London restaurants do sometimes veer towards the pretentious, but 10 Cases strips it right back to a simple premise that's executed incredibly well.
10 Cases is a cute little bistro in Covent Garden. The bold black front is eye-catching and the swirling lettering of the signage adds to its appeal. The large front windows open out in the summer months for that alfresco dining appeal and inside the décor is simple, with a white and cream colour scheme punctuated by dark wooden tables and black leather chairs. A simple bar is something of a centrepiece to the room, and the daily-changing menu is chalked up on a large blackboard each day. That’s about all, folks. Oh, except for a downstairs private dining room if you want to add a fancy edge to eating here.
Being located in the heart of tourist town means that 10 Cases does attract its fair share of out of towners. However, as a new and rather trendy central London restaurant opening, it’s also pulled in a fair few foodies looking for the city’s next big thing. The staff are incredibly welcoming to everyone, regardless from whence they came, and it’s clear to see that they want word to spread – and spreading it certainly is.
The premise of the modern European menu is simple: it changes every day to three different starters (£5-£7), three mains (£12-£15), three sides (free!) and three desserts (£4-£6).
To start the steak tartar is as good as at any of the capital's higher-end restaurants, with wonderfully fresh and perfectly seasoned beef topped with a rich egg yolk. Surprisingly light on the stomach, it’s well portioned so you don’t feel too bulked down before your main course.
For mains, the salmon steaks are a delight. Perfectly cooked so the fish flakes easily at the touch of the fork, the salmon’s natural saltiness is aided by some judicious seasoning. Served with crisp sautéed potatoes, deliciously fresh and well-wilted spinach and a simple green salad, it’s an excellent dish that’s light on the stomach but packed with flavour. Alternatively, the rolled lamb shoulder is incredibly tender with a delicate sweetness that's also been cleverly matched to their three set side dishes. It’s clear that they put a lot of thought into the combinations to keep it as simple as possible without sacrificing on quality.
For dessert, the apple tart is very well balanced with a soft, perfectly-cooked pastry and a not-too-sweet apple filling that lets the natural sweetness of the apple to shine through without becoming too sickly.
Wondering why the name of this restaurant is 10 Cases? Well, as with the menu proper, they put their emphasis on easy selection of wine too, with a choice of 10 reds and 10 whites, and 10 cases of each. When it runs out, it runs out, and they replace it with something new. And every single bottle is also available by the glass, which is excellent as you can sample more expensive bottles without forking out a small fortune. The menu itself is hand written and then photocopied and the cheapest glass is under a fiver with the most expensive coming in at closer to £10.
The Last Word
With so many fancy restaurants in the capital going one step too far, it’s good to see one that has stripped it back to basics to simply offer excellent quality and value for money.