VINOTECA MARYLEBONE – A LITTLE WINE? EEEEEEEEE.....
Somebody asked me the other day why I hadn’t written a post for a while.
Well, there was Christmas and New Year when many places closed down for the holidays. There were the visits to old favourites that wouldn’t necessarily have blog-worthiness, the right blogicity if you will; but mainly it was down to that ennui with the London dining scene that strikes me de temps en temps.
Sure, there have been shedloads of new openings and the law of averages probably guarantees that some of them might have been adequate (almost), but merely reading the offerings of the majority just sent my feet to sleep.
Looky-likey, me-too menus are the last refuge of the lazy restaurateur. I mean, I like charcuterie as much as the next diner but it’s hardly the world’s most onerous task to buy some decent cured meat and cut it. As HS once said to the chef at a famous Wandsworth restaurant "Well sourced and sliced". In most cases very, very thinly indeed.
Luckily on a recent visit to the brand spanking new outpost of the rather wonderful and very successful Vinoteca I didn’t have to endure the heart-attack inducing excitement of Beer-Battered Fish and Chips or Rib Eye Steak with faux Triple-cooked chips on the menu.
To be honest I was a little worried about my prospective meal. Dos Hermanos have been frequent visitors to the original in Clerkenwell since it opened and despite a few changes in personnel it has kept the quality of its food and wine and the warmth of its welcome at pleasingly high levels.
The owners have always talked about not rolling out the 'concept' but happily in the case of this new branch they've managed to succeed with that difficult second restaurant.
Hidden away in a side street off the Edgware Road the setup at the new gaff will be familiar to anyone who's visited the mothership. Open kitchen, bar and a dining area with some tables so restricted of width my legs wouldn't fit. I spent most of the meal with my limbs akimbo (and if that ain't enough to put you off your Sauvignon Blanc nothing is).
Toytown tables aside, the experience at Vinoteca W1 continues to be a good one. Staff are friendly and enthusiastic, there's a great selection of wines by the glass and the range of food is interesting and prepared with care.
Pork Cracklings came as long strips which were dense and crisp. They gave my choppers a good workout but in an era where a lot of food has become very soft this is a good thing.
A big bowl of mussels and clams was notable for a particularly good broth that was devoid of the grit that plagues lesser examples and had me wishing their good bread wasn't served in such parsimonious portions. The mussels and clams were sweet and fresh which is all you could ask of bivalves.
Crubeens are made from Pigs Trotter which have been cooked, shredded, breaded and deep-fried. A serving of three of these blighters were excellent: hot and porky and with a satisfying crunch. A chunky sauce gribiche and a few leaves made a starter that would make grander places look very silly indeed. Intelligent wine pairings too: the suggested Sicilian white to go with this dish just made things better.
When I go for a meal I appreciate the little twists that show there’s someone with a brain and imagination in the kitchen. A big hunk of roasted Brill came on top of some decent greens with a sauce made from minced anchovy and chilli oil.
Sounds de trop, right? Wrong. Although it pushed the envelope of what would be a reasonable match for a non-oily fish it worked very, very well adding a hot, savoury (oh ok, umami) dimension to the dish.
Only a meanie would complain that the (unadvertised) potatoes were a prosaic and unnecessary addition and that the fish could have done with a little less cooking…so I won’t.
Pudding was a little game of let's investigate geometric solids with a Sphere of Vanilla Ice Cream atop a cube of Sticky Toffee Pudding. Light, not too sweet, it did exactly what it said on the tin.
I liked the Coffee too and in place of the usual Grappa I had a rather lovely, chocolately, dusky, Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva to help the chocolate truffles down and which had me walking down the road about a foot above the pavement, happy with the start to the new blogging year.
Oh and Vinoteca also do charcuterie. But I won’t hold that against them.