Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Vinoteca: simple food, very well done

Given the nature of London's Square Mile, you would think that you would be spoilt for choice when it came to choosing a restaurant. How hard can it be to run a small place serving simple dishes at reasonable prices?  Soho can do it. If anyone from Paris ever again dares to query whether it is possible to get great food in London, just send them for a walk along Frith Street and such illusions will be banished within minutes.  Surely then the grand old City, with its bankers and lawyers a plenty, should be able to serve up food beyond our wildest dreams.  And it does.  There are some exceptional restaurants in the City (Hawksmoor for one is tremendous) - but all of this comes somewhat at a price.
And so, casting our net a little wider we ended up in Smithfields (home of my favourite London caf(e) - Beppes).  We thought about Smith of Smithfields, but having had a meat overload the night before at (for the first time) a very disappointing Gauchos, we were looking for something a little lighter.  So we headed to Vinoteca, the first of the three eateries (there are now outposts in Marleybone and Soho) started by Brett Woonton, Charlie Young and Elena Ares. 

The menu is made up of a few smaller bites, and some Mediterranean style rustic starters and mains.  We shared some sprats (small fish, in this case smoked and served cold with horseradish cream) and some Jabugo Peregrina.  The sprats didn't receive unanimous approval, but I enjoyed them.  The Jabugo was a mixture of chorizo and cured meats - all quite nice but not a patch on the Manuel Maldonado meats at Jose and Pizarro.  Someone else had the pigeon breast with potato and truffled shallots - this was delicious, the perfectly cooked, slightly gamey, meat worked wonderfully with sweet shallots.

Slow-cooked rabbit with cannelloni beans
For main, I had the slow cooked rabbit with cannelloni beans, kale and aioli - the rabbit melted and the beans were soft and juicy, the kale provided the much needed greenery.  Others had the bavette steak with roast garlic and shallott butter and chips (seemed to be a favourite), and the cod with fregola (a type of pasta from Sicily, small balls a little larger than couscous), samphire, fennel and salsa verde.  The chargrilled cod was a little overdone in the mouthful I tried, but other than that it was a really well thought out dish.

Cod with fregola and samphire
Two courses in and we were all happily full with delicious food.  With no need for desert, we headed off to a place round the corner for Sierra Nevada pale ale on tap - nice to find, but not at five sixty a pint.  Anyway, back to Vinoteca, great food, reasonable prices and within five minutes walk from St. Pauls - there should be no excuse for anyone ever to go to a Corney and Barrow again!
Vinoteca on Urbanspoon

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