I am a huge fan of the talented and seemingly unstoppable Jason Atherton. I have had many great meals at Pollen Street Social, Little Social and my favourite Berners Tavern – be it for breakfast, lunch or dinner! I was fortunate to meet Jason at a charity event that he was hosting and was struck by how down to earth and approachable he is.
I have been looking forward to trying Jason’s latest London venture, Social Wine and Tapas, that is conveniently located in my local Marylebone and think I may have found a new Atherton favourite!
The beautifully designed wine bar and shop is set on the ground and basement level with a theatre kitchen on both floors. We were seated on the tapas bar that afforded us a panoramic view of the restaurant, the passers-by on James Street and the sommeliers in action.
The ever smiling head sommelier Laure Patry has curated an exquisite wine list. She explained that it features classics as well as some less well known wines to discover. Laure was rushed off her feet but took time to talk to customers who were eager to benefit from her encyclopaedic knowledge.
The beauty of Social Wine and Tapas is that the front of house is staffed by sommeliers enabling you to stretch your palate. We were expertly looked after by Claudio Loi who is ex Pollen Street. I explained what characteristics I like and dislike in wine and he selected a wonderful range for us to try by the glass.
But first for some tapas. I am informed by my good friend Manolo that the test of authentic tapas is to sample the pan con tomate and the Padron peppers. Who am I to argue with a Madrileño? I ordered both. The peppers were laced with sea salt and were a perfect accompaniment to the golden Catarrato from Sicily. Claudio explained that the vineyard is at sea level and that the rich, organic soil contributes to the wine’s flavour.
From Sicily we moved to the Alsace region with a Riesling from Marc Tempe that had a wonderful floral bouquet. As we were so enjoying the wine and the ambience it was hard to concentrate on the food but the heirloom tomato salad with truffle burrata certainly caught our attention. This is a stunning dish, fresh and light and head chef Frankie Van Loo kindly told me how he made the dressing (olive oil from the fabulous Brindisa, sherry vinegar, basil, garlic and sea salt). I also enjoyed the delicate raw Orkney sea scallop with yuzu, radish and cucumber.
White turned into red with a Chinon from the Loire valley. The pure Cabernet Franc wine has notes of ripe red fruit, black pepper and liquorice and was a fitting foil to the crunchy broccolini,with chilli, air dried tuna and pear.
I wasn’t keen on the exotically described Szechuan fried chipirones and Claudio promptly replaced it with a jewel of dish – slow cooked egg with ox cheek dashi that rested on a mound of creamed potato. The meat melted in my mouth and was topped with an egg that had been boiled for one and a half hours at a precise sixty two and a half degrees! The runny yolk oozed into the potato and created a sumptuous combination of flavours.
The bar is conducive to conversation and we were joined by a gracious gentleman from Los Angeles who generously shared a magnificent Burgundy from En La Rue de Vergy in the village of Morey St Denis, one of the top producers of this cuvee according to Laure. I love pinot noir and this wine has both structure and elegance. We ended the evening with a delicious Crème Catalana flavoured with orange and a promise to return soon.
I recommend Social Wine and Tapas for a voyage of wine. A wonderful experience that is a blend of education, pleasure and great food.
39 James Street, W1U 1DL
020 7993 3257 socialwineandtapas.com
Nuzy Sayani is Catwalkschoolgates’ restaurant reviewer. Nuzy lives in Marylebone with her husband and seven year old son. She is a technology lawyer and loves the theatre, cinema, is an avid reader and likes nothing more than trying out restaurants. Nuzy will be sharing her dining experiences with us and would love to hear from you with your recommendations.