"Comfortable non-stop dining on the Fulham Road"Review Rating: Reviewed by Matthew B
It’s ‘the City that never sleeps!’ That’s what they say about London. Oh hang on, no, that’s New York isn’t it? London goes to bed after the pubs kick out, which is still usually before midnight even with the relaxation of the licensing laws. It seems London publicans got a bit too used to the early closing times enforced during WWII (to stop bomb-makers getting too drunk and being unable to make those bombs properly in the factory the next day).
Past closing time, the options for the night-owl reduce drastically: a few late night bars, kebab shops, private members’ clubs (if you are minted), dubious lock-ins at your local, and that’s about it. I remember a 24 hour milkshake bar called Tinseltown in Farringdon that clubbers used to go to, and more recently we’ve seen the high profile opening of Duck & Waffle
in the Heron Tower on Bishopsgate.
But for 17 years now VQ (Vingt Quatre - geddit?) have been ploughing their furrow through those long and lonely London nights, feeding and watering a mix of people that should really be in bed. At least that’s my guess. I wasn’t going to get at up at 4 am just to check out their wee-hours clientele, so we went at a far more civilised hour in time for brunch.
The reason it is not better known across the capital may be due in part to its location, deep down the Fulham Road just along from the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital. (Indeed, they offer 20% discount to NHS workers. The friend who came along with me is in the Met and I am informed that if you are on a night-shift this place is a lot more appealing than the local Esso garage.) But it seems well-known enough in the locale. I’m told there can be queues out the door late at night - no reservations are taken after midnight.
The place has had a recent refurb, and it’s perfectly comfortable and welcoming in a modern diner style sort of way. There’s a mix of wooden booth seating with red leather trim, canteen-style long tables in the back room, and functional and minimal grey furniture along the side wall. The bar has asymmetric beaten metal and a bar with mirror panelling, and the walls are adorned with large photographs picturing colourful local scenes: a couple waiting at a bus stop, one wearing a horse’s head; a tattooed man reading on a park bench, etc.
The menu varies according to the time of day, or night, the nocturnal menu being slightly scaled back (and slightly upped in price) with a small cover charge in addition. The breakfast menu is available 24 hours a day so we decided to plump for something from that.
My friend’s Egg Royale with salmon hit the spot, and my five-a-day smoothie was light and refreshing. Kedgeree, however, was a let-down. Never the most exciting dish visually, VQ’s effort just looked like homogenous creamy yellow rice with a poached egg on top. Initially, I thought the chef had actually forgotten to put any fish in at all. After a forensic examination with my fork I did manage to find a few small flakes of haddock, but it was a derisory amount, especially for a dish priced at £8.95 (a hefty £9.95 on the night menu).
Coffee was good quality; they make that neat swirly fern pattern in the foam of a flat-white that usually indicates they know what they’re doing, according to my coffee bluffers guide. And we were given shot glasses filled with Smarties on the side, lovely stuff.
I don’t want to be too harsh on the place because of one disappointing dish. VQ has been going strong for nearly 20 years and you don’t do that by not giving your customers what they want. I’d like to return and catch it in a different light, ideally at 4 am when there is no outside light at all…
Matthew B reviewed VQ on Wed 12 Sep 2012