I’ve been meaning to go to Vinoteca for aaaages, having been told by a couple of friends-in-the-know how wonderful it is. When you find a restaurant that people go back to time and time again, you’ve definitely found a winner. And I have to say that having been, it has sailed to the top of my (as yet unwritten) “best restaurants in London” list.
So why did it take me so long to go? My problem was the “no-booking” policy. I get that this makes it more of a local restaurant, but dinners at Wahaca and Polpo failed because we didn’t want to wait 2 hours for a table (Polpo on a Thursday night) or we had to wait until everyone had arrived before we could put our names on the waiting list (Wahaca). Both me and my friends are guilty of rocking up to dinner late depending on our workloads so we’ve always gone for places we could book.
But the good news is that the wait at Vinoteca was fine. I went with Escobar and we rocked up around 7pm on a Friday evening, got a nice seat at the side bar (some people after us didn’t though) and nattered our way through half a bottle of delicious French white wine (see photo below – you can also see from Escobar’s lovely hand gestures how he felt about my taking blog photos during our meal). We were seated within around 30-40 minutes and it didn’t bother me one jot, I quite liked the pre-dinner drink aspect.
First, I loved the laid-back wood floor long-conversation vibe of the place. You weren’t rushed, service was lovely, it felt like a comfy French bistro inside. It was relaxed and homely – my perfect resto.
Then, the wine. It makes SUCH a difference to have a delicious well-priced bottle of wine served at the perfect temperature. At first the huge wine list was a bit scary, but we took a punt on a lovely bottle of white (2009 Coteaux de Languedoc from Domaine La Croix Gratiot although I was also thinking about an Aussie Verdelho) which was brilliantly priced at £19. When emptied, we had the recommended glass of wine per main course, again really reasonably priced and absolutely perfect with the meal (a deep red with the bavette and a light fruity riesling with the mullet).
I was also massively impressed at the food – right up there with the best I’ve had in London. To start, we shared toast with chorizo with quail’s egg and some amazing sauce that I can’t remember which was incredible – sooo tasty and warm and delicious. You know when food’s so good you make impromptu appreciative noises and scrunch up your face in appreciation? Just like that. We almost licked the plate clean.
And then Escobar had the char-grilled bavette (med-rare), chorizo butter, chips and smoked ketchup washed down with the recommended red wine . I managed to grab a bite and the meat was perfectly tender and juicy, delicious. I had the red mullet with samphire (sadly ran out but instead it was a herby thing) with a sort of bulghur wheat, washed down with the delicioso riesling. It was a fantastic mix of tastes and textures and absolutely delicous. I admit sometimes I find fish dishes a little dull but this was interesting and rich.
The amazing thing about all this? For a 3 hour or so meal, with two wonderful courses, a bottle of wine shared and two large glasses with the main, it came to a brilliant £40 each. So not an everyday meal but a nice meal out with friends, or your mum, or a date. And it is truly a local neighbourhood place – somewhere you could rock up for an impromptu bite to eat after work and have a chat, drink wine and eat superb food. I have never found a restaurant I wanted to return to regularly and could actually afford to do so, but this is it. I’m so pleased I found it!