SoHo SoHo

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 April, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 April, 2003, 12:00am

9 Old Bailey Street, Central

Tel: 2147 2618

Open: noon-2.30pm, 7pm-11pm daily

So many run-of-the-mill pasta and pizza joints have opened in SoHo lately that the area could soon be renamed Little Italy. Thankfully some stalwarts of the district's gourmet scene have resisted the rush towards gentrification. SoHo SoHo is one of them. More than five years after opening, the small but cheerful restaurant has stuck to its mission of serving quality modern British cuisine.

Britain's determination to shed its reputation for bad food is being fought on the home front largely by gastro-pubs. The formula here is similar. There is no feeble tweaking of cliched favourites such as bangers and mash by simply offering herbed lamb sausages and garlic spuds. Instead classic British ingredients - sage, mustard, mint, parsnips - are revolutionised and used in creative dishes presented with European flair.

At SoHo SoHo, the chef has also embraced traditionally foreign elements to create a type of Anglo-European fusion cuisine. The prawn mousse ravioli in creamy tomato sauce offered comfort food texture which zinged with rich yet subtle flavours. The seared scallops on peas puree and drizzled in mint oil was equally vibrant in colour and taste. Both are available as starters or main portions ($80/$160).

Mains conform to the English predilection for meat and vegetables, but with a large helping of style. Unfortunately, neither the mustard cream sauce which smothered the roast chicken stuffed with mushrooms ($170) nor the pepper sauce accompanying the sirloin steak were as perky as they should have been.

Overall, though, dishes were satisfying and the crisp broccoli and snow peas offered a textural contrast to the mashed potato, which as you would expect, was whipped to soft and fluffy perfection.

Despite the emphasis on lighter, less greasy food, finishing three courses at SoHo Soho requires some gusto since desserts stick closer to stodgy tradition. The slice of crimson summer pudding with clotted cream ($55) proved how sinfully delicious fruit can be; a glorious combination of soaked berries and currants. The mixed berries piled atop vanilla ice cream ($50) played up the fruits' lighter, more refreshing side.

Service was effusive and efficient; staff quickly corrected any mistakes such as serving chips instead of mash potato with the steak. The wine list is reasonable but offers only four by-the-glass options (two red, two white; all $40).

The bill for two, including a bottle of mineral water (an unnecessary $60), coffee ($32) plus service charge, was $906.