The Elgin Street area of Soho is one of those areas where nearly every other shop is a restaurant or bar. For that reason competition is reasonably fierce. We had just started to contemplate Vivo’s menu posted outside when a member of staff came to the door to encourage us in.
As we had eaten at Vivo and Tivo (it’s sister restaurant) some time ago, and particularly liked their décor, we thought ‘why not’? We had after all just discovered that a large party had pipped us at the post at a ‘no reservations’ restaurant, Yardbird, in nearby Sheung Wan.
Rather than waiting an hour or so for a table to come free, we decided to look elsewhere. However, as it turned out Vivo will stay in my memory not for the quality of its food or ambiance but as the venue for another extraordinary g-f conversation.
When seated and handed the menu we asked whether there was anything on it that was gluten-free. To which we received an aggressively abrupt answer: ‘No nothing’. We must have looked shocked.
As we signalled our intention to leave the same waiter said maybe there was something on the mains menu, but the pizzas were definitely not g-f. At that we took the menus back thinking we should give them a chance.
But undoubtedly the reaction was offputting. As I looked down the list of main courses on the stained menu (how could they give something that looked like this to a guest?) I mentally ran through the gluten questions: could I trust the sauces, what would the sea bass be like without it its accompaniments?
Meanwhile, even after giving our order for drinks, we were given no help at all from the waiter on the ‘gluten question.’ Confidence in the staff, and vicariously, on the kitchen is a huge thing for someone trying cope as best they can with a food intolerance. In the almost hostile attitude displayed by the staff here they had swiftly lost it.
The combination of this, the stained menu, and the lack of help led us to decide to look elsewhere for the meal, staying just for the drinks we had ordered. In order to free up the table for other guests we moved to the bar. Even there the bar tender hadn’t started mixing out drinks despite having received the order nearly 20 minutes beforehand.
At that we gave up. Fortunately, from here, we were welcomed by Enoteca, a tapas bar a couple of doors down on Elgin Street. Reactions to ‘the gluten question’ between Vivo and Enoteca couldn’t have been more different if the scripts had been written for them.
Anyway, our take on the experience at Vivo is that we couldn’t recommend it to anyone, whether dealing with medically induced food difficulties or not.
Vivo, G/F Elgin Building, 41-43 Elgin Street, Soho, Central, Hong Kong –Tel: 3106 2526