7 St John Street
London EC1M 4AA
I had the pleasure of dining at Vinoteca which is a very wine orientated small little restaurant located in the Smithfields Market area. I had read and heard alot about it, and my other half and I thought that going there to celebrate the fact that I had just written a very difficult/boring exam would be a good way to celebrate.
We had tried to eat there before but they don’t take reservations which I find incredibly frustrating and we were told on a recent Saturday night it would be a two hour wait. We thought a Wednesday night might be more succesfull and it was, but the no reservation system inevitably leads to a lot of people standing around waiting for a table and in an already small restaurant this is both hectic and annoying.
The menu appears to change daily and a good selection of British inspired dishes comes out of the tiny open kitchen. I noted that the head chef John Murray got his training in Canada and his bio includes Lee and Oliver and Bonacini Cafe Grill in Toronto (neither of which mean anything to me but may say something to those in Canada). Starters ran between GBP5.50 and 6.95 and mains between GBP11.95 and 14.50. I think this is excellent value for the food especially as portions are large. Each dish on the menu has a recommended wine and prices varied from a small glass of English wine for GBP3.45 to a large glass of French for GBP12.00.
Bread and olive oil was provided and both were amazingly light. I started with a ham hock terrine with piccalilli and salad which was spot on. I almost always order fish in a restaurant, but realized that the deep red we got while we were waiting needed meat and I settled on the bavette which was absolutely amazing (meat is handily sourced from nearby Smithfields market). My partner had a jewel coloured beetroot soup which had an excellent deep flavour of roasted beetroot and for his main he had a duck lasagne which he described as ‘average’.
Overall the food was excellent (apart from the duck lasagne) but the Tayyabs like atmosphere leaves much to be desired. My partner spent half the night with a coat in his face, someone bumping his chair from behind, and we were sat practically on top of some stuffy German tax lawyers (sorry that’s a bit stereotypical but well.. probably true). The no reservation thing (except at lunch apparently) is an issue, and would really turn me off trying to go again. However, it doesn’t seem to be an issue for others as the punters queuing would attest to.
Decor: Wood tables, open kitchen, small and cute. There is a section devoted to wine you can buy and take home.
Price: Excellent for this quality and this area of town.
Food: Excellent except for one off dish. Portions are large.
Good For: Nipping out with your partner on a Monday night. Any other night and you run the peril of not getting in.