Cafe Boheme is one of my very favourite places in London and I vividly remember walking through a bitterly cold Soho after my Italian class back in January 2016 to go there for something to eat. I was crestfallen to discover it had closed and it would remain closed for a 2-year refurbishment. Feeling relieved it hadn’t closed for good but still disappointed, I patiently waited a long 2-years for Cafe Boheme’s grand re-opening.
It finally re-opened after its long hiatus and as it was genuinely one of my favourite places to go for lunch or dinner, I was quite nervous about returning here. I had actually been putting it off! What if it’s changed drastically? I asked myself. What if it’s lost its charm? The decision was taken out of my hands though as my girlfriend booked us a table for my birthday. She knew how much I’d enjoyed my previous visits there and as she’d never been, she decided this past Sunday was the perfect time to go. Any fears I had disappeared from the moment I walked in. It was still the same place that I knew and loved.
One of my favourite things about Cafe Boheme before it shut wasn’t the reasonably priced, typically French bistro food, which was good; it was the atmosphere. I should probably mention that I love Paris. If it wasn’t for London, Paris would be my favourite city in the world. The history, the cafe culture and the wide-elegant boulevards make Paris a very special city. Before it closed, walking into Cafe Boheme was like stepping into Belle-Époque Paris and I was delighted to discover this was still the case.
There is a large central bar surrounded by stools, lots of dark wood seating and historic pictures casually hung on all of the walls giving the restaurant a sepia-tinged hue. The wait-staff are decked out in traditional continental wait-staff attire. The women dressed in black tops and skirts with a white apron and the men dressed in white shirts, bow ties, black trousers and waistcoats. You feel like an extra in the Woody Allen movie ‘Midnight in Paris’. You wouldn’t be entirely surprised to see Oscar Wilde or F. Scott Fitzgerald propping up the bar.
At the weekends, and I believe during the week, they have live music. This ranges from typically French accordion music, which makes you feel like you’re in the Marais, that historic and bohemian 3rd arrondissement in the heart of Paris, to Jazz music. We sat for a while listening to Edith Piaf playing softly through the speakers, enjoying the breeze from the open shutters that open out onto the street, which I believe is one of the changes made, when a Latin-Jazz combo started to play in the front of the restaurant. It was a little jarring at first after the French music but enjoyable nonetheless.
I ordered a burger and frites as this always used to be my favourite dish from here, although the Toulouse sausages were also very good, and my girlfriend ordered the same. The food turned up a short while later and it was as good as always, the fries were nicely crisp and seasoned. My girlfriend remarked that her burger was a little dry but that it was still good.The mayonnaise had a hint of French mustard about it which was an unexpected and pleasant surprise. It actually took us a few moments after several dips with the fries to work out what was different about it. We didn’t have dessert as we had somewhere else to be but the Crème Brulee in the past was always a winner. The bill came to £35 for two with a large bottle of water and service included.
Cafe Boheme is a special place. For me, there a few better places in London at this price point to sit and enjoy something to eat, a coffee or a glass of wine or a beer. Located on the always-lively Old Compton Street, it’s a wonderful spot for people watching. There always seems to be a table available and you’re never made to feel unwelcome regardless of what you order. I’ve sat before for an hour with a cup of coffee and a glass of water and wasn’t made to feel in the way or that I hadn’t ordered enough to justify my seat.
Cafe Boheme is one of those rare places where everything just comes together. The music, the atmosphere, the service. With a bit of imagination you’re transported to another time and place. If you’ve read any of my previous blog posts from the website you’ll have noticed that I’ve mentioned several times how wonderful I think London is, about how there is so much to do. You can even visit a little bit of Paris here. Ironically enough, that’s what makes London so special.
Welcome back Cafe Boheme. You were sorely missed.
Thanks for reading.
Cafe Boheme: 13 Old Compton St, Soho, London W1D 5JQ