London is a city obsessed with food trends. If you’re a gentleman or lady about town and you eat out a bit, you’ll know all about that, even though we all secretly know that the concept of fashionable food is ridiculous. Trend or no trend, Korean wings will always be tasty, posh doughnuts will always be awesome and, on frigid February evenings, a bowl of steaming hot ramen will always be just the thing. Delicious is delicious is delicious. But still the parade of fads marches on; far-flung cuisines perpetually nudging one another out of favour and assorted Things In Buns – the variations of which are apparently endless – popping up on Instagram like wide-spreading fungus before quietly disappearing.
Obviously, I am part of the problem. As a food blogger, it’s almost impossible not to get caught up in the hoopla of new restaurants, “concepts” and whatever re-appropriated dish is currently flavour of the month. When something new is announced, I’m on the reservations team like a rat on a Wotsit, especially if there’s a 50% soft launch offer to sweeten the deal. And with so many titillating places opening up literally every week, it’s often hard to justify a second visit.
But there are a handful of restaurants I return to time and time again. One of them is Vinoteca, which now has five locations across town. Vinoteca’s problem is that it’s been around for a good while now, and doesn’t offer exotic cuisine, sharing plates or any other gimmick, like a drinks list printed on human skin or a tasting menu delivered by trained chimps. Instead, it reliably does well-sourced, well-cooked food at reasonable prices, in a nice setting. It’s cool enough to go with your mates, but grounded enough to take your parents to, and it’s always busy – you’ll definitely need a reservation on a Saturday night. It’s friendly, dependable and has been around for donkey’s years. Sort of like a restaurant equivalent of your grandma.
Providing, of course, that your grandma has a kick-ass wine cellar, for the best thing about Vinoteca is its unique approach to wine, viz, they have a vast, vast selection and a team of staff who absolutely know their shit, but they’re not dicks about it. (Related reading: Emma Sleight’s excellent article on how to talk about wine without sounding like a wine wanker.) Speaking as someone who can generally tell the good stuff from a bottle of £4.99 supermarket plonk, but who is by no means a connoisseur, it’s nice to be able to say, without fear of a withering look, ‘I’d like a nice crisp white please, but not too floral and not a chardonnay, and I don’t want to spend more than £30.’
Last week I went for dinner there with my friend Colleen and then, after discovering its incredible ‘BBC’ deal, two days later for James 1’s birthday. Until the end of February, several bottles of Burgundy, Bordeaux and champagne have been reduced to the takeaway price in the on-site shop, which means you can get a bottle of really decent actual champagne for just £26.50. A very nice white Burgundy can be had for £13.95. Mon Dieu, you can barely get a bottle of paint stripper in Wetherspoons for that anymore! How are they making any money?
Vinoteca quite often runs these kinds of deals though; in fact, as of this month, you can buy literally anything off their enormous wine list at shop price every Monday throughout the year. I have never seen any other London restaurant offer such a tremendous deal, but nobody really seems to know about it yet. But now you do, so grab your favourite oenophiles and book yourselves a table. There are branches in Farringdon, Marylebone, Chiswick, Soho and King’s Cross.
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in Islington and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.