It’s hard not to love him as much as he loves himself

The yard is a future sun trap (Milk Beach)

At first glance, the glass and sculpted Milk Beach Soho doesn’t belong in its namesake neighborhood. London Sohophiles come here for the local institutional pubs, independent shops and old, often unchanged restaurants alongside the odd new holey bistro or wine bar in hopes of becoming part of the region’s heroes. In fact, Milk Beach – the second London outpost of this chic Aussie concept – is slightly off Soho’s former royal grid, reached through a curious mini-arch on Greek Street.

When you bend down, there’s a Alice in Wonderland-change of style in the perspective: the neat and low-rise vintage streets give way to an imposing and hypermodern courtyard. To one side is the restaurant’s sculpted glass facade, topped with turquoise mermaid-scale tiling, as well as chic patio seating suspended with blankets. Toto, I feel like we’re not in Soho anymore.

Luckily, when you sneak into this high-ceilinged hotspot, the welcome is warm enough for any Sohophile. It may seem upscale and brand new, but Australians offer informal and welcoming hospitality like no one else. We are led to a corner table, through pockets of fashionable couples and young groups feasting on plates to share. Seductively dressed locals hang out at the bar; a young workforce buzzes with tantalizing plates. This place has made a name for itself with its weekend brunch, but it seems dinner time is just as loud.

The menu here is instantly an exercise in narrowing down your favorites: everything almost looks boring and alluring. My partner and I make cases for our choices, knowing that we can only possibly squeeze three or four small plates along with two larger ones. Or two small and four large? No, we forgot the oysters. With the help of a friendly waiter, who advises us on the best choices, the size of the dishes and the best combinations, we start with oysters and cocktails, and compromise on three small plates and two larger dishes to to share.

This Dream Monkfish Curry (Milk Beach)

This Dream Monkfish Curry (Milk Beach)

Martini fans should head for the subtle but brilliant Milk Beach Martini – a Bondi-style surf-infused gin number with a spritz of “ocean-infused vermouth”, sea salt and celery. It comes with a delicate and unknown leaf attached to the delicate glass. What I’m instructed to snack on between sips – it’s an oyster leaf, another friendly waiter in his twenties tells me, slightly tasting the sea with just a faint musky undertone of shellfish. Luckily we ordered the oysters.

Being ‘the modern Australian’, the selection is eclectic; the main elements that unite the dishes on this menu are the quality of the products and the time spent on the grill. Jumbo typhoon shelter prawns are doused in fermented chili butter, but presented simply, while house-made chicken schnitty (schnitzel) comes with chili mayonnaise and chicken salt crisps. It may sound basic or fast-food, but everything is cooked to perfection: chicken tender and just lightly dusted with seasoning; fatty and chewy fries; juicy and well-spiced prawns.

The seaside and relaxed interior (Milk Beach)

The seaside and relaxed interior (Milk Beach)

Grilled corn on the cob, another staple choice, absolutely sings with a sweet, comforting flavor — it’s served with an umami-packed miso butter for the roll. Yes, you will get sticky fingers here. Pork rib meatballs are light and peppy with cilantro and chili; but what we linger over the most is a dish of monkfish and mussel curry, in a creamy coconut and mustard-yellow sauce crunched with choi sum and basil leaves. The monkfish is more heavenly in its plump, meaty texture than anything I’ve had before – clearly the chefs here pride themselves on their precise, flawless cooking techniques.

As you’ve probably guessed, the Asian influence is strong – it’s more about Sydney as a gateway to the world than an outback experience. We can’t squeeze in the house for prawn toast or the aubergine karaage, but given the popularity of the dumplings and curry, we’ll definitely be back for them for round two.

Grilled yakitori skewers (Milk Beach)

Grilled yakitori skewers (Milk Beach)

The service is also spot on – it seems like every waiter has tasted the dishes and has strong opinions on how best to prepare your feast. Plus, they always appear when you need them. There is a quiet confidence here; a pleasure in the dishes and a concept that they would like you to like too, but that they will respect despite everything. As my boyfriend says, “I don’t think the staff would care if you took your shoes off and lay around barefoot, as long as you were enjoying your dinner.” If the food had been less ooh and aah worthy, we might have spent more time people watching – this joint was packed on a sexy lit Friday night, and alive with the chatter of done deals and pals catching up.

We come away with the feeling that it’s truly rare for a new venue to strike such a good balance between glamorous atmosphere and quality food in its first few weeks. Maybe a new Soho star is born.

Milk Beach | 14 Greek St, London W1D 4DN | 020 4599 4271 | milkbeach.com

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