Vinoteca. Varied wine, variable food.
I had this meal on Tuesday, 19th of February. I know that because I took the menu and put it in my bag. The branch that I went to is the one on Seymour Place which has such things of wondrousnous as Les Senteurs and the competent Donostia.
It was a long-awaited get-together for some friends who are also clients or clients are also friends or a bit of both I’m not quite sure which but I’m inordinately fond of both of them and we wanted to go somewhere relaxing, mid-priced and with a decent wine list.
Because we all had to have something different, we all did. I had cauliflower cheese & garlic toast. The cauliflower was still crunchy, which I can live with, but the cheese sauce was not strong enough – I like a sharp bite to it or a bit of mustard – I am a stripping the skin off the roof of your mouth cheddar cheese fan and the garlic toast was, however rather overpowering. It was a little too raw and the blandness of the cauliflower was lost behind it.
L had warm potted beef, grated beetroot and pickled walnuts. I’m not sure it was quite what she was expecting and there were no stand-out flavours – it was all quite same-y – nothing really wrong with it, but no real contrast to the flavours in the dish.
P had roasted root vegetables, goats curd and pinenuts – the comment was – could have been warmer but all the flavours worked and it was competently done.
Then onto the Middlewhite chop, Jerusalem artichokes & kale. The chop was a little tough although it had a good flavour and there was quite a lot of fat on it. A bit too much.
L’s Gressingham duck breast, borlotti and wild mushrooms was a very generous portion but again, not enough contrast in the flavours and we felt that it all looked very brown. Brown mushrooms, brown beans, brown meat. Colour, colour colour – that’s what we needed.
And the red legged partridge, with glazed beetroot and watercress was described by P as as not really cooked enough. He wasn’t doing well with his not-warm-enough starter and his not-cooked-enough main. He ate it all though.
There was a pear tart which we liked more than anything else. It was shared between three, in an attempt to limit the damage.
And we let the sommelier choose the wine and he chose well. And reading back on this it looks like we didn’t have a good time, but we actually did.
This is one of those places where the main event is not the food. The food is perfectly competent but, at least on the showing of the night we ate there, is not going to set my world on fire.
The service was fantastic and there was a sense of humour – they tried to please and did ask whether everything was okay and the truth was that everything was “okay” – certainly not bad enough to send back or complain about and on a meal with mates, you really don’t want to be whingeing about the food when you’re having a good time. And it just needs a little more thought in the kitchen, to move it from okay to good.
We all came away with the view that we were not quite convinced with the food, but that we would definitely all come back.
And looking at the menu, I think that I wwould go for the selection of Spanish cured meats, for either £7.50 or £11.50 or some of the English cheeses, of which there is decent selection from Neal’s Yard Dairy.
The clue is in the title, Vinoteca.
It’s a place for wine and that’s what they really do well.
Every dish has an interesting wine pairing suggestion – many that you would not necessarily want to risk as a whole bottle, but where you would be quite happy to spec a glass – they have 25 wines by the glass and 300 by the bottle and really, that is the point of this place.
I’d definitely come back but next time I’d make it all about the wine.