IT wasn’t so long ago that 24-hour dining in London started with the 2am queue for unidentified meat on a spit from your local kebab shop, and ended with a McChicken in the fluorescent glow of the famous golden arches.
But the Capital’s cautious steps towards becoming a 24-hour city have been more like strides in recent times, with Mayor Sadiq Khan issuing the first ever 24-hour vision for London in July, and the Night Tube celebrating its first birthday in August.
All these changes mean that more people are foraging for food outside the standard dining hours of 9am to 9pm, and restaurants are rising to meet demand.
Shoreditch’s Pizza East dishes out the dough until 1am on weekends, Soho’s El Camion does a roaring taco trade until 2am and, of course, Duck & Waffle in Bishopsgate plates up its trademark confit duck leg and fluffy waffles at the top of the Heron Tower any time of the day or night.
VQ or ‘Vingt Quatre’ (as in 24, for those that failed high school French) is one of the originals. It opened in Chelsea an astounding 18 years ago, back when licensing laws made it illegal for pubs to serve alcohol after 11pm, and quietly multiplied with sites in Bloomsbury and Notting Hill.
The latest addition to the VQ family is on the ground floor of the new Dorsett Hotel next to Aldgate Station, a spot you might never have thought to look for a decent steak at 4am, but then you never thought your local would be pulling pints past midnight either.
It’s a smart partnership; the invariable suited and booted business clientele that come with hotel restaurants keep things sedate no matter the hour, while VQ’s quality comfort food offers enough variety to sate both blow-ins and those with a comfy bed several floors above.
Breakfast, brunch and brinner comes in the form of a 24-hour menu of poached eggs and waffles, while the day/night offering swings from moreish starters like crumbed halloumi fries and merguez sausage with harissa through to classic mains.
The selection of burgers, pastas, a couple of fish dishes and steaks isn’t going to win any prizes for creativity, but where VQ pushes the boundaries is the quality of the food dished up, whatever the ungodly hour you order it.
The lamb burger is flavour-packed with artisanal accompaniments like pomegranate seeds and red onion and cumin jam, while the rib eye is a handsome 10oz perfectly cooked and topped with a roast tomato.
Dig in to indulgent sides like truffled crisps and mac ’n’ cheese, or stay virtuous with a beetroot and butternut salad.
There is even a substitute for the humble McChicken; a crumbed breast fillet with lettuce, tomato and tangy sweet chilli mayonnaise. We’re creatures of habit, after all.