Incognico

Tel: +44 (0)20 7836 8866
Address: 117 Shaftesbury Avenue, London WC2H 8AD
Cuisine Type: modern European
nearest tube station Leicester Square (NORTHERN, PICCADILLY)

One of the jewels in the Nico Ladenis crown, Incognico serves high quality, no nonsense food, with prices to match. Having said that, Incognico does offer one of the best value set meals in town, so don’t remortgage the house just yet…

The location is perfect for theatre-land, West end cinemas, clubs and most other central London attractions. Just off Cambridge Circus, this is a restaurant popular with expense account diners, tourists, theatre-goers and foodies alike, so book in advance. Stepping in off the busy road, the room has the slightly austere appearance of a gentlemen’s club – dark wooden panelling, chestnut leather chairs, modest artwork on the walls. However, don’t let first impressions fool you; the room can acquire a lively, almost boisterous, atmosphere when full.

The food is best described as “modern European”, with plenty of choice for each course from the a la carte menu. Starters (£7 – £12) include open ravioli of goat’s cheese, cod brandade millefeuille, or dressed crab. Main courses (£15 – £18) feature a good representation of fish – and I can recommend the John Dory fillets which I had on a previous visit – though a wide range of meats and some offal form the rest of the line-up, including Ossobucco, best end of lamb and quail. However, most main courses come minimally or even ungarnished, so by the time you have added in side orders of vegetables (cauliflower gratin, mashed potatoes, spinach, baby carrots, mange tout), your wallet may start to feel the strain.

To finish, have a simple ice cream or sorbet (the pistachio ice cream is particularly good) or a delicate apple tart, crème brulée or rice pudding.

The wine list is an oenophile’s delight, and a bank manager’s nightmare – make sure you order carefully or take out a loan before blindly accepting the sommelier’s suggestions, unless you are on expenses, in which case, take full advantage of the extensive choice. Even an aperitif of gin and tonic set us back £6, so get a drink in a nearby pub beforehand.

It therefore seems incongruous that the set menu is such good value. At £12.50 for 3 courses, available at lunch times and pre-theatre, there are a couple of choices at each course and the quality is just as good. To start, either celeriac soup or warm goat’s cheese salad, a small ball wrapped in filo and baked, then simply served on a bed of mixed leaves and toasted pine nuts dressed with olive oil.

Both main courses were competently executed. Fillet of cod on white beans with olive oil or corn-fed chicken breast with mustard sauce both went down well. And to finish, praline ice cream in a crispy tuile biscuit basket or tarte au fromage blanc, a “kind of cheesecake” (waiter’s description) in a flaky pastry with a raspberry coulis, which was the only disappointment as the pastry was a little soggy.

And the budget version of the drinks list? Tap water and a “pichet” of house red for £6 (a little jug from which you can easily get a 2-3 glasses of wine). Or order discerningly from the wine list, as several are available by the glass.

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