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.