The Boulevard opened in the summer of 2005 and is situated at the address of the legendary 2i's Soho coffee bar. 2i's was the Mecca of British rock'n'roll in the late 1950's. Here were launched the careers of some of the UK's biggest rock'n'roll stars of the time, Tommy Steele, Terry Dene and "Harry Webb and the Drifters" (Webb is much better known to today's music lovers as Sir Cliff Richard)!
Continuing this tradition the Boulevard is as vibrant as the neighbourhood it lives in, which is renowned for its hip bars and restaurants and all this just a stones throw from London's theatre land of Shaftesbury Avenue. The best way of getting there is the tube to Leicester Sq or Piccadilly Circus and then walking a few hundred yards. Driving is definitely not an option as the traffic in the Soho/Shaftesbury Avenue area is always stationary and parking can be difficult and expensive.
The Boulevard is a bit like Dr Who's Tardis as from outside, all you can see is the modern cocktail bar but walk back behind the bar to discover a separate well presented dining room serving modern British food. On our arrival, we were cordially met by Jim Robertson, the General Manager, and Jake Smyth, the Restaurant Manager, who offered us cocktails from a list of over 50 contemporary cocktails supplied by "mixologyst" Will Pike.
My wife chose a Gin Martini and I chose a Classic Daiquiri both of which were finely made and refreshing. My wife said the Martini was on par with those made by our American friend Larry which is praise indeed!
The Boulevard's dress code is informal and ranges from casual to business suits. The clientele was real mixtures of nationalities, ages and backgrounds but all seemed welcome and were enjoying themselves. On Friday and Saturday there is a DJ and although the music might not be to everyone's taste it added to the atmosphere and did not drown out conversation. Being a Friday night you can imagine it was busy but combine that with office Christmas parties and you can imagine the pressure was on for the staff. However they were all efficient, well trained, knowledgeable and unobtrusive. This level of service was for all tables and not just ours and what also impressed us was they worked as a team. Even though they were very busy they always seemed to have time to talk to the customers rather than just serve them.
The Menu in modern British and, though not enormous, had something for everyone, including a Brunch menu for people who just wanted a small meal or a snack before going to the theatre or perhaps a daytime pit-stop whilst they are exploring the local vicinity.
The Head Chef, Nigel Trebble, who hails from Exeter utilises his contacts with the local farmers in the West Country to produce a varied and evolving menu utilising quality traceable ingredients including some rare dishes such as Black loop belly pork with Bramley apple puree.
For a starter I had the White Onion Soup and my wife had the Grilled asparagus with parmesan and balsamic dressing. The Soup was hot, tasty and full of tender pieces of onions and croutons, an ideal starter to drive out a cold foggy December night. Sue's asparagus was well presented, a generous portion and cooked to perfection which, as the cooks amongst you will know, is difficult as asparagus is so very easy to overcook.
The wine list is most impressive and you can spend a long time just reading the information and maps contained in it. There seemed to be everything in there from everyday Vin de Pays at £12.50 to St Emilion Grand Cru at £100. The choice is mostly from Europe but with a good selection from the Americas and Australasia. We chose a glass of the Mad Fish, Shiraz 2001 from Australia which was very good quality. We also asked for a recommendation and were brought a glass of Malbec from the Americas which was really rich and spicy. An excellent choice.
For the main course we had the Black loop belly pork, black pudding, bramley apple puree with sautéed baby onions and sage and also the free-range credition duckling breast and confit leg with vanilla mash and rhubarb puree. The Pork was excellent and full credit to Nigel for the use of the rare breed pork as the flavour was superb and as my wife put it "tasted like pork used to and not the force-fed factory pork we normally find". From my side the duck was equally as tender and succulent with a light sauce which did not drown the flavour of the meat and the mash being smooth and melting on the tongue. I had it cooked medium but normally it would come medium rare. I would point out that the dishes do not come with vegetables or salad and these need to be ordered as a side order.
For desert we had the Pear and apple crumble with vanilla custard and also the Poached winter fruits, with earl grey sorbet in a tuile basket. I really enjoyed the crumble as I am a desert person but it was quite sweet for those on a diet! The poached winter fruits were also well presented but a few too many apricots for Sue's taste - never the less enjoyable.
The Boulevard is suited to three types of
On the down side, if you are not very mobile the toilets are down two flights of stairs, and smoking is allowed throughout though this did not seem a problem as smoking seemed to be "discouraged" in the dining room where there were no ashtrays!
Finally I found Sue's comment, "The Boulevard was a place where they find the time to make every customer feel welcome and to treat them as real people." - right on target.
Richard & Sue Bassett December 2005