My mother has a theory about eating out in London. She says what people are paying for is the ‘seat’ not the food, thus it follows it be terribly bad form to order anything less than a three-course meal with wine. My husband disagrees. He argues people should be able to order whatever they want, be it a solitary starter, a cluster of salad leaves or a soupcon of something elegant and refined. After all, if a restaurant is doing badly, it will be grateful for the business no matter how paltry and if it’s doing well, well, then it can afford to host diminutive eaters. It was on this basis that we booked a table for four at Manzi’s, the snazzy new seafood restaurant from the people behind The Wolseley.

The plan was sound. We would ‘go small’. My mother would order the Moules marinière, I’d have a starter (maybe two) and the two alpha-males would order man-size mains.

Best laid plans.

We got there, sank a round of cocktails and while I was in the loo, someone ordered the Manzi’s Plateau. Now the Manzi’s Plateau, fair reader, is neither diminutive nor paltry. It’s a towering silver ice-dish of oysters, Atlantic prawns, steamed whelks, mussels and Palourde clams, the likes of which you only see in grand Parisian brasseries of old. We’d veered off-piste so early, there was no hope for us getting back on track. After devouring a large percentage of the ‘plateau’, my father put down his napkin and declared the seafood too cold. How seafood resting on a bed of ice can be too cold, I will never know but “borderline frozen” were his actual words.

Remind me why I invited my parents to this meal? Oh yes. Back in the seventies my father, an ad-man, used to entertain clients at Manzi’s and I thought it might be fun to get his take this new incarnation. The only problem was, he couldn’t remember anything about the old Manzi’s except that it was ‘excellent’.

Our starters arrived: fried violet artichokes with parsley & lemon gremolata – sizzling-hot, crisp and utterly moreish; leeks mimosa – traditional, smooth, immaculately presented. Unswervingly, my mother stuck to the plan and ordered Moules marinière, demolishing the entire cauldron without looking up before announcing loudly: “a traditional Moules marinière would never have cream in it.”

Both my father and I opted for the smoked haddock soufflé. It hit all the right marks: rich, golden, crusty, oozy, fluffy, creamy and deeply comforting; gem lettuce with French vinaigrette providing a burst of acidity on the side. My husband’s Cioppino fish stew with charred sourdough and saffron aioli was equally belly-warming and had a more rustic appeal. The rich Italian tomatoey base begging to be soaked up with bread.

As good as the food is, it was pictures of the interiors that initially made me want to dine here. Irreverent’, ‘playful’ and ‘kitsch’ are a some of the words Steven Saunders, co-founder of Fabled Studio, uses to describe the new Manzi’s. Blousy blue-check curtains dress the windows lending a cosy feel while a palette of oceanic blues contribute waves of calm. Nautical nods abound: knotted rope lampshades, scalloped chairbacks, delicate coral fringing and vintage silver crabs providing vessels for salt and pepper.

While most of the patrons stop to ogle the giant taxidermy marlin hanging at the entrance – an homage to Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and The Sea – I found myself drawn to the restaurant’s doorhandles (various sea creatures sculpted in aged brass). Upstairs, life-size statues of mermaids prop up the bar. Be sure to take a look.

By the time we got round to perusing the dessert menu, my father had regained his memory (jolted in part by the patient restaurant manager). “Ahh yes, those red-checked tablecloths… Such a wonderful place. Used to take clients there every Friday for posh fish and chips. Manzi’s was always excellent.”

Though we barely had space for a langues des chat, we ordered the Arctic roll with raspberry purée (very creamy and very sweet) and a plate of giant brandy snaps (very sticky and very sweet) and managed to clear the lot with childish grins on our faces.

What can I tell you? Tucked down a narrow alley in central Soho, Manzi’s is a lighthouse for theatre-weary Londoners. The atmosphere is delightful. The service is on point. The food had us sailing out on a cloud of bonhomie. Put simply, Manzi’s is magic.

Manzi’s, 8 Bateman’s buildings, Soho, London W1D 3EN. For information including details of Manzi’s prix fixe menu, Mother’s Day dining options, and to reserve a table, please visit or email