Vinoteca - A Welcome New Arrival

Anne Flaherty reviews the wine bar and restaurant


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There comes a time in life when you have to stop looking at a wine list and consistently ordering Sauvignon Blanc, or a Pino Grigio. Chardonnay was SO Bridget Jones, but have we moved on much?

Well now we can because since the arrival of Vinoteca in Chiswick's Devonshire Road, there is no longer any need for tension around the wine list, because they suggest wine by the glass to match each and every dish on the menu. What bliss!

Vinoteca - A Welcome New Arrival

Chiswick is the fourth London location for the wine company, which moved into the Devonshire Road premises formerly occupied by the Oriental Brasserie last month. The interior has had a major revamp- lots of wood, a relaxing green banquette and cream walls. It can seat about forty-five diners and the main dining area is towards the front of the premises (with a particularly nice window table) while further down you can see the (tiny) kitchen at the end and some long wooden tables adjacent. This is for people who want wine and snacks, as opposed to a full meal. There's a rustic warmth to the interior and the welcome is fulsome- staff are young, eager to please and very pleasant. I thought however that the tables might be a little close for comfort on a busy evening.

After being seated by Gus, our genial host, my two companions and I settled in for a look at the menu. Seven starters, six mains, and three simple side dishes. One friend chose a selection of cured 'Jabago' meats, consisting of Morcon, chorizo bianco & salchichon. The charchuterie was whisperingly wafer-thin, to melt in the mouth and it was such a good idea to accompany the meats with a delicious glass of Amontillado Govesco, a Portuguese sherry. There was also a basket of home-baked bread , which was dense and chewy and came with fruity olive oil.

Two of us chose the Innes goats curd (from Neal's Yard), with braised squash and spiny artichoke. This came recommended with a glass of Bacchus 2011 from the Camel Valley vineyard which is located in Cornwall. My friend refused this and had a glass of Pinot Grigio instead but I was happy I went with the Vinoteca staff recommendation.

The curd was smooth and tangy and complemented by the touch of cumin on the butternut squash. I was not as keen on the artichoke- the outer leaves were too tough , but my friend liked it.

Other starter choices on the menu were Fennel & Wild herb soup with raw Ceps and Pecorino, or Grilled Squid with Clementine, Fennel & Black Rice; Steamed Dorset cockles and mussels with chilli and garlic, or Chargrilled Sardines with marinated beetroot and gremolata.

Onto the main courses and one of us chose Brill with rainbow chard, anchovy & marjoram, (pictured above) and this came with a recommended Pinot Grigio Alto Adige ( Frank Haas, Italy). The verdict? "Spanking fresh and the chard that came with it was a nice seasonal touch".

I was torn between the Middlewhite pork 'tonnato' with anchovy and capers and the Whole Lemon Sole with braised fennel and large leaf rocket. I went for the fish. It's difficult to fault a fresh lemon sole if it is properly cooked and this was very nice indeed. The braised fennel was excellent, though I would ditch the large tuft of rocket which sat alongside the fish and didn't really add anything to the dish. Instead I ordered some Pink Fir apple potatoes which came sauteed and they were pounced upon by all three of us. The all-important glass of wine to accompany this fishy feast was Bourgogne Blanc 'Les Herbeux' 2010.
Another excellent pairing.

As the third in the party is a vegetarian, she opted for Fregola, ( a type of type of pasta from Sardinia that resembles cous cous - semolina dough rolled into balls and baked). It was served with cavolo nero, wild mushrooms & ricotta. An Austrian Pinot Noir (Johannesjof-Reinish) was recommended but she continued to plough her own furrow with another glass of Pinot Grigio.

Grilled Devonshire lamb with caponata and salsa verde were also on offer, and so was chargrilled marinated bavette steak with chips. The three sides were Radish and Rocket salad, the Pink Fir potatoes, or Lancashire Kale and lemon.

To follow there was the option of Cheese from Neal's Yard and Mons Dairies, or a selection of desserts. I chose the Hazelnut and salt caramel semifreddo which was recommended with a glass of Portuguese Moscatel de Setubal. My friend chose the Pistachio and apple tart- an interesting twist on classic almond frangipani.

There was also a choice of Pannacotta, a Bergamot flavoured Lemon Polenta cake and some warm poached winter fruits with amaretti and creme fraiche.

Price-wise, the starters average around £7 with mains from £14- £16 and desserts around £6. The individual glasses of wine start at around £5.25 but mostly average around £6-£7 for a 125 ml glass. Those are average prices and you can add on a couple of pounds more for larger glasses.

The team behind Vinoteca are anxious that people should not think of the place as principally a wine-bar. They've put a lot of care and thought into their menus to keep them seasonal and use fresh produce and hired experienced kitchen staff; chef James Robson is ex-River Cafe. The wines are also available to take away at retail prices.

While the restaurant is wine-led, with a list of 25-wines available by the glass, each location has in common, bread baked on the premises, cured meats imported from Spain and a bavette steak dish. The list of 300 wines is updated twice a year.

Another feature is the Vinoteca range of Bag-in-Box wines. The company imports a range of wines directly from the producer which are transported in 10-litre boxes to keep them fresh and then bottled in refillable bottles on site to be drunk in the bar or taken away. Similarly they also offer a Prosecco 'on tap' from vineyards in Valdobbiadene and Conegliano. Since introducing the system in 2010 they estimate they have saved the use of two tonnes of glass

Although reservations are taken at lunch and dinner, tables and bar space will always be available for walk-ins, and guests are welcome all day for a glass or bottle of wine, snacks, cheese & charcuterie.

During the week, two dish of the days are each offered at £10, or £12 with a glass of wine. At weekends, brunch and roasts will be added to the menu.

I liked the ambiance and the freshness of the food of Vinoteca and the idea that you can come in for a glass of wine and a snack without having to have a full meal. Having the wines chosen with such care and enthusiasm by the staff made the meal that much more relaxing and enjoyable. Overall we felt there were lots of novel tastes and everything was beautifully matched. If they can keep up their food standards as high as their wines, there is no reason why Vinoteca shouldn't have a happy and devoted loyal following in W4.

Vinoteca- 18, Devonshire Road, W4 2HD

Opening Times:  Monday to Sunday 12pm to 11pm     

 Tel- 020 37018822


November 23, 2013

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