One of the most rewarding things you can do as a foodie is eat at a new restaurant and find a real gem, particularly one that hasn’t reached household name status – rather like musos going to off-the-beaten-track gigs to discover fresh talent, and when the rest of the world catches on, boasting to anyone who will listen how you “discovered” them first.
At Viva Viva, you can do both. This great little venue not only serves food, but is host to a variety of performers, ranging from flamenco to blues to rai. Check out the full events listing on their website, which includes dance and drum workshops, film viewings and activities for the children.
We visited on a Sunday afternoon, when Viva Viva has that laid-back feel perfectly suited to a relaxed meal. Come for early brunch with the kids (there is a separate kids’ menu with fish fingers, sausage and chips, onion rings and the like), late lunch to enjoy the live jazz, or linger over a few drinks and tapas to share with some friends whilst nursing that post-Saturday night hangover.
The menu has oodles of appeal: it doesn’t try to be too fancy or clever, but packs in the favourites that make choosing so difficult. Specials such as baked duck with honey and ginger or lamb shank with mashed potato don’t make things any easier.
I started with a parma ham salad with roast figs (£4.50), a classic combination that worked well with the bed of fresh baby spinach, olives and light dressing of balsamic, honey and olive oil – like something you might get at The River Café, but at less than half the cost. The Bloke ordered the baked chicken livers (£4.50), wickedly creamy and complemented by sweet red onions and a rich and intense sauce.
From main courses such as grilled sea bass with saffron mash and lentils (£10.95), pan-fried rib eye steak with tomatoes and mushrooms (£9.95) or wild mushroom risotto (£6.95), we chose the fresh salmon fish cakes (£6.95) and a special of fisherman’s pie with chunky fries (£7.95). My three crisp-coated fish cakes served with a generous dollop of home-made tartar sauce and a good squirt of lemon made for a satisfying dish, whilst the fisherman’s pie was packed with fish (even if predominantly salmon) and topped with cheesy mashed potato, a hefty portion that even The Bloke struggled to finish.
We couldn’t resist a slice of homemade chocolate and Amaretto tart with crème fraiche (£3.50) on a feather-light butter puff pastry base, and rounding off with a couple of coffees, we realised to our surprise that we had whiled away almost three hours.
Seems we weren’t the only ones to have decided that this is a fab local. Neil “Men Behaving Badly” Morrissey was a couple of tables away lunching with some friends – which just goes to show that The Ivy isn’t the only place to celeb-spot (who wants to see Posh Spice anyway?). So go and visit Viva Viva for yourself, and you might just find yourself telling anyone who’ll listen how you “discovered this great little place…”