Magazine article The Spectator

Food Full Marx

Magazine article The Spectator

Food Full Marx

Article excerpt

Quo Vadis is the restaurant in the house where Marx wrote Das Kapital, and today it is full of tulips.

I always expect Soho restaurants to house crackheads and refugees from Esquire, their bloody hands echoing the streets that smell equally of dirt and soap, like a man who wants to wash but finds he can't.

I have hated Soho since I saw a man punch his way out of a brothel and a teenage prostitute buy a cuddly toy that was bigger than she was, in a ghastly montage of the free market.

I don't know why people come to Soho, except in novels.

I prefer Kew Gardens but I am old now; my Soho moment has passed.

Anyway, Quo Vadis is what I suppose you should call an oasis in these small, neat streets that nonetheless see so much pain or, if you want something slightly less prosaic, vomiting. Because Soho, like Venice, is three parts metaphor to one part pasta joint; the very dirt confuses E nglish writers, and makes them think Soho is more interesting than it really is. So I can give you metaphor - ' I t is like deaaaaath' - or prose - 'Oh, look, Pizza E xpress.' Quo Vadis is a calm, restful room on Dean Street, much sweeter than the Groucho Club (cokeheads and swirly carpets, even 20 years after Julie Burchill paid her final bill) and slightly less depraved than Black's, which always seem to be full of swingers lamenting that other swingers are too ugly to swing with.

I am here because Jeremy Lee, a much-loved chef, has arrived, to blast away all memory of the years that Damien Hirst and Marco Pierre White owned Quo Vadis; they cooked, painted and, inevitably, fought.

Two things are lovely - the tulips, massed in bowls, and the stained glass windows, which are green and red and make shapes of the faces outside.

How strange that Marx's house, of all the houses in Soho, should have the look of a cathedral. …

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