LDNReview

photo credit: Bronia Stewart

The Tent (At The End Of The Universe) review image
5.8

The Tent (At The End Of The Universe)

££££

17 Little Portland St, London
View WebsiteEarn 3X Points

Any festival aficionado will have had good, bad, and downright odd experiences in a tent. But none would have required hallucinogens and appetite-reducing chemicals quite as much as dinner at The Tent (at the End of the Universe). The ‘cool’ restaurant in Fitzrovia is an immersive experience in try-hardness. Boxes like ‘artist’s residency’, ‘ex-Noma chef’, and ‘DJ’ are all ticked, but so too are 'undercooked flatbread', 'underwhelming £24 prawn', and 'palpably awkward atmosphere'.

You enter via a dark room and you will likely leave in a dark place. The fluorescent colours that light up this corridor-sized, Bedouin-style tent only serve to show the confused looks on some diners’ faces. There are eight tables, all low and furry, plus a DJ booth in the middle where UCL-looking sorts pump jarring 120 BPM whale song while rolling cigarettes. Like the friendly and at ease staff, they seem to be having a good time. Guests—mostly hand-on-leg couples or orange wine-obsessed friends—sit side-by-side facing each other from across the narrow space, occasionally catching each other’s eyes. Blink once if your taramasalata is bog-standard. Blink twice if you need another drink. It’s less The Tent (at the End of the Universe) and more The Tent (at Glastonbury You Don’t Know How To Leave).

That said, OTTness is a matter of taste and can be forgiven if what’s on the plate is as cosmic as its billing. Unfortunately, it isn’t. The Tent’s menu is Middle Eastern-inspired—flatbread, pickles, dips, and sharing plates—but none of the flavours are otherworldly. It’s grounded in underwhelming okayness. The rubbery white of undercooked dough is a disappointing feature of the flatbread, and an Iberico pork schnitzel is noticeably dry, bonito flake mayo aside. There are signs of life, like a mean martini and a Ridley Scott-looking bowl of black cod and black rice, that’s laced with zhug, whacks of garlic, and mixed with gooey egg yolk.

When immense effort has been made into creating a vibe, it's more stark when there's an absence of one, and The Tent suffers from all of its many ideas. Drinking (quite a lot) and eating (not very much) would probably be a laugh here. Especially if you’re a member of the invite-only club downstairs. Otherwise, it’s hard to say. This isn’t an Instagram restaurant because filming isn’t allowed—presumably because videos of intergalactic hostage situations aren’t great press—but it’s also too transitory to feel like a worthwhile night out. Ultimately, this tent is lost in space.


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Food Rundown

Bronia Stewart

The Tent (At The End Of The Universe) review image

Starters & Dips

All the bits and bobs to snack on at The Tent are perfectly fine, but that’s kind of the problem. Za’atar-topped flatbread—pale and flabby—would’ve been a perfect scooping vehicle if it was given a little more heat. Bits to scoop—tzatziki, hummus, taramasalata—are alright, if uninspiring. The taramasalata stands out given its silky, almost mayonnaise-ish texture. Mushroom shish, or umami on a stick, is also worth getting, alongside a plate of pickles.

Bigger Plates

A single £24 tiger prawn is a beastly specimen that looks like it should be fighting Godzilla in the Tama River. It glistens from a Marmite glaze that is, unfortunately, painted solely on its inedible outside shell. Inside it’s meaty and not quite as succulent as a smaller prawn. It’s fine. The same goes for the Iberico pork schnitzel that’s crying out for the crunch of vegetables. What stands out is the black cod with black rice—a luscious bowl that hits you with whacks of chilli, herbs, and garlic from the zhug.

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