The one and uni Fergus
Part 7 of a 2011 London travelogue
by Thor Iverson
Vinoteca – A bustling, chaotic, pretty much disorganized wine bar that, almost magically, actually seems to be organized when one is a customer. They serve people sitting, standing, bar-leaning, and shopping in what seems an utterly chaotic and random way. But serve them they do. On offer are a fairly mediocre list of wines by the glass in the midst of a pretty wide-ranging wall selection of wines by the bottle. I don’t try the food, as I’m on my way to dinner, but I suspect the trick here is to plan the liquid capacity of your group carefully, so that you may order by the bottle rather than the glass.
That said, they’re friendly and receptive to banter, even in the midst of a crushing post-work rush. Really, this isn’t a “wine bar,” this is a neighborhood bar that happens to serve wine and be awfully well-known. And that’s not so bad.
Huet 2007 Vouvray Le Mont Sec (Loire) – The oft-expressed opinion of increasingly ego-overwhelmed critics that great ageable wines taste great in youth is persistently dispelled by wines like this. It’s nice enough, with firm structure, gently chalky minerality, a lot of spine without much flesh, and a strikingly long finish that holds its poise all the way to its denouement. But really, there’s so much more to come that only those intimately familiar with the usual trajectory could even begin to divine the potential here. I doubt I would, encountering this wine blind. So is it a waste to drink this now? I’m starting to wonder if it might not be. At the very least, the demi-sec bottlings offer more early material for appreciation. (3/11)
Kracher 2008 Zweigelt “Illmitz” (Burgenland) – Oaky zweigelt. What a terrible idea. What an unpleasant wine. (3/11)
Haisma 2007 Gevrey-Chambertin (Burgundy) – Dark fruit, though far from opaque, with the slender musculature of a runner. Mushroom dust, some earth. There’s wood, yes, but it’s young Burgundy. Wood’s not uncommon at this stage. Structurally sound. I’ve never heard of this guy, but on a sample size of one, he might be worth watching. (3/11)
St. John – A place that probably needs little introduction to the carnivorous, the nose-to-tail ethos is not overwhelmingly in evidence on my menu tonight. Or maybe I’m already a quarter of the way in from each end, and it’s just the stuff in the middle that I’ve yet to 100% embrace. But to be honest, tonight’s carte is pretty staid, vs. my expectations.
And yet, those expectations include a determination that I will push my boundaries a bit. So, rather than the infamously delicious marrow that I’d usually order, I opt for sea urchins. Now, I eat their roe all the time in Japanese, Italian, and other sorts of places, but the slashed-open entirety of these spiky little sea aliens are a new experience for me. New, and delicious. All the briny liquidity that makes a carefully-shucked oyster such an exercise in perfection is, more delicately, displayed here.
After that, my cream-stew-ish dish of some sort of heirloom pork is perfectly tasty but pretty standard and straightforward. The chocolate terrine that follows, however, is stunning...and even more so with the incredibly rich Armagnac ice cream that accompanies it. There’s a vieille prune and an excellent coffee somewhere in this quadrant of the evening, but honestly I’m meated and wined into fair, albeit happy, oblivion. The atmosphere is gymnasium chic, the service is quick, the overall experience is pack-‘em-in and move-‘em-out. And everyone loves it. This is a great, great restaurant.
Bizeul “Domaine du Clos des Fées” 2008 Côtes du Roussillon “Les Sorcières” (Roussillon) – Flavorful, but with odd helixes and skews to its geometry. Red fruit mixed with earth, herbs tossed with grains, light but with a low subwoofer hum. There are a lot of tasty elements, but they never quite coalesce. It’s good, but only just. (3/11)
Copyright © Thor Iverson