Tucked around the corner from the South Bank is Southwark`s latest best secret: The Wine Theatre.
Launched late last year it brings the long over due Italian tradition of `aperitivo` to London – literally translated as ‘civilized gathering over small plates of food’.
This is the continents answer to our packet of crisp and cheeky pint. Instead of grabbing the nearest bar snack you simply pay slightly more for your first glass of wine and thereafter can help yourself to an array of continental tapas whilst every additional drink ordered is charged at the normal rate. It`s a quick and convenient way to dine and considering the venue`s proximity to theatre land I`ve no doubt it will become a favourite with art lovers keen to eat before a show.
The venue itself is rather theatrical with rich red curtains framing the far end of the room around a large open serving window. I sat in the formal dining section opposite black and white wall panels depicting the theatre at Asti from which the restaurant takes its name. They`ve also cleverly sectioned off a more causal lounge area where I could see a set of smartly dressed local office workers sharing a bite to eat. The overall impression is both modern and chic – the pale wooden floor and cream coloured walls dramatically offset black and red minimalist furnishings and subdued lighting.
During the course of the evening we learnt that the Sardinian restaurant manager Stefano along with the rest of his team originally hale from Harrods. Not only were they fabulous hosts but they also had an incredible knowledge about the best way to marry food with wine Italian style.
We started our evening with a crisp golden glass of prosecco whilst Stefano brought us with a range of small bites from the Aperitivo. This included delicious risotto, various cured meats, chunks of bruschette polenta and slices of pasta tortilla. My only concern was how I would finish it all! Somehow I struggled through and left them with an empty plate.
However it`s not just about the food. There are nearly 100 wines to choose from, and due to a special `Enomatic` storing system you aren`t tied to ordering by the bottle. The only difficulty lies in knowing what to pick and this is where the staff came to the rescue. Whilst my friend opted for a rich and fruity red to accompany his steak, I went with expert advice and chose a suitably delicate glass of sparkling rose to compliment a zesty tiger prawn salad. We both agreed the food was excellent and that was before the pudding where I have to award them a gold star. Beautifully arranged on a long white plate arrived a taster of each dessert. We sampled a suitably alcoholic tiramisu, a light and creamy coffee moose and a moist square of chocolate cake topped with vanilla ice cream. It was heaven- so much for the January diet.
To round off the evening we were treated to that forgotten and overlooked of treats- a sweet and fragrant dessert wine. Despite being more than merry we weren`t allowed to leave until we had finally tried the taste of Italy itself: a small glass of limoncello.
So providing my belt allows it I will definitely be returning to this little corner of Italy, there are at least 97 wines left to try after all!
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