Social Wine and Tapas is yet another ‘social’ outpost from Jason Atherton – he seems to be mushrooming up everywhere – this restaurant, as I’m sure you couldn’t guess, is a wine and tapas place. With the addition of the word “wine” surprise surprise it caters for a more up market clientele. Along with this aspirational audience, it just had to have the appropriate setting, dim lighting, dark wood, leather chairs/bar stools. And of course a somewhat weighty tome that is the wine menu. Purviewing the pages out of curiosity I noticed that there was at least one (large) bottle in there checking in at over £6k. The decor lent this a pretty impressive set-up – and could easily become a posh wine bar with some nibbles. But I hope you aren’t here just to hear me ramble on about the decor, instead here is a bit about the food.
Pan con tomate.
This version of the tapas classic had the tomato served in a heap of short, stringy bits – didn’t really make a lot of difference to the taste – but did look beautifully presented.
Roast butternut squash, truffle burrata, hazelnut, black grapes
An interesting mixture of flavours – the butternut squash was cooked just right, not squishy or hard – with the richness and sweetness of the truffle burrata and adding nicely to the assembly.
Szechuan fried chipirones, togarashi, ink aioli, lime
One of (the many) dishes on the menu with Asian flavours mixed in – this little twist surprised us with a pleasant degree of spice added to the classic fried chipirones.
Curried hake, confit leek, citrus yoghurt
I felt this dish was less successful a blending of Asian flavours – the fish was cooked carefully cooked, but I’m not so sure the curry, leeks and citrus harmonized quite so well. Vegetables unfortunately led to the dishes’ downfall. Should have talked to Popeye.
Crispy duck egg, roasted artichoke, cured pork, truffle
Someone had gone to the trouble of deep frying that egg – and then chopping off the top to serve it with the still liquid yolk – a pretty impressive feat. Hard to go wrong with this combination of ingredients – essentially a souped-up breakfast with egg, bacon and truffles.
Norfolk suckling pig, mead glazed parsnip
The suckling pig was seriously rich (the use of the word unctuous would probably be appropriate) and pretty much melted in one’s mouth. Again, another hit – although perhaps not a dish to consume in large quantities. That is unless you have an aspiration to end up like the pig.
Unfortunately, at this stage, the lighting levels were reduced to extreme economy (or romantic, depending on how one views things) mode – and it was too dark to take decent pictures of dessert. We had a 64% hot chocolate moelleux, with tonka bean ice-cream which was a chocolate fondant with a liquid centre nicely paired with the tonka bean ice cream. Our other dessert was a Crème Catalana with blood orange, pairing a creme brulee with bits of blood orange and lemon curd on top. Both desserts we tried had taken classic dessert staples and added just that little twist to make them special.
The food at Social Wine and Tapas was good, although most of the dishes we tried were very rich and often had a twist to them – in contrast to the freshness of the food served in somewhere like Barrafina. There is an extensive wine list (available by the glass) as well in plush, inviting surroundings. Overall, another hit for Jason Atherton – his next venture is going to be Japanese and it will be interesting to see if that one continues his current success rate.
A quiet eating 7/10.
Dinner (3 courses) was GBP30-35 per person without drinks and service.
39 James Street, London