We got over our post-Games blues with a trip to Vinoteca – the wine bar/restaurant/wine club in peak Instagrammable Brum territory second only to everyone’s favourite smokin’ bull.
The interiors are right up our street with high ceilings, bistro type furniture, great lighting and cool colour combos. Outside, planters are colourful despite the drought and when we arrived, a local florist was dropping off fresh flowers for the tables. Attention to detail. Everyone we met seemed to love their job brimming with enthusiasm, knowledge and joy.
The wine list is extensive featuring 200+. In the interest of sampling a few without getting giddy, we opted for a Pink Punk Wine Paddle showcasing three roses including a slightly sparkling wine made in East London with a Croatina grape from Lombardy, the Romanian ‘Har’ and an Australian Riverland Nero D’avola. The white version also known as the Acid Hound Wine Paddle featured an Aussie Clare Valley Reisling (our favourite), a Loire sauvignon called The Holy Snail and a Pilota from the Basque Country. Each paddle includes 50 ml of each, so it’s a great way to sample a few wines before you invest in a bottle.
Wine is clearly big, yet food is not an afterthought. There are small plates and bar snacks, sharing plates and more substantial mains. We chose three small plates between two plus a couple of mains. First up, Neal’s Yard cheese croquettes arrived looking a bit meh, but, and it’s a big but (there’s a song in there somewhere), the little balls of rich, comforting, deliciousness were worth fighting the other half for. Possibly the cheesiest thing we’ve ever eaten. A salad of fennel, cantaloupe, radish and cucumber with a lime and soy dressing was a refreshing, zingy contrast to the croquettes and worked a treat. Creamy smoked burrata served with a sharp tomato and caper salad was a joy although beware the croutons if you value your teeth. Juicy cod with a crisp skin was served with a generous mound of sweet peperonata and a punchy anchovy dressing while pork tenderloin with chickpea puree, salsa verde and blackened hispi cabbage hit the spot too.
Although Vinoteca is a chain – there are six sites in London – it doesn’t have a chain feel. Pizza Express this is not. Apparently, owners Charlie and Brett know every employee’s name and the evident joy, enthusiasm and attention to detail filters down from the pair. Honestly, we could have stayed all day. For clarity, our trip was gifted without any pressure to gush.