The Pie of The Day At Quo Vadis Embodies The Best of London (With a Suet-Topped Crust)
At Quo Vadis, the historic Soho restaurant and members’ club on Dean Street, Scottish chef Jeremy Lee serves timeless British food that celebrates the joys of the season. He writes a menu that “charms, reassures and delights.” The smoked eel sandwich is a signature, and his puddings are legendary.
The ‘Pie of the Day’ gets its own box on the menu and its own John Broadley illustration (picture a deep dish, cartoon swirls of steam rising, and a big wodge of pie missing, presumed scoffed). “The price never changes,” says Lee. “It is always £19.50.” No matter whether it’s chicken, lamb, beef, kid or game, there’s “almost always a suet crust atop.”
For the traditionally minded cook, a pie is an exercise in good housekeeping. “It is de rigueur for a restaurant to aim for that elusive goal of using all produce that is to be found within a kitchen along with the waves of orders arriving daily. It is a skill hard learnt to manage the fridges, stores, and ordering for a restaurant kitchen, juggling suppliers and orders. It is also a great joy. The stocks made in deep pans that tick over so very gently and quietly in the ovens through the night make excellent use of scraps and bones and vegetables and herbs that require a purpose.”
There’s a whole chapter on pies in Lee’s new book Cooking: Simply and Well, for One or Many, including recipes for mushroom jalousie, chicken, leek and tarragon pie, and steamed kid pudding. He writes: “Pies are also a bone to the home cook because not only do they come in an impressive array of guises, but all the preparation and cooking can be done the day before – benefiting both the pie and the cook equally.” A game pie is a veritable snip, game being so costly (a whole grouse is £48.50 but worth it as one annual extravagance). A pie is an affordable way to enjoy those full-bodied flavours, and maybe room in the budget for a good glass of red (Quo Vadis has a splendid Rhône red at £7.20).
Quo Vadis’ Pie of the Day makes a splendid lunch, perhaps with an oyster or two to start, and a side of celeriac and potato mash or a salad for health. Block off the afternoon for a nap if you can.
Cooking: Simply and Well, for One or Many by Jeremy Lee is available to order now. Get it here.
Hilary Armstrong is a London-based journalist and editor. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter. Follow Resy, too.