Tel: +44 (0)20 7287 7773
Address: 7-9 Cranbourne Street, WC2
Cuisine Type: modern European
Leicester Square (NORTHERN, PICCADILLY)
This restaurant has closed down.
Just round the corner from Leicester Square Tube station, in that tacky area better known for tourists and pickpockets than sophistication, is an enigma. The Voodoo Lounge has been around for a while – and the stunning array of original art and photography on its walls, including several Warhols, reputedly worth half a million, testifies to its past as a haunt of The Rolling Stones – but it is now reinventing itself as a top all-in-one night spot. It isn’t that it hasn’t been one before, for many a film premiere has ended up in this place, with a bewildering assortment of glitterati passing through the big wood and glass doors.
But this is a restaurant review site, you point out, so what’s all this to do with restaurants? Well, The Voodoo Lounge could be called a restaurant, among many other things (function room, night club, cocktail bar…). Bear with me.
It looks like a private club but isn’t, though there are areas that will be reserved for members. The tricky thing is becoming a member, because the democratically minded young Manager, Ross Saunders, doesn’t believe that having money should necessarily be the criterion. The plan is that clients who regularly use the Lounge – regardless of spend – will be offered extra privileges. It’s quite a tempting idea, because I can’t think of anywhere better suited to holding a party, especially if one had pockets deep enough to hire the whole building.
The term ‘lounge’ is perhaps also misleading, because the venue is actually a fascinating combination of spaces on at least three different levels – and if I sound a bit hazy it’s because I kept getting lost while I was there. Most of the building is listed so although there’s a refurbishment programme under way, the architectural gems hidden behind the rather bland façade – particularly the fabulous tiled staircase – will remain. The Mirror Bar and the Flame bar offer space not only for drinking but for eating, at round smoky glass tables cannily blue-lit from below. There’s a small dance floor with top DJs – jazz on Tuesdays, Old Skool Wednesdays, Latino and funk house Thursdays, underground garage and R&B Fridays, house Saturdays. The supper club offers fine dining every Wednesday – Saturday, and then there are also the private rooms such as the Cigar Lounge.
We tested out the dinner menu in the elegant surroundings of the private dining room, complete with its own Philippe Starck loo. Head Chef Punjab Rathour (ex Quaglino’s, L’Escargot, Titanic and Mirabelle) talked us through his highly individual style of cuisine, which combines fresh, high quality ingredients with a delight for strong flavours. Certainly some of his dishes are not for the faint hearted – and we’re told he’s already toned them down since his arrival just six weeks ago – but they make for interesting eating. My pan-fried asparagus and Roquefort spring roll was powerful but delicious and seared tuna with roasted Jerusalem artichokes was fabulous. Other starters include a good beef carpaccio and green-lipped mussels in a Thai Coconut sauce. There is much involving truffle essence too, obviously a favourite ingredient of chef’s. The menu is currently small (this is not a criticism) but varied, with prices that are reasonable for Central London. The pudding list is particularly tiny with only one option apart from sorbets – a tarte tatin. This is, however, to die for, particularly when teamed with Rolo (?! – it works!!) ice cream.
The wine list could also do with being a bit longer, and a bit less pricy. There is a definite emphasis on champagne here, which is fine if that’s what you like and if you can afford to fork out for the best. Personally, I’d rather see a more interesting selection of wines at more realistic prices. However a saving grace is that The Voodoo Lounge has a long, long happy hour – 17.00 – 21.00 – during which time their great selection of cocktails are mostly around £3.50, including such delights as long island iced tea and sex on the beach – and house wine is drinkable and a snip at £9.50 a bottle.
The Voodoo Lounge is not an easy place to characterise. Those interested should take a look at the website to get more of an idea of what’s on offer, and particularly to check on DJ nights and special events. What I can tell you is that it’s a fun place which happens to offer excellent food in non-standard surroundings, with a young, friendly and enthusiastic team running it. Lottery winners seeking to hire a place for a big bash should take note; but anyone looking for a central London oasis of fun and food, drinks and dance should consider The Voodoo Lounge a place for a great night out.