When a restaurant has a name like Paradise, it wants you to have lofty expectations. It welcomes the challenge. It’s cocky because it can afford to be.
And yes, it isn’t really a bar – rather a Sri Lankan restaurant which happens to have a dazzling cocktail list – but that’s a mere technicality. With distinctive drink offerings and an L-shaped bar that hogs half the floor space, it ticks the right boxes.
Paradise Soho maintains its confidence when you actually rock up, from the easy smile of owner Dom Fernando at the door, to the memorising of your order once seated (no notepads or those handheld ordering gizmos here).
It’s hardly surprising, then, that the food and drink do not disappoint. Expect Sri Lankan inspired cocktails – I’m talking guava negronis and rambutan daiquiris – and an ever-changing selection of ‘short eats’ and curries.
The decor is steely and industrial, a nod to Colombo’s brutalist architecture. And though we’re in Soho, a leafy set of potted plants might just be enough to imagine there’s something more tropical in the area than the Rainforest Cafe – if you try really, really hard.
What to drink?
You’ve got to make the most of the new cocktail menu, even if (as for us) it’s lunchtime. Trust me, it’ll be worth the disorienting experience of bounding down Piccadilly before the Christmas lights have turned on.
Order the Melon & Rampe French 75 if you fancy something sweet, or the Guava Negroni for something a tad more stiff. Both served simply in clear tumblrs, the emphasis here is firmly on what’s inside. The drinks here speak for themselves (and they do more than that, they sing), no gimmickry required.
But if cocktails aren’t for you, there’s also a sizable wine list with some handy tasting notes.
What to eat?
Skipping the food at Paradise would be like going to a theme park and turning down all the rides. As the Michelin guide sticker outside will attest, the food is the main event here. So come hungry.
The idea is small plates for sharing - a concept you might momentarily resent when your friend pinches the last of the paneer. The menu is tweaked regularly in dialogue with their suppliers, but you can guarantee memorable dishes and eclectic flavours. Plus you can graze smug in the knowledge that you’re eating at a joint which prizes sustainability. Go on, treat yourself to another drink, you’ve earned it.
To give you an idea, we had fiery duck-leg rolls (and when I say fiery, I mean it) muted slightly by plum and cardamom ketchup. Then roasted pumpkin and mustard curry with pol sambol, grilled paneer with coriander, beef shin curry and a hand-stretched paratha roti. Me and my guest are still raving about it all. So pick what sounds good and you can’t go wrong.
Will it bankrupt me?
The cocktails cluster around the £11 mark, so pretty standard, while the small plates vary according to size (the short eats are £6-7, the larger portions creep up to £13-17).
You’re going to be wanting five or six of these to share between two, so it’s unlikely you’ll break into three figures per person, unless you take it upon yourself to sample the better part of the drinks menu (a noble goal).
Anything else to note?
It’s small. Though they do reserve some space for walk-ins, I’d recommend booking to avoid disappointment. A lengthy wait in London drizzle might dampen the mood slightly when looking to be whisked to Sri Lanka.
There’s also a maximum of six people to a table, so be choosy with who you bring along. Or be crafty – whoever you pick will be indebted to you. Do with this power what you will.
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61 Rupert St, London W1D 7PW; Paradise Soho