There is nothing to indicate that La Bodega Negra (literally The Black Cellar) is a restaurant.
It’s plopped in the middle of SoHo on Old Compton Street and hides stealthily behind the façade of a sex shop, or a live peep show.
Photo: Leslie, after our afternoon of shopping that ended in four pairs of shoes in those bags she’s carrying
A bright neon sign that says “Come” entices you inside an unmarked door to be greeted by a mannequin in a mask, all dressed up bondage style with leather straps crisscrossing its body and a fake bullet belt.
From there you are welcomed inside and pointed toward a staircase that leads to the basement restaurant.
In a similar style to Gordon’s Wine Cellar, but more roomy, the walls are chipped away creating a cave-like underground atmosphere enhanced by glowing candlelight, a large collection of Tequila and décor like a wall mirror cut out in a silhouetted shape of a woman with a semi lopsided breast.
We kicked off the night with drinks, of course. As expected, Leslie made a beeline for the tequila section of the menu, which she stuck to the whole time. I chose an apricot margarita then a pear one and Carolina decided on something called a Jim & April before switching to margaritas.
The first bit of food we ordered was a Quesadilla Rustica, which was like a sauceless pizza built on a thin tortilla covered in four cheeses, roasted tomatoes and some herbs. Yum!
This is the point where I got told off for using a flash which means the rest of the food photos are pretty crap and look unappetising but, oh well – their loss. So, next we went for a round of small tacos that come in rustic looking logs with cut out slits to hold the tacos. They come in pairs. We ordered two soft shell crab, two pork belly carnitas and two braised beef. All delicious.
We shared all the food so we split two mains. The first was Pork Belly which was really tender and laid on top of beans (which I don’t like, so while the meat was good, that wasn’t my favorite).
Then the one I liked the best, which had a paella sort of vibe to it – the Mixed Seafood and Rice Cazuela. It was very delicious, full of mussels, squid and other seafood on a bed of rice but very juicy, almost like a soup.
For dessert we had churros which we were too excited about to remember to take a photo before we gobbled them up. They are lighter than usual because they are made with a waffle iron instead of deep-fried, smothered in sugar and cinnamon and with a chili chocolate dipping sauce.
With two overpriced drinks (£9.50 for a small cocktail) each, we spent between the three of us about £185.00
All in all a good night with great company, tasty food, friendly staff and a fun atmosphere apart from the couple sitting next to use who were outright bickering before storming out…which was, at least, entertaining.
La Bodega Negra fills up quick so book a day or two in advance, especially if you plan on eating around 8 or later. They let you keep your table for two hours though we managed to stretch it to two and a half. Remember you want the restaurant on Old Compton Street (not the café which is on Mare Street).
For reservations, call 0207 758 4100.
I always find it a little off-putting when I am somewhere and get “told off” for doing something, as it makes it seem a lote more precious and detracts from the atmosphere somewhat. Seems like a fun place though, and the tortilla dish is a GREAT idea
Agree on getting “told off”. You’d think they’d want nice pictures floating about as it’s much better “advertising” if you want to call it that than the dull ones that came out instead. Anyway, the food was good and we’d go back.
Here in NYC, a bodega is a grocery store, I looked it up and indeed, the first definition is “wine cellar” grocery store is way down the list at definition #4.
On a different note, I must say London food has certainly changed since the 70’s when all there was was Chinese and kebabs in the way if the dreaded “foreign” foods. You couldn’t even find a pizza. Kentucky Fried Chicken was there, too.
I agree. It’s become a lot more innovative even in the five years I’ve been here. There are always new restaurants popping up with some international cuisine or another and “celebrity chefs” have added to that dynamic as well. On a side note, NYC restaurant recommendations welcome. We were there in October and ate a wonderful meal at Sushi of Gari and will definitely be back soon.
Makes you wonder how many people who thought they were going to a ‘peep show’ place end up here by accident!.. or vice versa next door.
Cool pics !! Having lunch there tomorrow! Jc
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