Far from a mainstay

A review of Princi in Soho

 

Alan Yau OBE is a restaurateur who opts to have bouncers outside his restaurants. On Tuesday evening in the company of two foodie friends, I had the misfortune as to learn why.

 

Best known for founding the bland Wagamama chain in 1992 and also for owning such places as Hakkasan and Yauatcha, one reviewer named Juliet Shields described Yau’s Soho restaurant, Princi, as a place “you can easily miss”. In my case, I truly wish my friend had never suggested it as here indeed we were fed quite possibly the worst pizza I’ve ever tasted and here also, we were subjected to the worst service known to man.

 

Princi, 135 Wardour Street, London, W1F 0UT
Princi, 135 Wardour Street, London, W1F 0UT

The interior of Princi is cold and uninviting
The interior of Princi is cold and uninviting

Princi’s logo is captioned “Spirito Di Milano” but there’s not much of that here. Instead, on arrival, one encounters a burly bouncer and the least friendly staff you could possibly imagine. The decoration is modern and clinical and whilst some rave about the on-site bakery, the pizzas – priced between £7.50 and £12.50 – we attempted to eat were cold and plastic like in texture.

 

Having reported our distaste to their management without any success, my French friend – himself a former restaurant owner – confronted the chef to explain what was wrong with what they attempted to describe as food. His reaction was simple: A bouncer was called over and we were told to leave. This was not the conduct one would expect in a restaurant. It was more like an eviction from the Big Brother house.

 

The blogger Hollow Legs stated: “I’ve never liked Princi much”. She is right in that regard but I will go further: This is the very worst restaurant I’ve ever been to in London, if not the world. Do not make our mistake. Do not try it.

 

Princi, 135 Wardour Street, Soho, London, W1F 0UT. Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7478 8888.

 

 

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50 COMMENTS

  1. No surprise to learn it belongs to the ‘Hakkasan’ group. I’ve been to one of their branches lately, the ‘Sake no hana’ and ordered the ‘signature menu’ in order to make everything right, as nobody recommended me something. When the main course arrived, I had to call for the manager as I wasn’t able to chew and swallow the totally shoe-sole-cooked meat. And asked for something else to eat instead. The reply of the manager was: “Well, I wouldn’t have ordered that in the first place!” the Signature menu? Right….

  2. It’s a bakery and pizzeria, not a restaurant, and other than the 50% shared ownership by Alan Yau, Princi is entirely independent of any other of his enterprises.

    It is not, as one commenter has said, part of the Hakkasan group – an entity that Alan Yau hasn’t had any involvement in for 4 years.

    How obnoxious of your friend to insult the staff by telling them how they should be cooking food to your taste. Maybe you shouldn’t drink so much then you won’t get kicked out of so many places.

    • 1. I found many references describing it as a “restaurant” actually.
      2. Not really interested in ownership split but they promote the Alan Yau connection so they should take the knocks.
      3. Comment about Hakkasan group ditto.
      4. My friend did not “insult” the staff. He purely complained about awful food.
      5. You have no knowledge of what we drank and it was simply because of our complaint about food that they turfed us out so rudely.

    • This cannot be THE John Simpson….on the vast amounts of money this mountain of pomposity makes it’s unlikely he would be dining at such a ghastly place. Though looking at the size of this huge lump of lard I am doubtless wrong and he loves his pizza

    • John that’s absurd, if the customer doesn’t like the food, and has an idea of how it could be improved, then why shouldn’t they engage with the staff and/or management on the subject. How else will they provide feedback?

      In any case I won’t be visiting. The only other time I saw bouncers at a ‘restaurant’ was at McDonalds at 2am on tottenham court road.

  3. Even worse, authentic wood fire pizza are polluting machine, hence why there is not much of them in London, Princi are lucky to have one and all they could manage is a cold plastic pizza, amazing.

  4. I had a good meal there once. Very surprised to hear such comments but places do slip. Didn’t like the door bouncer though. Very inappropriate. It’s not a nightclub.

  5. The Reverend Flowers is probably one of their satisfied customers. I once dined at a sea food restaurant in Nairobi, the catch of the day was Hepatitis. I have eaten in some shitholes in my time. I would probably give them a raving review.

  6. I like Princi. It’s my London favourite. It’s wonderful and joyful and I can’t understand you people whingeing about it like this? What do you expect? This restaurant is fun and you lot are just showing you’ve got lower standards than even the Daily Mail readership. SERIOUSLY.

    • Yah, yah, yah, blah, blah, blah… Nicky – Learn some manners. What a tedious comment. Matthew – I am surprised you let this through but you are open to all so fair enough. I’d not put up with this on my blog.

    • Dear Nicky. Did you actually red what happened? Throwing out customers with the help of a bouncer? What a ‘fun restaurant’. A paying customer usually expect anything but this. And constructive critique is something a restauranteur should be happy with, rather than unhappy customers who quietly leave and never return. But since they are not restauranteurs who seem to value this openness, they ought to learn it the hard and rough way. Hence the bouncer they hire.

    • Sex at the Post
      You are a clear and present danger to young girls. You need a course of libido suppressing medicaments or maybe the solution is castration. I think Chaim would suggest the latter

  7. This review would seem to underline what you’re saying.

    “When Princi opened in Wardour Street the concept was one that appealed to me. Two large counters filled to bursting point with freshly made food, including: a mixed bag of continental desserts and patisseries, salads, just out of the oven artisan breads and hot Italian staples: lasagne, gnocchi and the like.

    What�s more it�s supported by Alan Yau. Surely this concept could not fail?

    Well when you employ staff who are so obnoxious it makes my head hurt and bakers that believe the main ingredient for bread making is salt the waters become a little murkier.

    It was just satisfactory when I first went years ago but on a return (and certainly my last) visit with the Friend (f) I encountered ineptitude of perplexing proportions.

    The food counter appears to act as a portal to a parallel universe. On one side customers are bunched together trying desperately to order, on the other waiters and waitresses glare moodily past you as if all they can see is tumbleweed sauntering by. My exacerbation levels rose as myself and others tried to get a waiter�s attention, he pointedly ignored us; too busy preening himself in the shadows. The friend pointing to a focaccia asks what the topping is, �vegetables� comes the curt reply.

    Then if you�re lucky to find a seat, this being the sort of place where a request for a diner to move her Mulberry handbag from a free seat will be met with a rolling eyes and tutting, the food is the next to disappoint.

    The gnocchi was far too creamy and way too stodgy, which for something already so carb heavy is an achievement. The focaccia was baked with enough salt to preserve it for a hundred years; mine was topped with some salty, salty parma ham and a slither of cheese. The desserts (we had tiramisu this time) let�s be honest are pedestrian, masquerading by presentation as gourmet. The dessert chef believing that just adding more cream is the way to reverse himself out of a culinary cul-de-sac.

    If you want tasty pizza pop over to the affable guys at Pizza Pilgrims on Berwick Street or for inventive, professionally made desserts head to Yauatcha; what�s more over the road Gail�s Bakery offers a variety of well-presented breads. Better yet if you want to experience authentic Italian tastes head to Italy!

    Ultimately with horrendous service and mediocre food Princi is basically redundant.”

    As a general rule, amateur reviews of restaurants are appalling and best left to professionals. Amateurs tend to over-mark – for example giving a place 10/10. Serious foodies mark out of 20 with 1/2 point scales. I well recall making some notes at the very first British Academy of Gastronomes lunch at Chez Nico in about 1982. As the youngest member, Egon Ronay had asked me to comment. Johnny Apple Jr (RIP), then Bureau Chief of the New York Times in London and an avid and very very knowledgeable foodie, was sitting next to me. He said, “I see you mark out of 20 too, but are you tough enough?” “I hope so,” I replied. “Well, 18 is my top mark,” he ventured. I enquired why that was and he said: “Well 19 would have to be the last supper and 20 I would clearly be in heaven.” On my scale, 13/20 is a single Michelin star type restaurant and 17 is three stars. I’ve very rarely given 19 and never 20. The best meal in my gastronomic life was at Freddy Giradet’s in Switzerland and that merited 19.5. Gordon Ramsay’s eponymous restaurant got a 19/20 – Heston Blumental’s nonsense has never got more than 14 in my three visits.

    So, why do you go with some foodies to a pizzeria and expect good things? Pizzas are nothing more than peasant food but good and wholesome in their right place and time. The best I have had in the UK are at Pizzeria Rustica about 100 yards from Richmond Station in The Quadrant. Pizza Express is now crap, and has been ever since Peter Boizot stopped running it. But, if you really want a good pizza, one has to go to Naples in Italy – the home of pizza, as any right minded Italian will tell you.

    • Dear Michael, I couldn’t more agree with you, but the reason we went there was the fact that many people are hyping this place so we thought we should find out ourself what it is that many believe to be so great about it. And our findings were quite simple: it is overhyped beyond belief.

      • It’s always uncivilised little brats like you who accuse others, with good taste, of being snobs….whatever that might mean. Lift your standards and stop being tedious.
        Peel talks from an obvious position of knowledge, taste and refinement. You sound just common.

  8. Michael Peel has hit the hammer on the nail with his subjective evaluation of the situation, and concluded with a accurate point of view. Domino’s Buy one get one free, if you order online, is just the ticket. The quality of their pizza’s meet required standards. Alan Yau can stick his cold plastic pizza’s up his asshole, in my humble opinion of course. We demand value for money.

      • Agata is in denial and making use of defence mechanisms because she is unable to admit the obvious truth. Agata is utilizing her defence mechanisms as a weapon to protect herself against critique. She obviously has a personal interest in the establishment under discussion. She denies the existence of the truth because it is to uncomfortable to cope with. It is not healthy to bury your head in the sand like a ostrich and pretend there is no problem, rather grab the bull by the horns and deal with the complaints. Agata can’t go through life talking with a forked tongue. Don’t deny it, do something about it.

  9. How very dare you call yourself a critic when you write such utter nonsense about Princi. The atmosphere is jolly, the “bouncer” (who is just a doorman, just like they have at The Wolesely actually) is pleasant and kind and the food is excellent. You and your pretentious “foodie friends” don’t have a clue. You should hold your pathetic heads in shame. Morons.

  10. To compare some pizza dump in Wardour St with one of London’s finest restaurants shows you at least have a sense of humour….. even if you cannot spell the name of the Wolseley….you ignorant fellow, you.

      • You mean Peter Wayde? Yes, that is generally my custom. And what on earth is a doily? I always understand it was rather a faux pas to talk of these very Mrs Bucket type items

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