Test Drives

Slow-cooked egg, oxtail dashi, creamed potatoSlow-cooked egg, oxtail dashi, creamed potato

What can you you tell us about Social Wine & Tapas?

It's the latest from Jason Atherton, one of London's most prolific and successful restaurateurs and best known for the Michelin-starred Pollen Street Social. He's had a number of different styles of restaurant, but this is the furthest removed from Pollen Street. It's a combination of wine bar (run by Laure Patry, a sommelier who's been with Atherton for 12 years) and upmarket tapas bar (with food by Frankie Van Loo who's come from Social Eating House). 

Where is it?

It's on James Street, a road filled with restaurants but the only one really of note before this was Patty & Bun, directly opposite. This makes for a nice contrast. It's only a short walk from Selfridges if you need a break from shopping and Bond Street is the nearest tube station.

Who's it suitable for?

If you're a Jason Atherton fan, then you'll definitely want to head down to try his latest and you won't be disappointed. Anyone with either a passing interest or a love of wine will definitely get something out of the place too. As mentioned, it's very close to Oxford Street, so it's a perfect break from the shopping hordes. And although there's one larger table on the ground floor and a downstairs area that can be curtained off, it's possibly much more suitable for smaller groups and pairs.

Where should we sit?

It's a bit of a rabbit warren on multiple levels, but we think downstairs (near the kitchen) has a slight upper hand on upstairs, feeling a bit more winebar-ish. The place to be is the same level as the kitchen area - and if you love watching them at work as much as we do, you'll want to grab one of the 2-3 seats here.  

And note that you can't book either.

Yes it's the first "no reservations" place for Atherton, but it makes perfect sense given the nature of the set up.

Jamon, manchego toastie, quail’s eggsJamon, manchego toastie, quail’s eggs

What should we order?

Being a tapas menu, the general rule is "as much as you can afford" but keep an eye that the bill doesn't creep up too much. Again, also only order as many dishes as you can eat in one go - max three at a time for two people, we think. That should avoid the table getting overwhelmed.

We didn't actually order the charcuterie or cheese this time around, but we recommend you do so you can see the rather lovely double decker contraption they fix to the side of the table to serve it. Otherwise just make a tour of the menu - we didn't have a duff dish, but here are the highlights:

  • Jamon, manchego toastie, quail’s eggs (£6) - something that you'll definitely see appearing on Instagram, this is a lovely collection of mini ham and cheese toasties. A must-order.
  • Slow-cooked egg, oxtail dashi, creamed potato (£7.5) - this will probably become the signature dish of the restaurant. Be warned - have some bread handy as you'll want to mop up as much of this as possible.
  • Heirloom tomato salad, truffle burrata, basil, gazpacho vinaigrette (£6.5) - a lovely and generous salad - there's plenty for vegetarians on the menu too.
  • Norfolk suckling pig, roasted pineapple, sherry caramel (£12) - pineapple and pig go together VERY well and the sherry caramel just tops things off.
  • Szechuan fried chipirones, togarashi, ink aioli, lime (£6.5) - deep black aioli matched with incredibly lightly cooked chipirones.

But have a look through the rest of our food in the menu below. As mentioned - there wasn't a bad dish in there and there's still loads more to try on the menu.

Do make sure you save room for the generous roast milk soft serve ice cream (£3.50) which is wonderful enough on its own but elevated by the mini chocolate and strawberry sauce pipettes that allow you to garnish the ice cream as you see fit. 

And how about the wine?

Obviously this is as big a draw as the food for many folks. If Laure Patry is available, you definitely want her to guide you, although all of the main front of house folk here are trained sommeliers which is one of their USPs. First up were the cocktails, all wine-based takes on classics and we'd highly recommend the Spritzrovia (£9.50).

We started and ended with one of our favourites, Gruner Veltiner - starting with "Wachau, Grüner Veltliner, Rainer Weiss" at £36 a bottle and ending with a Gruner eiswine which as a new one on us.

Another standout selection for us was the "Bucephale, Ligas, Pella, Greece" which was an excellent light red and well worth seeking out on the menu (£56).

As for prices, things start off at £4 - £4.50 a glass (125ml) or £23 a bottle, with most of the lower end prices being between £30 and £40. And things can obviously get very pricey if you have a nice expense account to abuse. 

Roast milk soft serve ice creamRoast milk soft serve ice cream

There's a shop too...

So if you do fancy taking away a bottle of something you liked, head upstairs to the shop, where they'll also be holding a number of masterclasses and tastings. You can also book the area here for a private tasting event. 

Overall thoughts?

Once again, Atherton has another success under his belt. The food clearly has some of his influences but it deftly applied to tapas style eating. And it will be a perfect "stop for a glass and a bite" place too. Oxford Street shopping just got a whole lot more interesting. 

Social Wine & Tapas is at 39 James Street, London W1U 1DL. Find out more about Social Wine & Tapas.

Hot Dinners were invited to Social Wine & Tapas. Prices were correct at the time of writing. 

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