Vinoteca, Kings Cross
I am forever grateful to whoever had the very bright idea of giving Kings Cross a makeover; it's given us some great places like Grain Store, Camino and now the new Vinoteca is here and I couldn't be happier. There are already a few branches of Vinoteca dotted around London - and I've spent many an enjoyable evening perched in their Beak Street one - but this is my new favourite. I first visited on a Sunday a few weeks ago and was blown away by how utterly charming all of the staff were to Leo. Having complimented him on his outfit, they presented him with some crayons, me with a freebie rhubarb bellini and made sure we wanted for nothing the whole time. We didn't lunch on that occasion (having already filled out faces at The Eagle), but I slyly eyed the menu nonetheless, so when I came to write about the best London restaurant dishes using wild garlic for Londonist, I knew Vinoteca's super-seasonal menu would be on the money.
I gathered up a work-dodging pal and settled in over lunch to check it out. The weekday lunch vibe is pretty different to the more chilled Sunday I'd experienced; there were a lot of tables in the midst of a working lunch, but still a good helping of ladies knocking back the (very good) vino. They have a pretty pink Moscato on tap, so we started with that and perused the bar plates menu - which can pass as their starters. I'd been recommended the vegetable bruschetta and we fancied the Berkshire sausage roll a lot. The sausage roll was beautifully made and filled with a really meaty porky sausage that seemed actually quite lean. A very different beast to many of my usual top sausage rolls, but when paired with such expert latticed pastry, a worthy contender.
The bruschetta was generously portioned for a bar snack and herby cubes of aubergine, tomato and roasted pepper were a lovely combination with sharp and tangy crumbled feta.
We had it with a glass of their Riesling, also on tap, which was a delight.
I had to have the Grilled Courgettes, Wild Garlic, Lemon Ricotta and Pine Nuts for research purposes, but this is exactly the sort of thing I like to eat and probably would have ordered anyway - although the Sole with Brown Shrimp Butter and Monk's Beard was a close call. Here it is:
The char of the courgette is a perfect match for the creamy garlic sauce, and the lemon ricotta is seriously delicious. Loved this dish a lot and would happily order many times over.
Our waiter suggested a small plate of Orecchiette with Sage Butter to share as well and you don't need to ask me twice when it comes to pasta. Sage butter is a classic Italian accompaniment which you just don't mess around with and Vinoteca understood this completely. I'm really loving orecchiette at the moment:
The Vinoteca wine list is extensive BUT it is not intimidating. Not at all. The staff are all well educated in the world of wine and will help you to choose an interesting bottle without being snooty or crazily upselling. Most of the wines are priced under £35, with loads of choice around the £22 mark that means you don't have to go for a boring old Sauvingnon Blanc. We were in the mood for fizz, but wanted to keep the price down so were really excited to spot a Vinho Verde, which is a (sometimes unfairly maligned) Portuguese wine that has almost a hint of sparkle on the palate, even though it is a still wine. For £19, this is an absolute bargain and we decided we intend to drink it all summer. And luckily there is a nice new sunshine terrace outside Vinoteca to do so! Interestingly, if you go round the corner to Grain Store, you can order exactly the same bottle of Vinho Verde and pay £7 more for the pleasure.
**Thank you to Vinoteca for so many lovely and complimentary things to eat and drink. We loved it and are already planning our next dinner there.