Central London

Published on August 4th, 2016 | by Ben Southwood

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B.Y.O.C ft James Cochran, Soho

B.Y.O.C ft James Cochran, Soho Ben Southwood
Food
Venue
Service
Value

Summary: Come for the drinks, but the food is surprisingly good.

4.1

Bring Your Own


BYOC—bring your own cocktail—which now has outposts in Camden, Covent Garden, Soho and Brighton, does what it says on the tin. Well, sort of. You bring the booze, they make the cocktails; in our case, we brought a bottle of Cointreau, just to be a bit different and annoying. You pay them £25 per head, and then they make you cocktails out of your booze and a big stand of mixers, ice, bitters, garnishes, juices and so on. They’ll make you as many as they can in two hours, so long as they’re not already making drinks for other patrons or so long as your bottle doesn’t run out.

It’s just as great as it sounds. Our waiter creatively invented a bunch of cocktails, all finely balanced, despite the difficulty of working with Cointreau alone, while we luxuriated in a fine wood-panelled Soho second floor room. While we were there (a Tuesday) there were only a couple of full tables and we had more or less our waiter’s undivided attention. Apparently on the busiest days they’ll have two chaps on for the six tables. They also have space for private parties.

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What’s really surprising about BYOC is not that they employ staff who can make up interesting cocktails on the spot depending on the range of inputs they can employ and your exacting demands, but that they also offer pretty impressive food. They’ve really put some effort in with the menu, which includes stuff like rock oysters with smoked bone marrow; courgette soup; and treacle cured salmon, as well as familiars like pork belly and slow-braised short rib. Prices are about £7 for a starter-ish portion and £15 or so for a main—what I’d call “normal restaurant prices”, neither cheap nor expensive. Most importantly, the food is actually good.

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The best dish was potted pork, a special off their chalkboard. It was an intensely savoury and satisfyingly fat-lubricated (though not even slightly greasy) jar of mince, sealed in by a soft-boiled egg, and served with two pieces of truffled toast, which I took to be a lattice of fried bread. We wolfed this down and regretted not having more.

The rest of the dishes were accomplished though not quite on the level. The skate wing was cooked to firm, bouncy, meaty perfection, but the dish was too salty: fish, bacon, and samphire perhaps too much altogether. The oysters were incredibly large, and did the job, but the marrow flavour didn’t shine through, and I felt myself yearning for the more traditional shallot vinaigrette. The short rib was perfectly cooked, just at that point where it’s ultra tender while nevertheless holding together consistently.

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The gimmick is so great that I knew I’d be back for their drinks. But there’s a very good chance I’ll be back for food too.

http://www.byoc.co.uk/

BYOC Soho, 21 Great Windmill St, W1D 7LB

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