Love Caravan? Looking for a similar take on world cuisines, but in a more formal dinner setting? You’ll want to book a table at Vardo. From Caravan’s three well-travelled antipodean founders, this elegant addition to Sloane Street has adopted the slogan ‘no boundaries’ as its mantra and focuses on the influences from along the Silk Road route – ‘Vardo’ is the Romany word for a typical gypsy caravan. Expect bold flavours, vibrant ingredients and a few surprises.
…is frankly beautiful. Set in a newly built rotunda in front of the Saatchi Gallery in Duke of York Square, the glass walls blur the outside and your dining space, creating a light-filled, spacious pavilion that reflects Vardo’s mantra. When we went in October, the first set of winter fairy lights had just been installed in the trees outside, which made for a magical autumn view – but this space will also make a glorious lightbox in the summer. This is West London people-watching with style.
Vardo offers all-day-dining, with breakfasts that include green baked eggs served with spinach, yoghurt, flat breads and refried beans – as well as coffee from Caravan’s own roastery in King’s Cross.
At lunch and dinner, the mains are built around statement pieces that are designed to share: we loved the Thai-flavoured whole crispy sea bass, served with a sticky sauce, fresh herbs and a sprinkling of peanuts. Pairing this with vegetables was not as easy as it looked, because each dish has its own distinct herbs and spices – nothing on this menu is very plain. But this is the delight of Vardo: it’s genuinely a journey without rules, and so we threw a few more countries at it. Roasted squash with feta and mint? Fried parmesan polenta with pickled portobello mushrooms? Don’t ask me how, but it worked. Hell, we even started with jamon and san simon cheese croquettes, and Garam Masala labneh with flatbread. Traditionalists, stay away.
Continuing the Silk Road concept, the cocktail list is well thought out and each drink has a relevant backstory. My Bhang Sour (gin, hemp, peach, apricot, citrus and egg white foam) gives a nod to the first cultivation of Bhanga hemp in 10,000 BCE and its trade along the route for religious ceremonies. But if cocktails are not your thing, you’ll find a well-rounded wine list alongside beers from London and Suffolk breweries.
Expect to pay £50-80 per person for a starter, shared main, side dish, dessert, drinks and a very full stomach.
A classy world concept in a stunning location where every dish takes you on a journey.
Vardo, 9 Duke of York Square, Duke of York Restaurant, SW3 4LY; vardorestaurant.co.uk