Vinoteca. Vino Teca. It’s all in the name really. Vino, wine, the glorious grape. Rightly known and talked about for it’s fabulous choice of wines by the glass, this simple wooden floored winebar has a (albeit widely known) secret. The food here is pretty damn good too.
These guys pay a lot of attention, not just to the food and the wine, but to how the two combine. Their daily changing menu has glasses of wine matched to each dish that you are free to select should you want. And the cooking, like a good wine, is full of clear, well balanced flavours.
The food is seasonal and fresh and the dishes display a certain deftness of touch without being too fussy or ostentatious. They match the simple, almost rustic, room with strong, simple flavours.
To start we had watermelon salad scattered with wibbly and light pink moscato jelly cubes, a gentle feta and shavings of black olive. This was super fresh and zingy, a real spritzer of a dish that got the meal off to a light start.
The other starter was a complete contrast. A fried morcilla, poached egg and green bean dish that was strong, savoury and delightfully oily. The morcilla was tip-top quality and packed full of bloody flavours. Yum. My only complaint was that the egg had been poached solid, and I prefer mine to be ready to burst with runny yellow yolk.
We then hit some meaty mains with relish. The guinea fowl above was moist and tasty – not overwhelmed by salty prosciutto. The romesco sauce was really more of a puree made from ground walnuts and almonds and lashings of chilli. They could have used a little less chilli for my taste, but the nutty texture was delightful and quinoa gave it a little wheaty bite.
Char grilled steak was cooked to medium rare perfection. The steak itself was fully flavoured and I think came from grass fed UK longhorn cattle which, given the intense taste and wonderfully (slightly) chewy texture sounds about right to me. My favourite type of beef. The chips were pretty fine too – crispy skinned, soft centred salty wedges that just made you want to eat and eat and eat… Nobody could keep their mits off.
Now for the wines. We started with some provencial rose – pale and elegant with a light and subtle fruity flavour and dry edge – and a vermentino from Les Arches, France which was all peach flavours and lightly blossomy aromas. With the mains we went for a Chillian pinot with the guinea fowl and a petite sirah from the USA with the bavette.
The former was fresh, fruity and gently complex with a long and tasty finish. More akin to a burgundy than a typical new world pinot. The sirah though, wow, it was a belter. Heady and deep, this was concentrated stuff. Alongside the almost over-ripe flavours there was an almost hypnotic aroma that drew my nose right down into the glass until I was virtually snorting the viscous liquid.
We finished off with coffees, truffles and some intensely rhubarby jellies. Delicious. The whole meal came to £35 each, which given we drank six glasses of four different wines, alongside two courses and coffees each, was pretty good value.
Vinoteca has jumped up the list of my favourite St John St eateries to sit behind Eastside Inn and in front of St John, Portal and Bistro Loubet. The experience is so chilled out and everything so tasty, it’s just really good fun to visit.
7 St John St, London, EC1M 4AA, 020 7253 8786, www.vinoteca.co.uk