Mat Smith

Apr 202019
Dining Experience
Damage to wallet
Warm Glow Upon Leaving
The Good: Wine was decent
The Bad: Basic, overpriced. Service was good-mannered but not good
Number of Visits: 1

Online reviews can be deceptive. For this reason;

  • I was expecting something fabulous after reading hoards of 5 star Google reviews of this new restaurant
  • you should probably visit for yourself and not trust this review too much! But here’s my experience.

We weren’t expecting a glorified kebab shop with a pleasant-looking restaurant, but food-wise that’s pretty much what we got.

For great Middle-Eastern food, we usually schlep to the other end of Chiswick High Road, preferring Fanoos for its gorgeous bread and enjoyable ambiance. Loads of locals eat at Fanoos and it has never let us down. Recently we also tried the little cafe restaurant attached to The Catch, nearby to Fanoos – lovely owner and enjoyable food.

But last week we tried out Shams, at the East end of Chiswick High Road. This is set in the old Toscana Italian restaurant that sadly went out of business a couple of years ago. Toscana was a mainstay for this end of the High Road for some years.


Perhaps it’s because we arrived 20 minutes before closing time, but the experience wasn’t altogether great. There was certainly a disconnect between the very bold statement on the menu about how proud they were of their food and service, and how we would be impressed by this new restaurant (although “you the customer are the judge” or somesuch wording). We were sat down, but after about 3 minutes of having menus in our hands, we were told that the kitchen was closing so we needed to order quickly.

We were intent on having a great meal with a good bottle of wine. I was struggling to find a main course on the menu that wasn’t essentially a kebab and chips – or kebab and rice. Given this I asked for some recommendations for food, and that I was looking to try a few different things on the menu that they were really proud of. I was told that all the food is good, but he specifically recommended the Mixed Grill. Sounded basic – grilled meat and chips. But I ordered this. Noting that it was essentially meat and chips, I asked if this dish came with anything else at all, e.g. salad – but no.

In fact all of the mains seemed to feature meat and chips. No interesting sauces, no variation to this formula. So we ordered a few starters as well as the basic mains, to get some variety.

The okra dish was great, but for some reason two of the same dish turned up, and another starter we ordered didn’t come. This was put right.

So the starters came. Hummus – delivered without bread, or a spoon, and the okra stew. I had to get up to find a waiter to ask for some bread. Pitta bread came, it was pretty soggy. The hummus was average but okay.

At this point, we’re on a par with nipping to the local Sainsbury’s and buying some hummus and pitta and presenting it on a nice plate. Actually, scrap that – I wouldn’t serve soggy pitta. If you’re not going to make bread fresh for your customers, at least make sure it’s toasted well and not shoved in the microwave. Come on.

The salad did sound wonderful; a spicy Lebanese salad with pomegranate molasses was promised. In reality it looked pretty bad; doused in a thin dressing of some kind, with a very faint taste of pomegranate at best.


£5.65 for this spicy Lebanese salad. Pretty basic really.


The “hearty” Okra Stew was served on a pretty small plate. Not hearty by any means. Tasty, yes. But served slightly under luke-warm, above room temp. For me the flavour came through but I don’t imagine most people would enjoy a stew served cold, but not too cold.


“Best dish on the menu” according to the waiter. Pitta was soggy, chips were cold. £11.25

I did complain about getting cold chips. The waiter literally asked “what would you like me to do” to which I replied “perhaps you might bring some chips that are not cold”…


On the plus side, this Lebanese wine was delicious

Total bill was £65 to feed two people with wine. In my experience, a bill like that buys you a far more wonderful dinner, the other end of the High Road.

Aug 092015
Dining Experience
Damage to wallet
Warm Glow Upon Leaving
The Good: Lesser-known wines, intimate interior, super knowledgeable staff and wonderful fayres
The Bad: If only it were a little closer to home
Number of Visits: 1

Sometimes a business opens that makes me feel as if I actually don’t live that far off the beaten track. Like all hidden gems it’s a slight effort to get there, being a 20 minute walk up from Acton Green, but we don’t have a wine bar this side of the W4 border that compares to Vindinista, even if you take into account Chiswick’s latest and greatest wine bar additions. So it’s well worth it!

For here is the antithesis of any chain wine bar – even the good ones; an intimate space, a warm reception, a discerning crowd, genuinely knowledgeable bar staff, and a menu of unusual and exciting wines from small producers that can be drunk by the glass, carafe, or bottle.


Vindinista (pronounced “van-din-eest-er”) is the creation of Paola Tich, owner of Park and Bridge, a charming independent wine shop a few doors down. When you enter this postage-stamp-sized delight, it’s clear that the space has been created with a great deal of loving care and attention.


It’s worth sitting by the bar to glean suggestions and tasting notes from friendly staff and to chat about lesser-known wines. Even the non-wine-geek will enjoy the back-story to some of those wines.

The bar snacks are tasty treats; organic meat platters, truffle cheese on sourdough toast, potted shrimps from Upton Smokery to mention a few. The duck charcuterie was memorable and I was absolutely bowled over by the extravagant truffle cheese toastie. The word “indulgence” doesn’t come close – and top tip – it certainly helps soak-up the booze.

If you visit one new wine bar in West London this summer 2015, you really should choose Vindinista.




Jul 272015

I never saw myself getting in to “meals on wheels” – at least not for another couple of decades – but this is a funky way to start the day on those occasions you just can’t be bothered to make breakfast and need a proper pick-me-up. Pyjama Breakfast are a unique company offering breakfast delivered straight to your door in Chiswick. They are certainly worth a try!

First up, the “New Yorker”. American Pancakes. It’s a decent portion and who doesn’t love the combination of bacon, maple syrup, and blueberries? It was certainly enjoyable although there’s a small part of me that says there’s no beating making them yourself on a stove and eating them straight away. I’m a hard nut to crack. As such you can’t compare this with pancakes that are 30 minutes out of the kitchen. That said, not having to contend with the washing up of batter bowls this is a pretty decent option for those lazy days.


Onto the “Londoner”. As a born-and-bred Londoner myself I can attest to the importance of egg and muffin. Or as our ‘mercain cousins call it, the “English muffin”. The food arrived hot and the eggs weren’t overdone which in my book makes for a successful egg muffin. It’s basic but I imagine these things are not easy to execute when you are sending them out on a delivery run! Bacon and cheese a welcome addition here.


We also had “Frenchie” which is French toast, vanilla and cinnamon, topped with fresh fruits and maple syrup, plus a granola pot with fresh fruit. If I’m being totally honest the French toast and bananas didn’t fare so well on the journey to us but the granola was pretty sweet.

Finally the smoothies. On this occasion I had the Energy Boost but have previously sampled other options on the menu and they are fresh and tasty.

Jun 082015
Dining Experience
Damage to wallet
Warm Glow Upon Leaving
The Good: Artisan has a funky interior, some nicely sourced coffees, and all-round great service
The Bad: I wish they were open till a bit later
Number of Visits: 24

My relationship with coffee has grown over the last ten years. We started out, like fumbling teenagers, with great enthusiasm and foolishness, coffee and I. Sold on “second wave” coffee (that’s the immediately available stuff you buy over the counter at ubiquitous coffee chains whose names will not be uttered here), I bought my own espresso machine, then upgraded, then upgraded, then bought various burr grinders (then upgraded, then upgraded). And with the introduction of what’s known as “third wave coffee” to the London scene in 2009-2010 I threw all of that out and realised that filter coffee was the only one for me.


And over these last five years my filter coffee needs have become more demanding. I’ve obsessed over the quality of water, measuring its TDS and ph, and latterly finding out how to mix magnesium back into filtered water. I’ve obsessed over coffee particle size analysis, grinder technology, and even invested in a set of graded sieves through which to separate the ground coffee particles to achieve levels of consistency that cannot otherwise be achieved. I’ve experimented with brew ratios and temperatures, a multitude of brew methods in the home such as pourover V60, syphon, Chemex, Aeropress. I’ve given coffee the care and attention it deserves.

But I’d never … you know – taken our relationship to the next level.


So it was with some intrigue when, at this years London Coffee Festival, I was met by a lady whose T-Shirt read “I’ll teach you how to pull”. Now it’s not uncommon for promotional types to make such claims, but I recognised the logo (and the person wearing it) – why, it was our very own Artisan Coffee from Chiswick! Artisan was the first decent coffee to arrive in W4 (arguably in West London) and their service and quality of coffee has, in my opinion, increased exponentially since they came here. Chiswick now has two more coffee shops: Tamp in Devonshire Road and very recently Chief Coffee just off Turnham Green Terrace, both of which are also very good. But Artisan is unique in Chiswick as being the only cafe where staff actively and consistently engage in teaching their customers about speciality coffee and what it means. Artisan are clearly also a larger establishment as they now have coffee houses in Chiswick, Putney, and Ealing. It was in the dedicated coffee school section of the Ealing coffee house where the coffee courses are held.

For those who don’t know about SCAE, here’s a clip from Artisan’s website:

“The Speciality Coffee Association of Europe (SCAE) represents the heart of the coffee community, where thousands of coffee professionals and enthusiasts can share their wealth of knowledge and experience with one another in a forum designed to facilitate innovation, education, research and most importantly, communication.”

Magda from Artisan convinced me to book onto the “introduction to coffee” course. Now with all the bravado of a seasoned coffee geek like me I thought this might be a little below me, but she was absolutely right – this would be a solid introduction and whilst I may already know a lot from my own general reading and teaching myself, a formal introduction would doubtless fill in the gaps of my knowledge. In actual fact there was a lot I didn’t know, and the course was indeed an excellent introduction to all aspects of speciality coffee.

Outside of the filter coffee barista skills I’d taught myself, I knew some basics already such as the species and varietals of coffee that we drink today, but there were lots of gaps in my knowledge about how these species compared to one another, where and how they grew, what properties they exhibited, and more.

Our morning started with a glass of warm cascara (a tea made from the dried cherries of the coffee plant):


Alessandro quickly moved through the bits I knew more about: importance of water, brew ratios, extraction yield, the use of a refractometer to measure total dissolved solids in coffee, and brew methods. Within 25 minutes we were ready to work our way through the cupping table and taste filter coffees from a number of speciality coffee roasteries.


As well as being a great introduction to coffee newbies, I’d say this course is excellent for someone who knows a bit about coffee already. Alessandro dived straight into some more advanced concepts and I was instantly interested in everything he had to talk about. His depth and breadth of knowledge in the industry and in the production of coffee itself was incredible.

After talking about brewing coffee, Alessandro spent good time on discussing the various types of coffee and their flavour profiles, which was a good introduction to coffee tasting.


The part of the course I found the most fascinating was when Alessandro talked in great detail about different methods of processing. Whilst I knew a little about this subject there were gaping holes in my knowledge. He used a series of videos and provided his own narrative to them, which was a great way of learning as it allowed us to ask questions as we went along.

It transpired that Alessandro had visited many of the coffee producing regions and farms that were featured in the excellent videos, indeed I think he filmed some of them himself which was fascinating. Some amazing footage too.

He talked a lot about the history, geography, and economics of coffee too. Again his general knowledge in these subjects was excellent.


Finally we sat the SCAE accreditation written test to determine how much we had learned. It was only then that I realised how much I had taken in. If you take the course, I would definitely recommend taking the test as it really helps solidify what you’ve learned.

Thanks so much to Artisan for this excellent introduction to coffee, it’s something that has inspired me to learn more about specific areas of coffee and it was a morning I’ll remember for a long time.

Dec 052014
Dining Experience
Damage to wallet
Warm Glow Upon Leaving
The Good: Cosy interior decor with an impressive rye whiskey library
The Bad: Food that didn't quite pack a punch
Number of Visits: 1

Although Chiswick is not short of cocktail bars, brunch destinations, or places to catch a lovely evening meal with friends, there’s always room for more.

Restaurants like this are often about expectation; I never truly got to the bottom of why or how a restaurant that opened its first branch only six months before the Chiswick opening had such hype and apparent following already, but Jackson & Rye certainly had many local Tweeters excited about their imminent arrival. Six months on and does this High Road destination match the buzz?



Jackson & Rye has an all-day menu: main dishes for around the £10 mark, or a range of brunches from £8. After a heavy night and a long lie-in I was certainly ready for the “unch” part of brunch.

El Paso Sours and toasted popcorn with Old Bay Spice Seasoning

El Paso Sours and toasted popcorn with Old Bay Spice Seasoning

Truffled Mac & Cheese - delicious

£6.25 – Truffled Mac & Cheese – warming and moreish

The truffled mac & cheese was an absolute hit. Perfect for a brunch starter.

Jalapeno Corn Bread,  Sour Cream, and Spring Onion

Jalapeno Corn Bread, Sour Cream, and Spring Onion

The slight dryness of the corn bread might be forgiven because of its flavour and the sour cream dip, but sadly this corn bread at £3.75 is not a patch on the freshly baked double-sized American corn bread just a few minutes down the road at Outsider Tart.

Scallops with petit pois and pea shoots in a cream sauce

£8.75 – Scallops with petit pois and pea shoots in a cream sauce

The scallops were cooked to perfection and the accompanying sauce was tasty.

£7.25 - Grilled shrimp and grits

£7.25 – Grilled shrimp and grits

Well, this is a lovely hearty American favourite but – and it is unusual for me to be so price sensitive – at that kind of dollar you might expect prawns to be seriously good (these were not), not to mention it should probably be in a far bigger dish. Again, a lovely starter with a decent chilli kick but I can’t say this is good value for money.

£6.95 - Buffalo mozzarella in creme fraiche, tomatoes, and basil

£6.95 – Buffalo mozzarella in creme fraiche, tomatoes, and basil. Good quality mozzarella and the tomatoes were delicious.

Brunch menu

Brunch menu and lovely High Rd location

£11.95 - Buttermilk chicken with sweet potato fries and spicy slaw

£11.95 – Buttermilk chicken with sweet potato fries and spicy slaw

I hear the buttermilk chicken is a favourite of Jackson & Rye clientele. It’s a pretty big dish; filling, a bit spicy, and the chicken was beautifully juicy. The batter was dirty, depending on whether you like that this is either a good thing or a bad thing! Personally I was in the mood for that and found it addictive.

The slaw is supposed to be chunky but for my tastes it wasn’t spicy enough and I prefer a more vinegary, finer style of slaw. Personal taste aside, it must have been left out a long time because it had yellowed and was below par. As for the sweet potato chips, these are practically ubiquitous for mid-range eateries nowadays but these ones were tasty and nicely seasoned.

£15 - Swordfish (Special of the day)

£15 – Swordfish (Special of the day)

The swordfish was perhaps the biggest let-down of the whole meal. It was on the specials menu and had a price to match. Presentation was good and you can’t fault the combination of ingredients.

The rub? It was rubbery. Overcooked fish makes me so sad.

£5.95 - Pecan Pie with Rye Whiskey Ice Cream

£5.95 – Pecan Pie with Rye Whiskey Ice Cream

Pecan Pie. Lovely flavours, crispy top, moist middle, nutty buttery base. Again, I’m not the price-sensitive type, but value for money is important when I eat out, and for £6 you can pick up a pecan pie at Anglesea Arms which will blow your socks off, and although this was a solid effort you see my point.

Cosy diner-style interior

Cosy diner-style interior

Such a destination eating and drinking venue is up against serious competition from some of Chiswick’s well-established local independent bistros and restaurants. How can an American diner concept bar, exported from Soho with its West-End service, hope to thrive in Chiswick where locals expect to know the restaurateur or bar staff by name? I am of course talking about the likes of Sam’s or Charlotte’s, but perhaps even High Road Brasserie.

Whilst Jackson & Rye is not to be compared with these restaurants in terms of its pricing, clearly the expectation you have when you walk through the door is somewhat similar. Jackson & Rye pride themselves on value for money but when all dishes stack up, you are still spending about £40 per head for a filling but so-so brunch or evening meal with a drink. Indeed another couple who were brunching at the same time as us were overheard to be disappointed with the amount of money spent when taking the quality of food into consideration, and said that they may as well have gone to High Road Brasserie, spent a couple of extra quid, but really enjoy the food and brunch experience there. I haven’t employed poetic licence here, that did happen!

New contender for Chiswick night-life?

New contender for Chiswick night-life?

I would certainly go back for breakfast to try their baked ham and eggs or salt beef hash. And would love an evening working through that huge library of rye whiskeys seated in their cosy interior, but I sadly would not shortlist Jackson & Rye as a dining favourite for the rest of the day. I love honest, rustic, hearty food at a decent price, but it doesn’t deliver on that front.

That said, if you are part of a group of friends deciding where to dine on the High Road and Byron, Pizza Express, and Bill’s have so far been contenders, certainly throw Jackson & Rye into the suggestion pot and I reckon you will certainly be thanked by your friends.

Nov 072014
Dining Experience
Damage to wallet
Warm Glow Upon Leaving
The Good: A solid pub with decent gastro food, an interesting wine list, and very attentive service
The Bad: Despite lovely new woodburner and acoustic damping, the ambiance in the restaurant at the rear is still not conducive to relaxing
Number of Visits: 1

The usual Gastropub interior decor of exposed brick and chalkboards greet punters of the Butcher’s Hook, Ravenscourt. Following its rebirth from The Thatched, the building has been spruced up a little with a new porch and new wood burning fire in the back restaurant area, affording this large airy room a little more warmth and character for evening dining.

The bar has an interesting selection of wines; we plumped for a bottle of the Palliser Estate Riesling, Martinborough, New Zealand, 2011 after polishing off a welcome Sipsmith Gin and Fever Tree tonic.

Service was excellent: chatty, friendly, informative and responsive.

Chilli and Garlic King Prawns with Lemon Mayo

Chilli and Garlic King Prawns with Lemon Mayo

Chargrilled 10 oz Rib-eye Steak, Chunky Chips and Salad with Ber

Chargrilled 10 oz Rib-eye Steak, Chunky Chips and Salad with Ber

By a long way my favourite dishes were the pork belly and scallops (huge, plump, delicious things they were), and the lamb two-ways. Those broad beans were gorgeous too.

Pork belly and scallops

Pork belly and scallops

Lamb Two Ways with Seasonal Greens

Lamb Two Ways with Seasonal Greens

Grilled Halloumi, Courgette, Roasted Tomato and Fennel Salad

Grilled Halloumi, Courgette, Roasted Tomato and Fennel Salad

Red Fruit Crumble with Vanilla Ice cream

Red Fruit Crumble with Vanilla Ice cream

Red Fruit Crumble with Vanilla Ice cream

Red Fruit Crumble with Vanilla Ice cream

Lemonade Passionfruit and Lime and Blood Orange Sorbet

Lemonade Passionfruit and Lime and Blood Orange Sorbet

Mar 112014
Dining Experience
Damage to wallet
Warm Glow Upon Leaving
The Good: Stylish interior, great fresh flavours, attentive staff. "Pho to go" take-out option.
The Bad: Hard to fault Pho! - wish it stayed open beyond 10pm
Number of Visits: 4

All images in this blog are Copyright Mat Smith Photography 2014

Pho took a pretty brave decision opening towards the slightly more sleepy east-side of Chiswick High Road. Sure, it’s not the ever-doomed “far eastern” strip of boarded-up old newsagents, Frankie’s/Bardolino’s/Brick Oven, and failed nightclubs (remember Revolution, anyone?) near Goldhawk Road, but still – as they say – East is East.

pho-chiswick-high-road restaurant-noodle-neon

What can I say? As an East-ender myself*, it looks very much like the mainstream is moving my way, so I’m delighted by this news.

*I mean, East-end of the High Road. I try not to venture beyond there. I went to Shoreditch a month ago. Awful. I digress.

Actually it’s only a couple of doors down from Franco Manca, so if Pho get the service right – by which I mean consistent, enthusiastic, and friendly recognition – then the Chiswick crowd will keep coming back for more as they do to the excellent FM. I’ve no doubt I will.


(Images: Mat Smith Photography)

I’m a bit of a chain-denier. The thought of giving my business to Tesco and Starbucks makes me cringe. There’s something about a chain when it gets too big for its boots, when the guy who started the concept is long gone and it’s run by suits, or worse – still alive but never even attends his own store openings any more – something about a chain I hate.

Well Pho is a chain, but it’s small enough at the moment to have that sense of “love” behind each restaurant. Sure, there’s a business process, a formula, but you get the sense that Stephen Wall (co-founder) who opened his first Vietnamese restaurant in Clerkenwell 9 years ago still cares passionately about putting out great food to the masses. It became clear after only a few minutes of chatting with Stephen that his new Chiswick restaurant has certainly been a personal labour of love.

Pho Tai Lan with spoon

Pictured above and below: Pho Tai Lan – flash fried steak with garlic, Hanoi style

pho-tai-lan-steak pho-neon-reflection-bowl-soup

To start we had two of the four cocktails on the menu.

  • Phojito – Nep Phu Loc (clear rice spirit)
  • Hanoi Mule – Hanoi vodka, fresh apple, ginger, mint, and lime
  • Du’a Colada – Nep Phu Loc, coconut, fresh pineapple, and apple
  • Son Tinh Iced Tea – Nep Phu Loc, Mo Vang (apricote spirit), coke, and lemon

Below: Hanoi Mule and Phojito


(Images: Mat Smith Photography)

The Pho Xao (flat wok-fried noodles, lemongrass, chilli and Asian greens) is pictured below. I have to say this dish tasted pretty much as the photo looks: a little grey in flavour and texture. I won’t be ordering it again, when there are so many other great dishes on the menu (read on…)


(Images: Mat Smith Photography)

The crispy spring rolls, on the other hand, were wonderful. Non-greasy and packed with tiger prawns, crab, and pork, served with the mouth-watering nouc cham dipping sauce. Nem Hai San pictured below, leftmost dish.

Pho neon sign Chiswick High Road nem-hai-san-goi-cuon-duo

Above: the glorious neon sign which gives Pho a really inviting look from the street, Men Hai San (crispy spring rolls), and vegetable summer rolls.

Pictured below are the vegetable summer rolls. Veggies were a little cabbagey and carrotty which makes for a great texture in the roll but a little flavour-shy; definitely ones for the peanut dipping sauce supplied generously! Next time I will definitely go for the prawn option which I’ve had before and is gorgeous.


The meatball portions were generous. Six really juicy pork and lemongrass meatballs served on mini skewers with lettuce and herbs to wrap and dip. Below, the Nem Nuong:


(Images: Mat Smith Photography)

Moving on to my personal favourite dish of the day. Light, zesty, limey goodness. The Goi Ngo Sen Salad, pictured in 2 photos below: a generous amount of tangy lotus stems with chicken, prawns, green bean and sesame seeds.

lotus-stem-chicken-prawn-bean-sesame-salad goi-ngo-sen-salad-tangy

(Images: Mat Smith Photography)

All in all I’m a real fan of Pho and the newly-opened Chiswick restaurant is a treat for the senses. The one minor criticism I have is the music playlist which, although it doesn’t detract too much from the gorgeous ambiance of the restaurant’s interior, it may be the one bit of the Pho concept that may not suit Chiswickians. It’s quite a varied playlist, but the ambient end of that spectrum was far more welcome than the more distracting dancey music that came on from time to time.


Above: the shop front. I challenge you to find a more classy and inviting shop front on our lovely High Road!

The Pho formula is brilliant and you cannot fault it. For a restaurant which prefers to be called a “cafe” and claims to serve street food, it must be said that the dining experience and quality of food for price gets 10 out of 10 in my book. There’s always a waiter checking that the large bottle of water you are given at the start of your meal is not depleted, not to mention we never ran out of dipping sauce – this seems core to the Pho concept. Of course,  it will never objectively compare to the dining experience at, say, Saigon Saigon down the road, but as a street food restaurant Pho will win my custom every time!

A welcome addition to our High Road.

Mar 112014

Latest restaurants announced:

Goodbye Cafe Rouge! (I won’t miss you personally…) and hello Byron! It’s still a chain, but it’s definitely a step-up, and frankly they serve craft beers which is more than most pubs in Chiswick!

It’s fair to say that Union Jacks had many admirers and many dissenters. Although I was in the former camp, we obviously didn’t number enough, as their doors closed last month.

In its place will open Jackson & Rye, a “sexy NYC style brunch spot” and restaurant. After having heard a great amount of excitable buzz on Twitter I then read a few scathing reviews like this from the Guardian. Let’s say I shall reserve judgement until they open, then I’ll give you the Chiswickish Verdict!

Finally Pho, which opened this weekend (8th March 2014). A chain restaurant serving decent Vietnamese street cuisine. Brave enough to take the more “sleepy” end of the High Road in place of the old Chiswick Cafe (and former very-well-known-local-spot Adamou greengrocer), I’m certainly pretty happy to see them as it’s near my place. Check out my review of Pho on this site…

Mar 112014
Vinoteca Chiswick
Dining Experience
Damage to wallet
Warm Glow Upon Leaving
The Good: A choice of nearly 300 wines to choose from, with staff who know their grapes
The Bad: Tables in the dining area can be a little "too" cosy
Number of Visits: 6

I’m no stranger to Vinoteca having enjoyed many visits to the Soho and Marylebone wine bars. Word got out mid 2013 that Vinoteca had plans to move further out West to the superior side of London, and many local wine fanatics (yours truly included!) seemed rather enthusiastic.

Upon entering Vinoteca you are presented with what looks like a restaurant, which seats approximately 45 diners, and the further back you go the more exciting it gets. High stalls, a treasure trove of wines on shelves, and an open kitchen / bar area where you can get very close to the cooking and serving action.

The central tenet to Vinoteca’s existence is that good quality wines can be transported and stored in a box. This allows for almost 20 different wines to be served by the glass on a rotating basis, not to mention a very acceptable price for the quality of wine.

Rather than contrive a review about the different wines here which regularly change, I highly recommend you get down to Vinoteca and sample a few different glasses yourself. Although usually found propped-up by the bar, on this occasion I popped in to trial their menu in the restaurant.

To start the seasonal selection, Liver, sage, and bacon with puy lentils and wilted greens:

Puy lentils, chicken liver, sage, wilted greens

Another gorgeous starter if a little lighter than expected, the Dexter beef fillet, parmesan and lemon:

Dexter Beef, Rocket, and Parmesan Shavings

The whole roast teal with celeriac puree and bacon:

Whole Roast Teal with Celeriac Puree and Bacon

Light, fresh, and beautifully cooked, the Weymouth Plaice, anchovy, marjoram, crushed potatoes and purslane:

Weymouth Plaice, anchovy, marjoram, crushed potatoes & purslane

Pistachio and apple tart. Delicious:

Pistachio and apple tart

Finally onto the pudding served to me. Here is the Hazelnut and salted caramel semifreddo. I have to admit, say the words “salted caramel” to me, and I’m completely yours; there was no question I would be ordering this pudding. Sadly, on the basis of taste alone (for the presentation was lovely) this was the one time I had food envy for the above pistachio and apple tart. The semifreddo tasted more like a poor-man’s Vienetta – and that’s saying something! No hard feelings for the salted caramel debacle, the rest of the meal was absolutely gorgeous and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the restaurant.

Hazelnut and salted caramel semifreddo



Sep 022013

Ever since the last time I visited one of my very favourite European cities Budapest, I was really taken with an idea they have there; a wine shop which doubles as a small wine bar where you can sit down and try something, chat about the wine, and maybe also grab a bite to eat.

Well, turns out London already has such a place called Vinoteca, and I’m so excited to hear they are coming to Chiswick this month.

I gather they have 10 whites and 10 reds open at the bar for you to try at any one time. Timeout says of Vinoteca: “even without the fabulous wines, this would still be a great restaurant”.


Vinoteca, Beak St, London

Vinoteca to open in leafy Chiswick this Autumn

Vinoteca, who have three sites in central London with a strong focus on wines and wine matching, will be opening in Chiswick in late September on one of its foodiest streets – Devonshire Road.  Located on the site of the former Oriental Brasserie in a Victorian mid-terrace building, Vinoteca  Chiswick will be a wine bar, restaurant & wine shop with an open plan kitchen and seating for around 50 guests, including 20 stools at the long bar for diners who would prefer more casual dining.   Around half the seats will be bookable with the rest left for ‘walk-in’ visitors.  As always, there will be a ‘dish of the day’ for £10 at lunch – or £12 to include a glass of wine paired to the dish.

This intimate, friendly restaurant will feature a wine list of over 270 wines from around the world. Many are sourced from artisan producers, smaller importers or directly from vineyards. All of the wines are available online or to take away from the wine shop at highly competitive retail prices.

One notable feature of Vinoteca’s wine list is the range of Bag-in-Box wines. These are premium wines imported directly from the producer and bottled on site. The wines are transported in 5 or 10-litre boxes, which keeps them perfectly fresh, and then bottled in refillable bottles on site to be drunk in the bar or taken away. Not only does this make these wines even better value, but since introducing them in 2010 Vinoteca has saved around five tonnes of glass.

The daily changing menu will be Seasonal and largely sourced from British farmers, growers and fishermen.  The Modern British menu has strong influences from the wine growing areas of France, Italy and Spain. with carefully sourced specialist produce from these regions running through the menu. Vinoteca’s Head Chef is James Robson ex- River Café , The Wapping Project, Artisan & Vine and the Tabernacle as well as an 18 months as Chef Patron of L’Office in Paris. His background and knowledge will result in a menu full of exceptional dishes to complement the wines served. 

Charcuterie will also feature, including bespoke Jabugo hams, salchichones  and chorizo rojo and blanco sourced directly from Spain.

Brett Woonton, Charlie Young and Elena Ares, the dynamic team behind the hugely successful and much loved Vinoteca in Farringdon, Marylebone & Soho, said ““After three sites in central London locations, Vinoteca is excited to have been able to secure a fantastic little site in Chiswick. We feel that our emphasis on carefully sourced, high quality & great value wines alongside our daily-changing seasonal menu will complement Chiswick’s diverse range of bars and restaurants. We look forward greatly to being part of the Chiswick scene.”

Sample wines and  prices


Drink in – £19.30;            Take out – £8.25;        5 lit box – £48.25


(Exclusive to Vinoteca)

Drink in – £30;                 Take out – £14.50


Drink in – £46.25;            Take out – £26.50

Sample menu

Crown squash & porcini soup, pecorino 6
Cornish mackerel tartare, black rice, blood orange & fennel herb 6.5
Buffalo mozzarella, black figs, Ligurian olives 8
Braised baby octopus, oregano, chorizo, chickpea bruschetta 7
Seared Suffolk venison, beetroot, homemade pickles 9
Spanish cured meats 7.5/11.5
Label Anglaise leg, lemon & sage roast potatoes 10
Charred peppers, Sicilian aubergine, farro & goats cured 11
Weymouth plaice, anchovy, marjoram, crushed potatoes & purslane 14
Grilled, flatted middle white pork, spiny artichokes & pomegranate 15
Pan fried coley fillet, chenin blanc, braised fennel & summer girolles 17
Char-grilled bavette, chips, watercress & fresh horseradish 15.5
Somerset veal chop, Jansson’s temptation & salsa rossa 22
Baked borlotti & spinach 4
Courgette fritti 3.5

Kohrabi, cucumber salad 4
Heritage plum & pistachio tart, crème fraiche 6
Buttermilk, cobnuts & blackberry 7
Chocolate, hazelnut espresso cake 7
Torrone semi-freddo, chestnut honey & pine nuts 6