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Souk Medina WC2
Location, location and location - if anything, restaurants are even more subject to the estate agents' mantra than houses. Unless a particular establishment is very grand (think Gordon Ramsay in Chelsea) or has the potential to be a fashionable magnet in its own right (Hakkasan, say), a wise restaurateur will usually want to 'cluster' with other similar operations.
The history of this obscure site (on the fringe of Covent Garden) lends further support to this cluster theory. It never seems to have found a formula that's worked for long, and has often lain 'dark' for long periods.
The site's new tenants - who also own nearby Souk Bazaar near the Ivy - have, however, had a brilliant idea, and realised that they can make a virtue of its obscure location and higgledly-piggledy configuration. These aspects now just add 'authenticty' to the Moroccan souk-style townhouse (or riad) as which the place is now got up.
The result is a sort of down-market Momo. No disrespect, mind: the newcomer comes with a lot less 'attitude' than the famous restaurant-cum-nitespot off Regent Street, and is quite a lot cheaper too.
The food isn't art, but seemed better - at least in these early days - than at its elder sibling. One of the joys of the place is that you can budget pretty accurately in advance. The set menu is £17.50 a head (£15 at lunchtime), and covers everything from your mixed starters to the mint tea and pastries, taking in a variety of tageens and other main-course dishes on the way. Even if you sink a bottle of the house vino per head, you could still have a meal here for around £30 a head. There aren't many other festive-looking venues in the West End about which you can say that.
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