This is a relatively new addition to the bars and eateries around Smithfield. It is a small, cosy, darkish wine bar which also serves food and has a mini-shop in the corner in case you want to buy some of the booze you've just sample and take it home.
The food menu comes on freshly printed sheets of A4, suggesting daily changes. There are about 10 to 12 savoury dishes to choose from, with no clear starters/main split and an unusually tempting selection of four or so deserts. The wine list is an impressive multiple page affair, with bottles listed by country with short descriptions. The staff are helpful and knowledgeable - they happily suggested a nice bottle of red for under £15 for us. Though the list goes up to three times that and more, there is plenty to choose from under £20, and the cheapest bottle is very reasonable and only £10.50. When we chose a different wine for our second bottle, we were all brought fresh glasses.
To start with we were brought bread (with coriander) - which we'd devoured by the time good dipping oil arrived a couple of minutes later, so unbidden they brought a second basket.
Between us, our group sampled duck breast, served with creamy horse-radish sauce on top of a potato rosti (mmmmm...), pork chop with Parma ham and creamy potatoes and lamb stew. All were delicious. Despite the generous portions we were tempted by desert. The home made chocolate truffles (two for £2) were huge and looked absolutely gorgeous - I will try some next time. My cheese plate (£6) came with generous chunks of mature cheddar, parmesan, thom de savoie and a red stilton type cheese. These were served with delightfully crumbly home-made oat biscuits. There was also a stewed rhubarb and almond tart and a rich sticky toffee pudding with a cute little jug of cream. The service was lovely throughout.
For plenty of food and plenty of drink, as long as you stick to the cheapest bottles, expect to pay about £20 per person.
This is a really nice place, and I hope it thrives.
Vinoteca, 7 St John Street, EC1M 4AA, London, Tel. 0207 253 8786; www.vinoteca.co.uk; Tube: Barbican or Farringdon