B.Y.O.C. ft.James Cochran, London, W1D 7LB | + WIN A Meal For Two!
Regular readers of our ramblings will know by now just how much we love a cocktail. And those of you who know about great and inventive cocktails should know all about B.Y.O.C. If you haven’t, where have you been? Under a rock? If you are still none the wiser click here for a refresher course.
So by know you should be up to speed on all things B.Y.O.C. But until now they hadn’t gone all out and offered a full menu. This is where B.Y.O.C.ft. James Cochran, situated in the heart of Soho, has put this right.
B.Y.O.C. is not just about cocktails, they have a wonderful wine list too – Saff had a refreshing Mon Rosé de Montrose (£6.25) and I gave their Puglian Primitivo ‘Grifone’ (£5.50) a go. But in the true spirit of B.Y.O.C. guests are invited to bring their own drinks. Wine corkage is set at £5 a bottle, and spirits are converted into cocktails for £20 per bottle, pretty nifty idea, eh?
Decor in the ground floor restaurant is fairly simple, pale walls with dark framed wooden panels – nice and cosy and not over styled or pretentious. Wasn’t too keen on walking over the glass floor by the entrance though, looking down to the kitchen floor below made us feel a bit edgy.
James Cochran, formerly of The Ledbury and The Harwood Arms has put together a really exciting small plate menu. There’s a bar snack menu also, we loved the sound of the Hackney nduja scotch egg (£6.50) or the Cheese and ale on toast (£5). Nothing on this menu is as you’d imagine, nothing is plain, nothing is dull – even the bread is served with Marmite butter.
The menu is carefully crafted from local and seasonal produce adding freshness of flavour, this was more than evident in the Crispy cauliflower, ras el haneout, onion raita with mint and shallots (£5). An amazing combo of flavour and texture, never before have I ever had to fight Saff over florets of humble cauliflower. But then I missed out on the Sticks’n’Sushi trip with her, cauliflower was the star of the show there also. Back at B.Y.O.C. the dish is beautifully presented on a block of marbled pink Himalayan salt – maybe to stop you from licking up every last drop of onion raita.
Next to arrive were the delicious Crispy chicken wings with charcoal mayonnaise and Iceberg lettuce (£8). Another inventive dish, packed with smoke, a subtle heat and served boneless! Great for lazy eaters but not so good for those sharing, there’s no evidence of just how many wings each person has devoured. I’m sure Saff had more than me but with no bones as proof I just had to take her word for it that they were shared equally.
The Gloucester Old Spot potted pork with hen’s egg, truffle and toasted sourdough (£10) was Saff’s least favourite dish, great – even more for me! The main reason it ranked low on Saff’s scorecard was the truffle, she’s never been a big fan – she keeps persevering but to no avail.
To be honest it wasn’t what I imagined either, I was expecting a course pâté but instead it was more like a terrine. Tender shredded pork at the bottom with a barely cooked poached egg on top. Again Saff wasn’t too keen on the ‘wet’ egg, but I enjoyed the contrasting texture with the crisp sourdough – so a thumbs up from me.
James Cochran and his team saved the best till last (excluding desserts). Their Braised short rib of red ruby beef served with Jerusalem artichokes, girolle (mushroom) marmalade and smoked lardo (£18) was one of the best meat dishes we’ve had all year – possibly only second to the genius of Mark Jordan’s assiette of Jersey beef from his Michelin starred Ocean restaurant.
This short rib, obviously slow cooked, is so tender and a lean as Team GB’s male diving team. Don’t fret, any craving for any fat is eased by a smear of pureed lardo. This beef is the big hitter on the menu packing a huge meaty punch, although I think we missed a trick by not ordering James Cochran’s signature dish – Treacle cured smoked salmon, whiskey and apple jelly, radish, smoked cod’s roe and mustard cress (£11). A couple on the next table had it and it looked amazing, damn me for not listening to the manager’s recommendation.
Now then, on to dessert. Saff was intrigued by the English raspberries, feuille de brick and lemon verbena buttermilk (£9). Mainly as we had no idea what lemon verbena was – turns out that it’s a species flowering plant native to western South America grown for grown for its aroma and flavouring.
We weren’t 100% sure what Feuilles de brick was either, I guessed at some sort of pastry and I was right. They are fine sheets of ready-made pastry originating in Tunisia. As you’d expect the in-season raspberries were fresh and paired perfectly with the delicate, slightly floral buttermilk, all sandwiched between the crisp, flaky pastry.
If there ever was a dessert that was specifically made for me it would be this Chocolate malt parfait with honeycomb and peanuts (£9). All of my favourites rolled into one – imagine a Crunchie/Snickers ice-cream and then double the amount of joy that could bring. The best chocolate milkshake that you’ve ever had, frozen and then pimped up with crumbled honeycomb and crushed peanuts. Pure frozen heaven!
We’d recommend making a whole evening of it and book a B.Y.O.C. session in the bar upstairs, just don’t forget to bring a bottle of spirit. Decor is classic 1920s speakeasy, dark and cosy – very similar to their Camden venue (but you’d know that if you had clicked on our review at the top of this post.)
Unlike a normal bar, where there is a set drinks list, B.Y.O.C. creates an interactive drinking experience serving a range of original cocktails every night. The knowledge and creativity of the bartenders armed with their range of signature homemade ingredients ensure that you get an amazing personalised cocktail every time, based on your suggestions, preferences and the spirits you bring along. All this for cocktail magic for £25 per person for a two-hour slot.
We only popped up for one drink and our mixologist treated us to something ‘experimental’. Apparently savoury cocktail are the latest thing, making sweet cocktails are so passé. So he rustled us up a gin based ‘Le Salade’ mixed with what seemed like cucumber juice, basil essence and a secret mix of botanical bitters (in other words, we don’t know). They tasted as good as they looked, after one sip I wished we could have stayed all night!
The whole evening was fantastic, great food from an exciting young chef, brilliant yet not overbearing service, finishing off with brilliant drinks from a talented bartender who obviously knows his stuff. It was a tad quiet on the night we visited, that said it was a Tuesday night and upstairs the bar was heaving. Somewhere serving up food this good with a concept that works, shouldn’t be quiet on any night of the week.
WIN dinner for two at B.Y.O.C. Soho!
For your chance to win 4 small plates, 2 desserts, a bottle of wine and a cocktail session at the upstairs bar simply go to our pinned tweet at @WeLoveFoodTweet and follow the simple instructions. Good luck!
The competition closes at midnight on Sunday 21st August.
T&Cs: Prize to be taken between Monday and Friday only. Table has to be booked within a month of winning the competition. Prize does not cover any travel or accommodation costs. You must bring a bottle of spirit to mix up at the B.Y.O.C. bar.
21 Great Windmill Street, London, W1D 7LB
Telephone: 0203 441 2424
Book a table online
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday, 12pm – 11pm
Nearest station: Piccadilly Circus (3 mins walk)
Leicester Square (7 mins walk)
We ate as guests of B.Y.O.C, this does not affect our review in any way. We always write with complete honesty.