I have the gap year curse. Being a white middle class girl from Devon, I am literally obligated by ye gods to speak about any and all time spent abroad. In turn this often leads to tales about the eight months spent living in Italy; when I’m not babbling on about dating horror stories, I’m creating drool puddles talking about the food. It turns out I don’t need a plane ticket to relive those golden eating years, instead I can just head over to Vinoteca Marylebone.
Venue & Atmosphere
It always seems incredible that somewhere so close to the shuffle-walking hell of Oxford Street can be so calm, but Marylebone is an oasis in central London. Located on Seymour Place, Vinoteca Marylebone is a homely heaven moments from Marble Arch. The spot combines wine shop and restaurant, using their 100s of bottles as decoration to line one of the walls. The interiors are unfussy and simple but then this venue doesn’t need to shout to distract from its food or drink.
With wooden tables, huge windows that unfold all the way back and old Italian prints mounted on the walls, the restaurant has 'welcome' stamped all over it, ushering in everyone from couples through to families for a low-key night. On the right hand side of the restaurant, waiters and bar staff flit between the open kitchen and wine bar; far from being overbearing, the noise from the kitchen, a full restaurant and the outside passer-bys, add to the sense of intimacy.
Food & Drink
If you hadn’t guessed from the name or the entire wall dedicated to the stuff, Vinoteca Marylebone is all about the wine. Despite aiming to have a glass of plonk in my hands at all times, I don’t know much about wine, which makes the huge folder of drinks a little intimidating. Luckily we had Marina, our lovely waitress, and the handy food menu on which every dish is paired with a recommended glass.
Although not long, the menu is full of delicious Italian flavours, from pastas through to fish and meat dishes. The burrata starter was a creamy mound of cheese flavoured with a smattering of raisins, pinenuts and samphire (£8.50) and matched with a glass of smooth pinot grigio from Franz Haas Italy (£6.60). The fried prawns starter (£9) was just as summery and fresh as entire prawns were battered meaning you ate the crunchy shell too.
As it was the first hot day of the year, we went with the suggestion to try the house’s fish dishes along with two large glasses of white wine. Blackwater Hake (£17) came in a hearty stew-like dish of rich tomato sauce with chickpeas, gremolata and aioli. The Turbot (£19) was a lot lighter, with a braggably good olive oil mash and grilled grelot onions, all washed down with a rioja blanco from Juan Carlos Sancha (£9.20).
We were stuffed, but I was in full Italy-reliving mode, so continued the eating bonanza with the dessert selection. If you need something sweet but can’t handle another plate, the dessert wine flight (£9) was drinkable pudding with three sweet 50ml glasses. The creme brulee (£6) is massive and absolutely delicious with a thick sugar crust, while the cheese board (£9.50) is filled with four cheeses from Neal’s Yard over in London Bridge.
Did I tell you about that time in Italy - course I blooming did; but now I have another story to add to my roster of hits, that of the charming and utterly lovely Vinoteca Marylebone. It might have a fancy postcode, but this spot is anything but pretentious as they bring the best parts of Italian eating culture to London with warm service, dishes as good as mum's, and enough wine to send you home singing.