Inspired by the cosy but cool bars of Spain and Italy, Vinoteca Farringdon is a Clerkenwell wine shop and restaurant known for its creative modern European cuisine, its romantic interiors and its quite frankly ginormous selection of more than 285 wines.
The Venue & Atmosphere
On opening their Farringdon outpost in 2005, Vinoteca’s simple combination of great wine and indulgent plates went down well with Londoners, and because of that, they’ve since launched similar offerings in Marylebone, Soho, Chiswick and King’s Cross. 12 years on from the opening in Farringdon – and even with a healthy amount of local competition – Vinoteca Farringdon is still a popular choice for the area, constantly busy throughout the week - so book ahead if you’re planning a visit.
As with their straight-forward approach to drinking and eating, the design of Vinoteca is also simple. Marrying wooden aesthetics with huge wine rack-filled walls, the odd flickering candle and plenty of blackboards for specials; there’s an intimate but easy, non-fuss feel here, ideal for a romantic dinner or buzzy catch-up.
The Food & Wine
When comparing it to the wine offering, the food menu isn’t massive. It's not small either though, and there's plenty to choose from if you're up for trying new things, but if you are a fussy eater then 1) give the menu a quick check before you book, and more importantly 2) stop being fussy, it's annoying.
To kick things off, the Grilled Mackerel, Catalan Escalivada, Gremolata (£7.50) was a flavourful mix of textures and tones, beautifully presented on a plate of soft, sautéed mix of vegetables and herbs – with just the right amount of bite. Solely down to my admittedly self-righteous attitude towards people not sharing food with me, my date agreed to sharing the Char Grilled Bavette, Mushroom Butter, Horseradish, Chips (£16.50) and a spiced aubergine dish (£12) from the board for mains. The bavette - apparently the restaurant’s most popular dish - came full of flavour (they marinate the meat the day before), medium rare, and perfectly pink, with no need for extra seasoning or sauces. The aubergine dish came served in a ratatouille-like fashion, with plenty of contrasting and complementary flavours coming through from the other veg. It sounds odd to say, but the food itself is really befitting of the space you’re in, and it’s a contradiction; it’s simple but thought-out, and it appears effortless even though it's clearly clever cooking. Sporting a changing seasonal menu of European-fusion dishes, Vinoteca shout about their use of fresh and locally-sourced ingredients – and so they should, because it pays off.
As you’d expect from a place with such a huge arsenal of wine, the choice of perfectly-paired tipples is also strong here – and better yet, they’re all priced at what you’d pay at retail. We left our choice down to the recommendation of our brilliantly-knowledgeable waiter, and luckily, he came up trumps. He gave us a few choices, and we opted for the 2015 ‘Har’ Rose, Dagon Clan (Dealu Mare) (£12.50). A crisp wine with a faint taste of berries, produced by a renowned producer in Burgundy, it hit all the right notes (sorry) with each dish. If you’re not hungry for a dessert, go for one of their sweet or fortified wines instead; for a nightcap, I recommend a glass of the apricot-laced Cadillac, Château Fayau 2011 (£5.50).
There are a lot of experiential, quirky and at times, downright ridiculous options for dinner in London, but thankfully Vinoteca Farringdon aren’t paying too much attention to those. Say no to novelty, and try this place for yourself.