The blurb

“Inspired by the wine bars of Spain and Italy, we serve simple yet imaginative food with characterful wine to drink in or take away.

Created and run by Brett Woonton and Charlie Young, Vinoteca combines high quality, characterful wine with a selection of paired dishes created from fresh and seasonal produce.

We have an ever-changing selection of 25 wines by the glass and comprehensively update our list of over 200 wines twice a year to ensure we offer the very best in quality and variety. Every Vinoteca has its own wine shop, where our wine can be found at competitive retail prices, and we also offer UK delivery.

We focus on producing carefully-sourced, great-tasting food. Every Vinoteca has its own unique and daily changing menu created by a different head chef, though all our kitchens bake their own bread and serve our outstanding Vinoteca bavette steak.

We first opened in 2005 in Farringdon, which has over the years been followed by new restaurants and wine bars in Marylebone, Chiswick, King’s Cross and the City.
Our entire wine list is now available to order from our online shop.”

The style

A smallish rustic-chic room, all moody dark paintwork – probably Farrow & Ball – looking out through large, nicely-proportioned windows onto a pretty, quiet street just north of Marble Arch. Walls of wine bottles, open kitchen, plain wooden furniture and floors – the place must be wonderfully cosy in winter but feels airy and light-filled when we visit on a hot summer evening. Service is warm, the atmosphere welcoming.

It’s a bit like walking into a discreet members’ club where your good taste just for being there is surreptitiously acknowledged the minute you walk through the door – without being up itself in the slightest. I loved it.

The crowd

A Monday night at the beginning of August is probably not the best time to judge, but I reckon the small cross-section of our fellow punters is pretty representative. A couple of well-spoken 30-something blondes in silky midi-dresses and pristine trainers getting slowly and happily pissed on white wine, holding hands across the table by the end of the night: ‘He does love you really, you know. Let me know when you’re home safely…’ 10 minutes later: ‘Actually, come back to mine – I’ll put the cab on expenses.’

A group of men whose garb and demeanour imply they work in something creative and lucrative are having a high old time, showing off their oenophile credentials as they chat to the staff, getting louder with every course. An attractive middle-aged couple is deep in conversation, roaring with laughter at regular intervals – it really is a very jolly sort of place, smug wine buffs notwithstanding. And it must be a real boon for those who work nearby, given the relative dearth of decent restaurants in the vicinity – it may be nominally Marylebone but Oxford Street and the kebab shops of Edgware Road are more immediate neighbours.

The food

The menu is instantly appealing, starting with a selection of bar snacks, cheeses and cured meats – supremely civilised accompaniments if you were just going out for a drink. The snacks include padron peppers (£4.50), pea, mint and feta bruschetta (£5.50) and tomato and fennel arancini (£6.00).

But we’re here for a three-course meal, and very happy we are with it too. My starter of grilled peach and Cashel Blue panzanella (£7.50) is an inspired take on the Italian bread salad, chunks of juicy peach replacing more traditional tomatoes and complimented nicely by the salty, tangy cheese. Andy’s ruby-hued beetroot cured salmon with horseradish and toast is beautifully balanced. Homemade bread is almost too droolingly delicious, given that we have a couple more courses to come. But that’s between us and our willpower.

To follow, I go for tagliatelle with ‘nduja, burrata and parsley (£17), an intensely savoury bowlful of slippery homemade pasta tangled with spicy, garlicky sausage – blimey it packs a punch (an excellent thing in my book) – tempered with soothing, milky dollops of burrata. Andy’s monkfish in red pepper sauce is a picture on a plate, squeaky-fresh fish in a delicately flavoured emulsion, accompanied with samphire and chickpeas.

We share a pudding of coffee and chocolate mousse served in a coffee cup to look like a cappuccino, whipped cream and cocoa sprinkled on top, old school yummy, the pillowy cloud of cream leavening the rich, dense mocha of the mousse.

After dinner we meet the chef, Simon Conyers, a thoroughly engaging chap who “quit a corporate career to pursue my life-long passion for food and cooking.” The passion is evident in the results – the meal was great in both design and delivery. You can catch Simon on ‘The Chef’s Brigade’, currently showing on BBC2 (warning: it’s addictive viewing) or see more on his website here:

The drink

Before getting stuck into the wine we were offered G&Ts which we happily accepted – it was a warm, sticky night and the aperitifs (artisan gin, ubiquitous Fever Tree, clinking with ice) slipped down nicely. Next, a bottle of Austrian Reisling from the Johanneshof Reinisch estate – a good choice, light, dry and slightly apple-y, but robust enough to stand up to the assertive flavours of my main course. With pudding came a lovely honeyed Banyuls for me, coffee liqueur for Andy. There are so many varieties of vino, many of them chalked up on wall-mounted blackboards, that it would take hours, nay days to begin to do them justice. An extremely inviting prospect.

The details

15 Seymour Place, London W1H 5BE; 020 7724 7288;;

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