Harden's survey result
“The wine list’s brilliant” at these modern-industrial bars: “a huge range” that’s “regularly added to, with some unusual vintages”, “plenty at affordable prices” and “excellent options by the glass”. And this “wine focus attracts a more interesting crowd than some other chains”, all making the group “the perfect standby any night of the week”. “All branches are recommended”, with the one that’s super-handy for King’s Cross perhaps the most popular (though, being “always busy”, it can seem “squashed and hurried”, and booking is advisable). Perhaps the “food’s a bit average”, but practically all feedback actually focuses on its success as a “tasty” complement to the vino. Top Tip – “even better on a Sunday or Monday, when the wine’s sold close to retail price”.
“No surprise that the focus is on the wine” – “a huge and varied list, with loads of wines by the glass” and “many you’ve never heard of, to challenge your taste buds” – at these “modern/industrial” bars, of which the King’s Cross and new Bloomberg branches attract most comment (Soho closed this year). “Don’t forget the food though”; “it may play second fiddle” but is “simple and satisfying”.
Considering that the “simple” fare is “incidental” to the “terrific selection of wines at reasonable prices”, the cooking is “surprisingly good” and “reasonably priced” at these “bustling” and extremely popular modern watering holes.
“One of the best and most unusual wine selections in London” underpins the high popularity of these “appealing” modern haunts (whose “smart” King’s Cross branch attracts most mention). The “unfussy” food? – “nothing too thrilling, but competent”.
Generally speaking, London doesn't 'do' wine bars or bistros and nowadays: the terms just seem so '60s. Here we do 'gastropubs'. When all's said and done though, a gastropub is really no more than a bistro-in-a-pub.
What to call this new concept near Smithfield? With such a strong lunchtime food emphasis and nowhere to stand around with a glass, 'wine bar' wouldn't do. The term 'bistro' can sound rather dated. So the solution the owners of this Farringdon newcomer have opted for is to call it a 'Bar and wine shop'. With its bare tables, daily-changing blackboard menu and open kitchen, however, the place looked for all the world like a 'contemporary bistro' on our lunchtime visit (and an instantly-popular one at that).
The chef here once worked at Bibendum - which is appropriate enough, as that Chelsea landmark made its name with haute bistro fare and a strong wine list - and the cooking is very much in the no-nonsense Simon Hopkinson tradition. The food is workmanlike and reasonably priced. Service is informal but efficient, too, which is, of course, in the best bistro tradition.
The venture's backers are both wine trade men, and, as the description they have chosen for their establishment suggests, this is where their hearts really lie. Dishes come twinned with interesting and reasonably-priced wine suggestions by the glass. If you want to do the thinking, the list is 200-strong, and has a sensible mark-up policy. At the bottom end, you'll pay the standard three times retail, but, if you drink better, the proportional mark-up, never exceeding £25, falls away sharply. By night, you can stop by just for a drink - for consumption sur place, or to take away.
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lunch noon - 2.45 pm, dinner 6.30 pm - 10 pm
Last orders: 10 pm