Ever wondered where a Belle can dine out at any hour of the day? The answer isn’t New York, Miami or even Vegas (although these are all pretty good places to try). The answer is a bit closer to home. Within the leafy neighbourhood of Chelsea, a 24-hour café diner has been serving food around the clock for nearly 16 years. And when we came across the very aptly named Vingt Quatre – we had to check it out.
After a very modern refurb this summer, the cool cats among us are more likely to refer to this trendy venue by its abbreviated title ‘VQ’. Shoreditch-based designers ‘i-am’ have sprinkled their fairy dust on the place. And they’ve done a very good job indeed. Made in Chelsea types now have a more contemporary hang out spot on their doorstep.
A neon ‘VQ’ sign shines through the window and evolves its colours from pink to blue to reflect the forever-changing mood throughout the day. As we got comfy in our faux red leather booth, we were struck by the light reflecting mirrored walls, brightly coloured prints of people in London parks, and general happy feel about the place.
But how many different dining moods can one venue actually have? And who are their customers?
Well, during our visit on a Saturday night, we spotted a smart young 20-something who was reading, an elderly couple who were out to paint the town red, and many young trendy types. And stories from the VQ chef made it clear that the clientele are amazingly varied.
Yummy mummys come for eggs Benedict at the weekend, partygoers squirt ketchup on the ceiling while eating burgers at 3am, and premiership footballers come for mid-week bangers and mash. You make your own rules in VQ.
On that note, we opted for a sophisticated night and enjoyed a bottle of perfectly chilled Prosecco.
We shared a colourful mezze starter made up of warm, crumbly falafal, a caponata, minty tzaziki and delicious hummus. With lightly oiled and grilled rustic bread on the side, it was hard to leave room for our mains. As a self-confessed hummus addict, this was a cut above the rest. I could imagine myself dipping bread into this creamy and slightly oily chickpea delight all day.
For mains, we had the VQ salad (£7.95) and the sword fish (£13.95). The salad was light, with a flavoursome Dijon vinaigrette and packed with pomegranate, feta, baby beetroot, butternut squash, pine nuts and mixed leaves. It was enough to make you want to head straight to WholeFoods and try to re-invent it at home.
The swordfish quashed any doubts that VQ is a pimped up diner. It was meaty without being tough, and brought us back to a Mediterranean holiday of eating fish by the seafront. I’d have preferred a different accompaniment to more capanata perhaps. But the taste was verging on perfection. And the miniature bucket of fries on the side was deliciously crispy.
What did we have for dessert? Well the VQ Knickerbocker Glory was too hard to resist. A tall glass packed with vanilla and strawberry ice cream, honeycomb and chocolate sauce. It was a gooey but delicious mess and our inner devil enjoyed every second of it – especially the Smarties!
As we sipped on the last of our bubbles and watched the tipsy old couple having a whale of a time, we listened to the chef’s most eye-opening story yet, about a local man who once stayed round the clock in VQ for a week. And while he was there he handed out £50 notes to fellow diners.
There are three reasons to go to VQ. One, for the amazingly varied round the clock menu, two for the lovely mix of clientele, and three, because a man might just hand you a £50 note and pay for your meal.
Vingt-Quatre, 325 Fulham Road, London SW10 9QL, 0207 376 7224
By Lucy McGuire