After a renovation this July, Covent Garden eaterie Beso is once again open to the public and serving up an outstanding menu of Moorish cuisine. The delicious restaurant and bar is perfectly located on the corner of Shaftesbury Avenue and Neal Street, putting it a stone’s throw from Soho, the West End, Chinatown and the shopping district around Oxford Street.
Beso is co-owned by head chef Khalid Dahbi (who worked with swear-master Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s) and award-winning journalist Eyup Can Sadlik. The Moorish focus means it offers a tasty collection of Spanish and Moroccan dishes inspired by the Muslims of North Africa and the Mediterranean. The restaurant also features legendary cellar caves (where The Beatles ate and wrote songs on napkins after recording sessions at the nearby Playhouse Theatre) which stock a stunning selection of old and new world wines. Throw some exquisite cocktails into the mix, and you have a unique food and drink destination.
Beso currently has a 5* Excellence Rating on tripadvisor and has just received an Excellence Award from opentable. With that in mind, we were determined to check it out!
When you arrive, it’s clear that this is a laidback, warm environment. Patrons can opt for a casual drink at the bar or on the high stools in the window, where you can watch people pass by on Shaftesbury Avenue while sipping cocktails. Or you can do as I did and pull up a stool alongside the open kitchen, where the warmth is the perfect antidote to this miserable late autumn weather. For groups or couples, there are also cosy booths, and the vaulted cellar space downstairs is perfect for private events.
Beso’s interiors are slick and moody. The walls are blue and black, interspersed with bare brick walls. The original art on the walls includes a stylish image of two kissing women by the kitchen. The mood is maintained by trendy glass pendant lighting and tan leather banquettes, which give the space an authentic Moroccan flair.
After taking my seat, I thumbed through the menu and opted for a cocktail. I went for the Americano Sbagliato, given that it includes a few unusual ingredients. A blend of Campari, Martini Rosso and Pedrino cherry tonic, my server told me it was ‘refreshing’ and it certainly was! It was also crisp, a little bitter and a little tart too. I loved it.
For my starter, I opted for the crispy Southcoast (Cornish) squid toasted in a light semolina flour. It came with a gorgeous citrus crème fraîche. The crispy seaweed and chilli on top were superb, and I have to say – this is possibly the best crispy squid I’ve ever had. Citrus mayo has nothing on this crème fraîche – it was luxurious and rich against the succulent, crispy squid. One to get!
Now for the main event. I ordered Moroccan stample: grilled lamb with aubergine. What arrived was perfectly done Welsh lamb, grilled to pink perfection, and with that familiar, slightly sweet fat that only lamb has. The aubergine Begendi was smoky and lightly spiced, and complemented the succulent lamb perfectly. Pistachio, cumin and watercress rounded out this magnificent collection of flavours. I was so pleased with this one.
At last, I opted for a happy finish. The dulce de leche cheesecake was sumptuous, with a heady crust of flaked almonds and praline. Sticky, sweet and nutty, it had bite and decadence that made it a lovely final act. And who wouldn’t smile at a dish that looked like this?
Beso in Covent Garden is a fabulous hidden treasure with expertly crafted dishes and elegant decor. It’s location makes it a perfect place to visit next time you head to the theatre or Soho. With very reasonable prices and a unique menu, it gets a firm thumbs up from me.
The restaurant also serves a pre- and after-theatre menu from 4-6.30pm and 10-11pm.
Beso • 190 Shaftesbury Avenue London WC2H 8JL • Tel: 02039728888