It’s a part of Soho that has been the haunt of those seeking dubious nocturnal delights down the centuries, but also those associated with the arts and literature. Greek Street, running from Shaftesbury Avenue to Soho Square, might take its name from the Greek Church (later St. Mary’s) built in 1677. The church was on the site formerly known as Hog Lane and it appears in Hogarth’s satirical ‘Noon’. No. 47 was the temporary lodgings for famed Venetian adventurer and philanderer Giacomo Casanova in 1764. No. 1 Greek Street is the House of St Barnabas, built in 1746; in 1811 it became the offices of the Westminster Commissioner for Works for Sewers and the offices of Chief Engineer Sir Joseph Bazalgette who is celebrated for modernising London’s pipework.
True, it has had a colourful history but is now the neighbourhood of choice for those looking for good food and a rejuvenating cocktail, and Bó Drake provides both in unique fashion. It has a layout typical of restaurants in the area: a narrow frontage but sweeping back to provide more intimate tables away from the bar.
Bó Drake has an urban vibe with high stools at the bar, exposed brickwork and metal conduit. And it’s an impressive bar of around 10 metres with an iroko (African teak) wood counter. The shelves behind the bar give a hint to the cuisine (as if the restaurant name had not already). Bottles of Sake and Baijiu stand in exotic ranks. Baijiu is also known as shaojiu and is a Chinese alcoholic spirit made from grain and generally between 40 and 60% ABV. Think vodka and you will have the idea.
Cocktails are evidently popular here. Regulars, and there seem many, were ordering a cocktail or two along with a brace of small dishes. I ordered a Starman – strawberry or raspberry, soju and vodka with a garnish of basil. A blush pink confection with well-balanced flavours. Soju is Korea’s most popular alcoholic beverage with an ABV of between 7% and 45%.
My guest has a more masculine taste in cocktails and he chose Rye in the Tyne – rye whiskey, Antica Formula, Luxardo and camomile bitters. Antica Formula is a red vermouth made with white wine; Luxardo is an Italian fruit liqueur. It sounded like a doubtful preparation but in reality it was a pleasing, manly cocktail.
The menu here changes frequently with seasonality and availability. Dishes arrived as they came from the kitchen rather than being offered in Western style, by course. We started our grazing with Crispy Kimbab of Salmon, Stick Soy and Kewpie Mayo. Kewpie Mayonnaise is the most popular mayonnaise in Japan and is a yellower and richer mayonnaise than the majority of European ones, and made with rice vinegar. This was an outstanding dish and one which I can recommend as a must-try at Bó Drake!
Pork Belly Bao is classic, and ubiquitous across Chinese restaurants around the capital. This version of these Asian steamed buns at Bó Drake is perhaps the best I have had. It isn’t the cheapest but the substantial portion of meat makes it well worth the price. The pork was succulent and full of flavour. Order one serving of 2 buns to share, along with other small plates, or keep the whole thing to yourself as a decent lunch. The bun is garnished with pickled cucumber which cuts the richness of the meat marvellously. A winner, and moreish.
I love eating eel in Japanese restaurants so Unagi Japche – Smoked Eel, Pesto, Garlic Cream and Noodles – was a definite for me. The noodles were green with herb, and glistening. The eel had a mahogany sheen like a savoury lacquer. A fusion showcasing both traditional and contemporary, and of both Eastern and Western ingredients.
Rice Cakes are typically Korean. These are not cakes of rice like Japanese onigiri but they are more like a savoury and sturdy motchi and in this case served with a syrup of honey and chilli. A bowl of these would be ideal nibbles with a side of chilled beer.
Other dishes on our menu for that evening included a mildly spiced Kimchee pancake, and a dessert of Yuzu tart which was tangy and light. The menu changes frequently so some of the above-mentioned might not be available. I guess that’s an excuse for a return visit.
Bó Drake is open for lunch and dinner
Monday – Thursday: Noon – 14:30 and 17:30 – 23:00
Friday: Noon – 14:30 and 17:30 – 24:00
Saturday: Noon – 24:00
Sunday: Noon – 21:00
6 Greek Street
London W1D 4DE
Phone: 020 7439 9989
Visit Bó Drake here
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018