My nearest and dearest school friend Zoe and I were horribly overdue a catch up. It had been so long that we needed to do it right. I had heard many good things about Mildred’s plus, of course, trusty tripadvisor reviews assured me that my friends weren’t exaggerating. To top it off, the menu also sounded right up both of our streets (i.e. I knew that she wouldn’t complain about visiting a somewhat ‘healthy’ restaurant… that doesn’t serve meat), so that is the venue I chose for our girly date.
It’s fair to say that most decent up-and-coming restaurants nowadays, particularly those located in the self-proclaimed uber-cool Soho area, are more than eager to take part in the growing trend of not taking reservations. Although, I suppose, this is preferable to the extreme alternative of only being able to book Sushi Samba for dinner at 4:30pm on a Wednesday 2 months in advance, it is still somewhat annoying when trying to plan an evening around a dinner venue. Nevertheless, I decided that the hype was worth checking out so rolled up at 6:15pm last Saturday evening in the hope of bagging a table around 7:30pm. The hoard of people waiting spilled out of the small restaurant into the street, blocking the pavement entirely.
Service: I managed to squeeze my way through the packed crowd that filled the tiny bar area to the front, where I finally came face-to-face with the only person that matters in a restaurant these days; the lady with the iPad.
As she asked for my name whilst looking over my shoulder and telling me that there was an hour and a half wait, my first impression was that she was incredibly rude. Since she had not asked for my contact details I re-drew her attention as she began to turn away from me, and enquired why she had not asked for my phone number so as to be able to inform me when the table was ready. I was told simply that I could wait in the bar for my name to be called. This was the first time I have visited a restaurant that does not take reservations and been told that I actually have to wait in the restaurant; if Mildred’s wants this concept to work I really suggest that they expand their claustrophobic bar area!
I decided to take the risk and met Zoe at a lovely pub nearby for a drink (or two), making our way back to Mildred’s 5 minutes before I had been told our table would be ready. I managed to track down the lady that I had spoken with earlier and asked her how much longer it would be until we were seated. She told me that she had already called my name and that we would need to wait another 20 minutes for a table, but this time around she was much more engaging and friendly, genuinely seeming sympathetic to our situation and telling us that she would do her best to make the wait short. Not that Zoe or I really minded waiting a little longer at this point anyway; we were in high spirits having a good chin-wag. After 10 minutes or so, the all-important-lady beckoned us to a table, smiling and apologising for the wait; she managed to completely change my opinion of her into one that was really very positive and accommodating! I think she may just have been a little flustered with the understandably irritated and impatient hopeful diners all wanting a piece of her (me included).
During our meal we had two servers, both of whom were extremely busy running around the small restaurant, but never left our water carafe unfilled or empty plates loitering. The service overall was actually very good, particularly under the circumstances.
Ambience: I think that this is definitely something that Mildred’s could improve on. I think I’ve made my feelings on the cramped bar pretty clear, but the restaurant itself really needs an injection of atmosphere. The only thing it currently has going for it is the buzz of chatty diners that fill every available chair.
Other than that, the harsh, bright lighting and cheap plastic-like white table tops don’t do much for the décor.
In my humble opinion, the pale olive green booth seats are rather dated and look a little tacky, whilst the alternative wooden school chairs don’t exactly exude comfort. The bizarre mismatched collection of artwork that adorns the walls fits the casual, hippie vibe that I believe the restaurant & menu is built on, but I don’t think a little more thought into the overall collection would go amiss. At the end of the day, so long as Mildred’s remains as crazy popular as it currently is, there is no incentive for them to splash their cash on aesthetics; however, if they’re in it for the long game and want to deliver the whole package to their guests, I think that they would do well to improve the restaurant’s interior.
Having said all of that, there is, however, a rather stunning ‘sun roof’ (I don’t know what to call it, but you know what I mean… like in cars) in the ceiling in the centre of the restaurant, allowing natural light to flood in on a gorgeous sunny day. Obviously I did not reap the benefits of this fixture, seeing as Zoe and I went on a cold, dark evening in March, but I can imagine that it would really brighten the mood and lift the restaurant during any lunchtime or summer’s day (as you can see from the picture I have included below, which was not taken by me).
All in all, the décor and ambience just about passes in the day as a place for a quick bite to eat, but it is no venue for a romantic or celebratory meal, such as ours:
Mildred’s definitely relies on the quality of its food to bag the punters, so let’s hope it stays strong on that front! Zoe and I settled in at our teeny table and ordered a fitting bottle of bubbly to celebrate our long-awaited catch-up.
I was glad to see that I can still get the gorgeous girl chuckling!
Food: This is where Mildred’s shone. Despite being a vegetarian restaurant, there is an abundance of appetising options and cool combinations to satisfy even the manliest carnivore. The times really have changed from when being a vegetarian meant eating only rabbit food, tofu and stacks of carbs! Zoe and I thought lots of dishes on the menu sounded scrumptious, but ended up choosing the Thai tofu fritters with mango, coconut and chilli sauce (£6.50), and gyoza dumplings with mirin and soy dipping sauce (£6.50) to start. We are both massively into our Asian food so these options really appealed, and we had high expectations, which I’m pleased to say were very much met!
The fritters were exceptional, providing a nice crispy crunch and a fluffy filling. They were flavoursome and light, despite being fried. However, the mango, coconut and chilli sauce was what really tied the overall dish together, bringing a cooling, creamy and refreshing aspect to every bite. I could probably (/definitely) just drink a gallon of the sauce on its own if I’m honest; it was that good! The fritters and dipping sauce were truly a match made in heaven.
The gyoza’s were also good, with the doughy exterior being the right thickness and fried just the perfect amount, so that they had a slight crunch and were not at all gloopy in the mouth. However, Zoe and I agreed that we would have liked some meat tucked inside them as, although the vegetables were tasty enough, the gyoza’s were just lacking something for us. The highlight, again, was the sauce! It was thick for a soy sauce and rather sweet, more akin to teriyaki, and was bloomin’ delicious.
For mains we shared the fresh tortellini filled with pumpkin and ricotta, with chestnut mushroom, white wine cream sauce, drizzled with truffle oil (£10.75), and the lentil, chickpea and mixed squash tagine with pickled lemon and date couscous and spiced yoghurt (£10.00). The tortellini was exquisite. The pasta was cooked very al dente (which I am personally a big fan of), with a dense & rich package of pumpkin and ricotta within, which had the most delightful texture. The mushroom and cream sauce was amazing, and plentiful (which, again, I was very grateful for), and the hunks of floating mushroom were nice and crunchy. The dish was heavy both in taste and hip width, so the portion size was just right so as to leave you satisfied without being bloated or feeling lethargic. Having said that, Zoe and I were feasting, so this dish was just a drop in the ocean for our night at Mildred’s.
The tagine, on the other hand, was definitely the let down of the night. Considering it was probably the dish that we both felt most strongly about ordering, and felt certain that we would like, we enjoyed it the least of our numerous courses. The tagine itself was very bland, and there was far too much carb in the dish, with an overwhelming pile of fairly tasteless and dry couscous; undercooked butternut squash; overcooked pita; with lentils and chickpeas taking up 80% of the plate.
It was a bit of a shame as there were loads of other delicious sounding items on the menu that we could just as easily have chosen and most likely would have enjoyed far more.
But as mutual lovers of sweet potato errrythang, we went wild and also got a side of the wonderful carb; sweet potato fries with chipotle and mayo (£3.75). Now these were pretty damn mind-blowing, and totally made up for the tagine letdown. They were hands down the best sweet potato fries that I have EVER had… (although perhaps not better than mine). The fries had the most amazing texture and they were cooked to absolute perfection. Although, what gave the fries that next level edge was the dips that they came with. Oh my goodness – so, yes, the food at Mildred’s was good, but the sauces were phenomenal and the star of every plate for me. As a self-confessed sauce addict and, thus, (I like to think) slight connoisseur, that is up there with one of the best compliments that I could ever give a restaurant. The chipotle dip was tasty, with a strong tomato flavor and slight zing, whilst the basil mayo was the most sensational possible condiment for the fries. Zoe and I emptied the pot within a matter of seconds and had to ask for another; I really can’t explain how good the texture and flavours of these two things were together – heavenly. I am 100% going to try to re-create the basil mayo at home so watch this space for a blog post coming your way soon! If you get a chance to go to Mildred’s, get the sweet potato fries. End of.
We were pretty damn full at this point having consumed some fairly heavy dishes washed down with half a bottle of bubbly each, so I couldn’t blame Zoe for passing up dessert. But hopefully you have begun to realise by now that I am never one to turn my nose up at dessert (we have a savoury and sweet stomach after all, right?!), plus when it’s being promoted as ‘healthy,’ there is surely no sin involved? I chose the maple pecan pie with vanilla ice cream (£6.50), which was a generous portion and reasonably tasty. If I’m totally honest it was just good; there definitely wasn’t anything special about it. It lacked that strong, real sweetness that one expects from a maple and pecan pie, and I must admit that I found the texture ever so slightly bewildering, with a mushy, ‘bitti-ness’ to it. If I’m being super picky, then the pastry was also a little under-baked too, but that didn’t bother me so much. At the end of the day I mopped the whole lot up with the good quality vanilla ice-cream and caramel that had been drizzled over my slice of pie, so it was more than edible.
Price: The total bill, including service, came to £84.38 for 2 starters, 2 mains, 1 side, 1 dessert and a bottle of the ‘Sorelle Bronco – Prosecco (Valdobbiadene, Italy)’ (£31.00). I think this is great value, bearing in mind that we chose the most expensive bottle of alcohol on the menu, for a super trendy restaurant in the heart of Soho. Their pricing is definitely on point, both in terms of competitiveness and for the quality of the food, so I rate them highly for that.
If you’re a meat eater and fancy trying something a little different (and delicious), then I couldn’t recommend Mildred’s more highly. If you’re a veggie, then you’re going to love it! But I would recommend going at lunch to get a better impression of the interior, benefit from the ‘sun roof’ and, hopefully, avoid the horrific waiting system. And remember, if you do go, ditch the tagine and GET THE FRIES! I hope you enjoy.