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Vivo Bar Restaurant in Soho – Reviewed by Louise Elgin

6 Poland Street
London W1
Tel: 020 7734 3029

Vivo is an ideal central location for a good value South American evening out with mates. Situated conveniently just off Oxford Street, Vivo has two personalities - upstairs its all about dining in a relaxed atmosphere whilst downstairs is an atmospheric cocktail bar complete with music and dancing till late.

Throughout there is a bone fide Latin American atmosphere, from the Brazilian waitress to the punchy cocktail list. Upstairs the atmosphere is functional and informal - tiled walls, wooden tables and chairs, interesting low hanging lamps and plenty of candles creating intimacy. Spirited music is played and as the evening progressed it got louder which seemed to suit the ambience - I got the impression that most people were there to relax and let their hair down after the daily grind.

As this was definitely a place to drink cocktails I began with a Classic Caipirihna which is served sour with a hint of sweetness and plenty of lime - I could have drank several they were so easy to knock back. We tried several others, (purely for research purposes you understand!), including a Fruit Caipirihna, a Classic Mojito and something called a Strawberry Monkey, which apparently was sweet with a good kick of gin. There is also a short but comprehensive wine list featuring a varied and interesting selection from across the continent with plenty of choices from £12.50 a bottle upwards.

To eat, there is something for every appetite, from traditional Tapas through to steaks especially imported from South America. There are also several signature dishes and daily specials to try as well as a range of salads and burgers. We were in the mood for snacky food so Tapas seemed the perfect choice to nibble on with our cocktails. Keenly priced, we munched on a whole assortment, including: punchy chorizo sausage in red wine and parsley; fat, garlicky olives; and vegetarian empanaditas filled with spinach, pumpkin and cheese, served with soured cream. We also tried some guacamole, sweet potato fries and Patatas Bravas served with a spicy tomato sauce. All the while the service was efficient, hospitable and welcoming. To follow, I also tried one of the signature dishes - Moqueca-Brasilian - a casserole of king prawns, calamari, mussels, chicken, tomatoes and cashew nuts cooked in a coconut milk broth and served with rice which was superb comfort food - a cross between a soup and a stew. To finish we shared a rich and moreish pecan pie with cardamom ice cream from a choice of four desserts which were predominately South American influenced including a Peruvian dark chocolate mousse with pistachio ice cream and Crème catalana - a sort of Latin Crème Brule.

Priced between £5.50 & £6.00 cocktails at Vivo are not overly expensive, although it is worth noting that Happy Hour takes place downstairs in the bar between 5pm and 8pm nightly. Maybe then after a little rocket fuel it might just put you in the mood to get onto the dance floor and try perfecting your Salsa to the pulsing Latin beat.

Louise Elgin. June 2008

A meal for two with a couple of cocktails is around £30.00 a head.


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