You know that annoying person in the office who doesn’t stop banging on about their upcoming holiday to Greece? Yep, I’m that guy. So, to get us in the mood before our flight later on this year, and to get our interim fix of Aegean-inspired grub, my date and I visited Hovarda in swinging Soho.
Tucked away in the heart of theatreland, Hovarda promises a respite from the chaos of central London. From the outside, it looks every inch the slick modern space we’ve heard so much about, and definitely hooks you in. To the untrained eye, it could easily be mistaken for a cool cocktail lounge, with its teal-coloured facade and geometric shapes gilded in gold. Indeed, upstairs is more of a drinks kinda deal while downstairs, where we were for the evening, is the lovely dining area.
As you're escorted inside, the first thing that strikes you is just how gorgeous this restaurant is. From the Art Deco mirrored murals, mahogany-panelled walls and cosy chic lighting to the smartly dressed waiting team, the members’ bar aesthetic is a theme that runs throughout. The colour palette of greens and blues nods to Hovarda’s love of all things seafood: something the cool clientele seem to lap up too.
As we relaxed into our comfy, plush velvet seats, our attention was quickly drawn to their extensive drinks offering. Featuring classic mixes to Turkish delights, we could have browsed the menu for days. My date opted for a Pisco Aba (£15), a glittering concoction combining lemon, Aperol and lavender, alongside a generous amount of tangerine juice. This made the tipple unusually thick but it went down a treat. As for me? It turns out I've never tried Greek wine before, so after recommendations from our attentive waiter Giuseppe, I chose the Assirtiko-Malagousia (£14 a glass). And I would advise you to do the same as it was crisp yet fruity, and matched perfectly with my starter.
Which brings me nicely on to our first course. After browsing Insta ahead of our visit (you do that too, right?), I knew I was going to order the Saganaki (£12). A big-time cheese enthusiast, I was drawn in by the kataifi barrel-aged feta and its crispy coating, smothered in truffle honey and flecks of basil for freshness. The cheese was silky soft yet sweet, and I’ll happily admit I ate a whole slab for myself. We can easily see why it’s one of Hovarda’s best sellers. Although there were heaps of hot and cold mezze to choose from, I opted to try the Dolma (£9), as it was a new addition to the menu. An earthy, hearty combination of florina peppers, aubergine and black garlic, Turkey’s national dish was elevated with a nice sugary hit from the pomegranate balsamic glaze. My date made a beeline straight for the crab (£22), a generously portioned, light and refreshing plate of food smooth with avocado and crème fraiche. He also chose to stick to a seafood theme with his next course of scallops (£9 per piece) after seeing them served on literally every cookery TV show going. These hand-dived molluscs had a beautifully buttery sauce with a hint of citrus (a bit of bread would have been nice here to mop it up) and the truffle shavings were an indulgent finishing touch.
By the time our main courses arrived, the restaurant dimmed the lights and turned up the sultry, laidback tunes. I decided to go for the Pastichio (£20) and the easiest way to describe this would be a very posh mac and cheese, topped with king oyster mushrooms to give it extra texture and flavour. As for my date, the only thing on his mind was the lobster linguini (£45), served on a stunning mosaic plate and dressed in a rich lobster sauce, tomatoes and basil. It was all kinds of fancy pants: moreish, filling and his fave dish of the night.
Once again, we were swayed by Insta into ordering the ridiculously decadent and very yummy Lokma (£9) for dessert. It was a calorie-busting finale featuring deep-fried balls of doughnut-like batter, doused in thyme-flavoured syrup and served with Madagascan vanilla ice cream and crunchy walnuts. We'd recommend sharing it as there was plenty to go around.
Stick a fork in me I’m done.
The DesignMyNight Digest
Eager for a bit of Aegean-inspired glam in your life? Maybe with a lively spirit and fun-time atmosphere? Then this elegant oasis in Soho is going to tick all your boxes. The dishes tend to be on the pricey side and can really add up over a few courses, but we say go for it if you wanna ramp up the luxe or just fancy a pre-theatre splurge.
💰 The damage: £164 for two, plus service charge.
📍 The location: 36 – 40 Rupert Street, London, W1D 6DW. Just round the corner from Shaftesbury Avenue near Chinatown.
👌 Perfect for: A swish birthday meal followed by a tipple or two.
⭐ Need to know: Don’t forget there’s an upstairs bar for swanky after-dinner drinks. Also, in sunnier weather, the front windows can be pulled back to reveal a beautiful, airy terrace.