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Vinoteca Restaurant Reviewed

On graduating from prep schools to revolutionary campus

Published on April 25th 2012.

Vinoteca Restaurant Reviewed

OTHER words in other languages correspond to restaurant but in fact are markedly different – comptoir is one, currently one of the hottest addresses in Paris, literally a counter, bouchon is another meaning a drinking place, the point being that such venues are not aspiring to give you the whole restaurant panoply but are still working with food and drink.

It feels less prep school and more uni/campus, like you could even talk politics, plot a revolution, save the world, no bad esprit in a bar restaurant…

The original Vinoteca in Smithfield is always a huddle. The wooden tables have a prep-school air like we are all concentrating on our exams. You are as stacked as one of the bottles on the book shelves which is a main part of their business. The kitchen is sort of bedsit standard. The food is good, the wines are always interesting and everyone is friendly. It is just a crush.

The newer branch is Seymour Place has more of a wine bar feel and the kitchen has a good run of space. The atmosphere is pre-determinded by where it is, off the Lebanese Edgware Road, back from the shopping bags of Selfridges, not in the gastro vortex of Marylebone, just on a quiet side street being a local to locals although perhaps no one is too sure these days who is local to what.

It seemed to be hairdresser night. A useful place to know, especially if you don’t want to run into anyone you know, unless you are having an affair with a girl in the wine trade perhaps. It has for me at least one of the more interesting selections of wines in town. It is also a dopplegenger for that other wine importing operation behind Brawn, Soif and Terroirs – have wine, sell direct…

The food is dependably inspired and complimentary. There was a very good dish this time which is sort of emblematic of the style – a pink roasted onglet – that cut you only get from French butchers which chefs historically took home for themselves, sometimes wrongly called bavette.

(I will be taking exam papers in after this to mark, in fact, onglet is from between the kidneys sometimes called hanger steak while bavette is skirt or flank, different you see.)

It is only a small cut so impractical in terms of a bigger restaurant menu. Here it was roasted thinly carved and sauced with vinaigrette with spring onions and shallots, unctuous, soft and beefy. Excellent. Other dishes were a radical cucumber, radish and courgette salad and another more peasanty with beans and potatoes.


It feels less prep school and more uni/campus, like you could even talk politics, plot a revolution, save the world, no bad esprit in a bar restaurant…it is a cheap-ish place to eat, almost small plates but under £20 for sure, but the wines push it up with a classy Gewürztraminer at £6.50 a glass, but that is why you are there…cheers to the revolution…a third branch is also slated to be opening in Beak Street, Soho, imminently.

Unfortunately I failed my own photographic examination so here are some pics from Ewan-M on Flickr - click here for more of his foodie voyages. This means that the pics don't match the review but they give a flavour so to speak.


Vinoteca, 15 Seymour Place, London W1H 5BD. 020 7724 7288. http://www.vinoteca.co.uk/

Rating: 12/20
Food: 6/10
Service: 3/5
Ambience: 3/5

PLEASE NOTE: Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20, we get carried away.


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