haricot beans and slivers of smoked sausage. And, best of all, a sensational Austrian Sachertorte – this time with a seam of raspberry compote, rather than the traditional apricot jam – to offset the moist, indulgent chocolate cake.

But my favourite bit of Café Monico is actually upstairs. When, I arrived, rain-bedraggled and ten minutes late, to be told that our table was on the first floor, my heart sank. Everyone knows that in this part of town – pick-pocketing distance from the Trocadero – street level is best, with other floors used to banish anyone walking in wearing socks with their sandals. But here, it’s a gallery that hugs the sides of the double-height room, looking down – like swish seats at the theatre – onto the the counter bar below. Café Monico: a beautiful blast from the past.

By: Tania Ballantine

Posted:

Venue name: Cafe Monico
Contact:
Address: 39-45 Shaftesbury Avenue
London
W1D 6LA
Opening hours: Mon-Thu 8am-midnight; Fri 8am-1am; Sat 9am-1am; Sun 9am-midnight
Transport: Tube: Piccadilly Circus
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To improve this listing email: feedback@timeout.com

Average User Rating

4.2 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:4
  • 4 star:15
  • 3 star:0
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|19
1 person listening
Angela L

I'm not keen on the total touristic-nous of the location but it's like a dark French bar with beautifully made cocktails and very gentlemanly service. It's not loud and you can have a private chat while watching the world go by. Great place post dinner for cocktails.

elladacas
tastemaker

After hearing and reading so much about this place I decided to take destiny into my own hands and sample the goods. I was pleasantly surprised! By not only the interesting options I received but the amount of flavour they infused into the dishes! If you have a timeout black card you get 50% off which is a winner ... I'd highly recommend it for lunch! You may need to waddle back into the office but you'll do it with a smile on your face.

Sosh_uk
Tastemaker

What a fantastic find in the heart of Leicester Square, I must have walked past this place a million times and never noticed it. When I found out it was 50 percent off with a time out black card, I thought I must try it! It's a French bistro, from the outside it doesn't look like anything fancy, but as soon as you walk In, there's amazing decor inside, with a. Fancy bar and a grand chandelier. Service was impeccable from the beginning to the end. I had the steak and ye chocolate bombe, both were fantstico! I will definitely be back!

Joanne  M
tastemaker

Cafe Monico is a lovely restaurant especially the upstairs which is slightly grander. The staff were pleasant and the food was fantastic. I would highly recommend.

Chlo Fo
Tastemaker

Having heard great things about Cafe Monico and also being a holder of a Time Out Black membership, I felt the need to make the pilgrimage to this popular haunt. The perfect opportunity arose with the visit of my mum and her friend, so we trotted along last Saturday evening. 


We arrived early, but the staff were absolutely brilliant, swiftly taking our coats and numerous bags and showing us to the bar where we waited for our table. Immediately we felt at home with the friendly and welcoming barman. When we reached our table, the excellent service continued. Continuous deliveries of fresh bread (which was divine) set us off on the right foot and the food was also served very quickly. I had steak, which was divine, the others had Coq au Vin, which my mum went as far as saying it's probably the best she's ever had, which is praise indeed as it's one of her fave dishes! The desserts were equally delicious, I can highly recommend the chocolate bombe! 


The ambiance is lovely too, despite being near the tourist trap of Leicester Square, you wouldn't know it as you're transported into the age of elegance Belle Epoque era. Highly highly recommend, I can't wait to visit again!

TAB

I took my partner and both parents for a late lunch on Saturday. We arrived 30mins earlier, and were happy to wait at the bar if the table wasn't ready. However, the wait staff were lovely, took our coats and showed us straight to our table upstairs - without any fuss. Inside decor is lovely - the upstairs is even better!
The service was impeccable from the moment we sat down, we all enjoyed the food, though I found the crab ravioli a bit too rich so I couldn't finish it. Partner had mussels and frites, portion was so big, we all ended up sharing. 

A great place, I would definitely come again with the TimeOut Black, the 50% food discount makes it an amazing deal!

Recommend!

Ros A
Tastemaker

I liked Cafe Monico so much I went twice in twenty four hours. True story. My first experience was on a Saturday night with five friends and my trusty Time Out Black card (which gets you 50% off food for you and three friends). @jutney is exactly right - the restaurant is on one of the busiest tourist trap streets of London - Shaftesbury Avenue, but if you blink as you walk past you could miss it. 


Once inside you're in for a treat - it's a smart looking brasserie on two levels with a magnificent bar in the centre. The key feature is a large chandelier which hangs over the bar and it's rather stunning. 


Expect straightforward, tasty French food. I had the chicken liver pate to start which was delicious, and then a sirloin steak for main with chips and bearnaise sauce. The chips were to die for! We washed the food down with some cocktails (I especially enjoyed the extra large bellinis) and some wine with dinner. Some of the other girls I was with had desserts which looked pretty good too. 


The next morning I was meeting other friends in Soho for brunch. I'd had such a good time at Cafe Monico the night before I took them back! Brunch was delicious and the scrambled eggs were near on perfection. 


I love this place, can't wait to take my family here for our next get together. 

jutney
Tastemaker

Because of its location – touristy hell –, to enter this café is quite a (great) surprise. The staff is super welcoming and friendly, and the old café/pub vibe is quite warm. I had booked and they put us on a table upstairs, around the counter on the ground floor, with a big chandelier complementing the view. The menu is quite simple, with varied-enough options. My friend loved her sole and my Milanese was perfectly fried, not fatty at all. It was all wonderful, mainly because I had the Time Out card that gave us a big discount – the place is rather charming with good quality food... But the price is quite discouraging...

The Man on the Street

Cafe Monico brigs a little European style to Shaftesbury Avenue. Love the decor , and have only ever had good service. Tonight's dinner with my son lived up to expectations. I had Coq au Vin whilst he went for Tagliatelle with Rabbit Ragu. We both enjoyed a cold beer and relaxed conversation. 


A really good evening made even better by the saving provided by my Time Out Black card. 

I will certainly return.

Superb.  

David Clack
moderator

Dropped in here for a midweek dinner (getting 50% off food with my Time Out Black card in the process) and wasn't disappointed. The classic French bistro fare is well executed, well presented and tres filling, while the smartly done-up room and gilded furniture makes you feel like you've time-hopped back to late nineteenth-century Paris. 


My only complaint is that it was all over too quickly – starters arrived within about five minutes of ordering, and mains weren't far behind. But hey, time is money in the West End, and there are plenty of places nearby to extend your evening with a cocktail.

Kritt N
Tastemaker

Cafe Monico is the kind of place you should take your date.


This grand and opulent cafe have been styled in a way of the French “belle époque” An era when culture and art flourished in France in the period around the 1930’s. So yes, think vintage wall panelling, soft-candlelit tables and staff with crisp white shirts and jackets. 


Don’t get the wrong impression, though. Fancy looking it may be but black ties are not required. It’s casual enough and the atmosphere is alive with the buzz of activity and noise without becoming overwhelming. I particularly love the soft lighting which creates an intimate and romantic glow around the restaurant. Perfect for a date.


A special mention should go to the waiters, waitresses and staff. All are incredibly warm and welcoming as soon as you step through the doors. Get to know your waiters/waitresses. Getting to know them does heighten your dining experience and the staff at Cafe Monico are an open and friendly bunch.


The food menu is kept pretty simple but all enticing nonetheless. I wouldn’t recommend the Veal Milanese though. Unknown to me, the veal comes deep-fried in crunchy breadcrumbs. While still delicious, I imagine there are other delicious methods of cooking veal. The drinks menu is a lot more extensive though with a tempting array of spirits, liquor, wine and cocktails to get merry on.


Reserve a table ahead of time. Situated on Shaftesbury avenue and right next door between two theatres (Apollo Theatre and Gielgud Theatre), it can quite easily get busy even if the restaurant is spacious with two floors. If possible, ask for a table on the 1st floor. It’s a gallery that overlooks the gorgeous bar below and if you’re lucky, you might also get a table by the window where you get a great view of Shaftesbury Avenue going about their business. 


An excellent restaurant right next door to the vibrant lights of Chinatown and Soho, Cafe Monico is the place I’d take a date, or for any special occasion in fact. You won’t be disappointed and you’re sure to impress.

Bonnie W
Tastemaker

Cafe Monico is an elegant Art Deco style restaurant conveniently located on Shaftsbury Avenue. I came here with a friend for the pre-theatre menu which is served until 7pm and extremely reasonable at £18 for three courses. I ordered a strawberry and basil cocktail which was overly sweet and didn't actually taste of any basil. Also, my starter of melon and nasturtium salad didn't come with any nasturtiums. Things got better though with my main of gnocchi and a delicious raspberry almond tart for dessert. The main focus point in the restaurant is a beautiful wrap around bar and the first floor tables overlook it. Cafe Monico is a nice restaurant option in the west end that doesn't feel at all like a tourist trap.

GT
Staff Writer

I went here for breakfast and thought it was a really nice spot, especially good if you're after somewhere central. As with everything that Soho House does they've really focused on making the decor and atmosphere of the place something special. It's beautiful, and definitely has the feel of stepping into another era. There's a huge central bar with seating around it as well as individual tables dotted around with more upstairs. My full English was spot on and I'm really tempted to go back for dinner and cocktails! 

Noel
Staff Writer

The Time Out review is spot on, it is like a spot of time travel but only in terms of styling and decor. What Cafe Monico does for time travel in styling, it delivers for choice on the menu and finesse with the food delivered to the table. The octopus and devilled kidneys as starters were immense. The Chicken paillard was superb, also the pork chop. The wine list carries some excellent choice at very reasonable prices. Albeit owned by the Soho House Group, it has potential to be a hidden gem.

Saint

Went last Friday 17/06 at lunchtime and it wasn't that busy, actually fairly quiet in the downstairs seating area. This section is great as it's informal. The food was excellent. I had the chicken paillard with artichoke with the baby artichoke, beans and tomato salad. The chicken was cooked perfectly and the salad light and very fresh. My guest had the Croque Monsieur with Bibb lettuce, radishes and lemon salad and really enjoyed that as well. I highly recommend this place for a relaxed informal dining experience right in central London.  

paul b

Great Place - Food was excellent , totally recommend to sit up in the gallery area .

Also if you fancy a cocktail then this place is a must

Laura S

Cafe Monico today for a business lunch.  Very good ambience - grown-up, classy & relaxed with tasty refined modern bistro food. Set lunch at £20 for 3 courses is excellent value.  We went a la carte - scallops & broad bean puree then spiced pineapple, ice cream and pain perdu for me.  Only gripe was portion size of the scallops was a bit 'ladies who lunch' and I got the feeling it had been designed to sell starters and puddings.  The pudding however was generous as well as delicious, so maybe it was just the scallop dish which came up mean.  Service excellent.

Paul C
Staff Writer

Recently visited Cafe Monico and had a great night - it was perfect for a dinner with colleagues. I had the Ragu for main which was wonderfully cooked and the meat fell apart thanks to the slow cooking. The only minor issue was portion size... I had the large portion which could have done with being a bit bigger. All in all, was a good night and i'll be going back!

SJB
Staff WriterStaff Comp

I booked cafe Monico for a work dinner as our NY colleagues were over. Ambience: it has the soho house vibe and a lovely bar in the centre with a gallery dining around above, it feels very decedent, buzzy and stylish yet relaxed. Service: the only hiccup was we were 1 hour late to sit at our table, however the manager did look after us and the service through the meal was good. Luckily we were in no hurry and enjoying the bubbles at the bar. Food: a Mediterranean fusion of Italian and French cuisine. I had the salmon carpaccio followed by the signature soho house flattened chicken. All dishes were great value for the price.

Accepts Time Out Black

Time Out Black: Cafe Monico

50% off food for members and 3 guests

This offer can be redeemed on Mon, Tue, Wed, Sat, Sun. Don’t have Time Out Black? Get yours here.