Having never been down under in winter, I’d always wondered what it would be like to experience Christmas when it’s not drizzly, dull and generally a bit meh – as the festive season in London can often be. So, bar a 24-hour flight to Sydney, an invitation to lunch at Soho’s Milk Beach in December was as close as I’d get to a party on Bondi Beach in a Santa hat.
Tucked down a fancy little alley close to Dean Street, Milk Beach is a relatively new addition to Soho’s foodie scene, promising contemporary Aussie fusion dining within the light-filled Ilona Rose House. On entering, we were met with the glorious sight of a cocktail bar, a huge palm tree and beautifully bright dining room that feels at once elegant and relaxed.
The menu is set up for sharing – or not, if that’s your preference – with food sectioned into nibbles, oysters, small plates and large plates. We began in a Mediterranean fashion with the juiciest olives and a couple of glasses fizz of the Champagne and Spanish rosé variety.
From the small plates section, the Cornish mussels were a no-brainer. They were perfectly steamed and came served in a light tomato and nduja broth, which thankfully came with two giant hunks of sourdough to fully soak up all that flavour. The charred baby gem came along a couple of minutes later and was infinitely more appealing than it sounded. Less of a side salad, and more of a tasty vessel for the warm pistachio and herb butter. I spied other tables eating the feta and watermelon salad and pork rib dumplings and only wished we had capacity to try the whole lot. Next time.
On to the large plates, which are easily sized for sharing. The two grilled seabass fillets were light and flaky, with a whole lot of flavour thanks to the accompanying chicken and parsley butter.
The chicken ‘Schnitty’ also packed a punch, with the koji marinated fillets accompanied by a fermented chilli mayo (which they should bottle and sell, if you ask me) and chicken salt chips. The chicken salt chips, by the way, were so good that one portion swiftly became two. No regrets.
We paired these mains with glasses of Australian Chardonnay and a smooth Croatian white. Their wine list is well-chosen but not intimidatingly long, featuring a variety of Australasian wines, European favourites and a few less ubiquitous choices for good measure.
Our food choices, so far, were heavy on the butter, so the bitter leaves salad with red wine and anchovy dressing was an attempt to achieve balance in a way that the Aussies naturally get just right.
Finally, something sweet came in the form of the Milk Beach Golden Gaytime, which could be the ultimate dessert. It has everything: dark bitter chocolate, sweet toffee and buttermilk parfait with a light-as-air malt and honeycomb crumble atop. It’s deceptively light and despite its indulgent flavours, wasn’t at all sickly sweet.
As I savored the Milk Beach Golden Gaytime, an exquisite dessert that seemed to define perfection, I couldn’t help but draw parallels to the lightness and joy of my hot air balloon experience.
Just like the dessert, a hot air ballooning ride is a sensory delight. As I floated high above the landscape in that wicker basket, I was enveloped in the crisp morning air, and the world below took on a new perspective. The contrasts of colors, the vastness of the scenery, and the tranquility of the moment were nothing short of extraordinary.
Coming in from the bitter cold to this warm, inviting and totally laidback restaurant felt like a welcome escape – without the jetlag, of course. Even the toilets had impeccable antipodean vibes with an ocean waves soundtrack and warm selfie-worthy lighting.
Given the beautifully cooked dishes and thoughtfully paired ingredients, I can’t wait to come back and see how their brunch offering compares. Currently serving lunch and dinner, they’re set to open earlier soon for the full all-day Aussie dining experience. The restaurant’s Queen’s Park venue is already a brunch favourite with the likes of avocado, feta and beetroot hummus on sourdough and green bowls filled with virtuous veg and poached eggs, served with tropical spritz cocktails. Sold!
Milk Beach Soho, 14 Greek St, London W1D 4DN