I have been very curious about Social Wine and Tapas since it opened. I am a bit over Jason Atherton and his rapidly multiplying number of restaurants. My recent visit to Pollen Street Social was so disappointing that I started questioning his involvement in the restaurants and his ability to keep the quality levels up.
I am not a big fan of no reservation restaurants and so waited a while to try Social Wine and Tapas. Then they suddenly decided to start taking bookings and I immediately snapped up a table for when my friends Mario and Stefan were going to be in London.
The space is odd. The upstairs is very cute with the bar at the entrance and chopped little spaces that make it intimate and cosy. On the other hand, we were seated downstairs which is a bit cavernous and dark (hence the poor food pictures).
The service was very weak. It took forever for someone to even offer water or give us the wine list (isn’t the place called Social WINE and Tapas?). And when we did eventually get handed the wine list, there was no conversation or any offer to help us select one. They had also already run out of scallops and pork belly by 8pm. Really? Overall a poor service experience.
What we ate:
Jamon selection and cheese selection: very straightforward, nothing amazing but not weak either. It was a generous serving of mostly British cheeses.
Jamon, manchego toastie, quail’s eggs: I knew this dish was a must order, as I saw it paraded around the dining room when we walked in. Small triangles of nicely melted ham and cheese with a quail’s egg on top. The boys were on a no bread pre-Mykonos diet and made an exception for this dish.
Heirloom tomato salad, truffle burrata, basil, gazpacho vinaigrette: my friend Leslie was at Social Wine and Tapas twice the week before I went, and highly recommended the burrata salad and the scallop dish (which they were out of). It was indeed tasty so we promptly ordered a second portion. The tomatoes were very fresh, the burrata melted in our mouths and the morsels of bread were nicely crunchy.
Chargrilled carrots, burnt aubergine, miso, walnut pesto: nice veggie dish but the carrots were a bit overly roasted and soggy. The flavour combo was nice, however, and the pesto made it more interesting.
Fish with chorizo: I can’t recall what fish it was and I didn’t care for it at all. It was completely covered in chorizo and I think olives (ewwww) – I couldn’t work it out as the colours were similar. I like my fish to be the main attraction, not hidden by something else. And the chorizo left that unappealing grease smear on the plate.
Rose veal and foie gras burgers with pulled pork: there were two burgers per portion so we ordered two of them. They were very tasty, but all the meats were combined and it was hard to distinguish the different flavours. The result, however, was a rich and tasty burger. Stewart was even tempted to order more, but we all decided to behave and skip that. I suggested dessert instead, obviously.
Chocolate tart, Madagascan vanilla cream: I always vote for ice cream versus cream but they didn’t have any. It was an ok tart, and when I told Mario and Stefan that they were not missing much, I was being honest and not just saying that to abolish their FOMO. The cream could have used more vanilla and the pastry shell was blah.
In sum: way better tapas places in town, and I prefer Ember Yard to Social Wine and Tapas. Barrafina has the best tapas but a huge queue and no reservation policy. If you are shopping around Oxford Street (which I usually refer to hell street) or the more pleasant Selfridges, pop in for a ham and cheese toastie and a glass of wine at the bar.
Social Wine and Tapas http://www.socialwineandtapas.com/
UK, 39 James St, London W1U
+4420 7993 3257