8 July 2018

Bottles, Spitalfields Market

In London, it's unlikely your interest will be peaked by the words 'wine bar'. Here, alcohol is a key part of the restaurant landscape. There are places for the snobs, and there are places for those who are just looking for the nearest (and longest) happy hour.

But this wine bar, fittingly named Bottles, is a little different. Headed up by Italian duo Franco Mancini and Daniele Marano (behind Bottles & Battles at Mercato Metropolitano), the handpicked wine selection focuses on regional and indigenous varieties and apparently 'forgotten' grapes.

They've also teamed up with pop-up restaurant concept SOOD family who promise 'honest Italian cooking'.

When I arrived, I was greeted with a glass of Prosecco (much needed as part of this heatwave we're having, I was melting) and checked out the outside space, which backs onto the inside of Spitalfields Market.

Light and bright, the concrete and wooden benches are softened with gorgeous cushions, extravagant flowers and fairylights.

Oh, and there was the (not-so) small matter of THIS

A ginormous bowl - although 'bowl' doesn't do it justice - of Grana Padano, luring you in.

Alongside the metre long cheese and meat boards.

I was partial to this cheese - kind of like a soft cheddar, but tasted like brie

The sauce was in fact a tomato and chilli jam, and yes, it tasted as good as it looked accompanied by the cheese - I can't vouch for the meats, but look at them... they look divine.

I was invited inside to dine*, and we all sat around a large rectangle, communal table. Not strictly benches like at Wagamamas, so you do feel like you have a bit of space whilst also enjoying the buzzy, sociable element of the place.

* and dine I did.

First, I ogled the meats across from me - the capocollo, I believe.

And first up - alongside some really, really tasty green olives - I had the Cacio e Pepe rice balls with pecorino and mozzarella.

The outer crust was a bit too crunchy for my fancy, and the pecorino hadn't melted as much as I wanted - I was expecting soft gooeyness, I guess. But they were really tasty. Two would have sufficed, and I donated the last to another guest.

I also need to credit this wine - Grillo Grillo, so good they named it twice. I've gone off white wine recently but this made me fall in love a bit. A Sicilian white, it smelled like caramel, was a gorgeous yellow colour in the glass, and went down so smoothly. Absolutely delicious.

Next up, the burrato in tomato exilir...

Said exilir poured with panache by the sommelier (all the staff are sommeliers).

It made for a pretty photo, but it also made the burrata a bit watery when I cut into it, and it got quite messy. Nothing wrong with popping some delicious whole tomatoes alongside it, in my opinion. But hey, it's good for the 'gram. And to be honest, it was a large portion - it would have worked at half the size.

I befriended food photographer, Nic, who ordered the meaty options - the Iberico pork with cherries and fennel...

And the handmade spaghetti with crispy guanciale (cured pork cheeks), which looked like a fancy mountain of spag bol. 

I opted for something I've never had before: the clam tortellini

It looked incredible, but I'd be lying if I didn't say it tasted like I was eating pasta in a fishy saltwater. The clams were sweet and fell of the shell, but I could have done with a bigger portion.

And then the asparagus with broad beans, cream, lemon and mint came out (I told you I meant it when I said I 'dined')...

I was a bit disappointed because it was covered in nuts, and the cream tasted a bit nutty too. So it was kind of like I was having an asparagus pad thai (which I don't like, because of said nuts). And the asparagus was a bit sad looking. I wouldn't order this again.

Finally, we shared a meat and cheese board - there was a blue cheese which I left (maybe one day I'll like the taste of mouldy cheese), but I hoovered up the other three cheeses - so, so good with that jam.

It's also worth mentioning that there's a basement with a similar set up, with more discreet lighting (good for dates) which overlooks the kitchen.

There's only one dessert on the menu, and it's an apricot tiramisu. I spluttered a bit when I saw this. 'An apricot tiramisu? It's not a tiramisu unless it has coffee. Does it have coffee? Why ruin something that's perfect as it is?" etc, etc.

I can confirm it is not in any way a tiramisu. It's just named that so British people understand that they'll be eating a dessert that has a minor semblance to an Italian dessert they've come across before.

It was mascarpone and maybe white chocolate, with apricot jam, chunks of biscuit and a fine layer of cheese on top. No coffee. No lady fingers. No chocolate. I actually really enjoyed it, but tiramisu, it's not. 

So my final thoughts on Bottles... I loved the wine, the cheese, the dessert. I wasn't, however, won over by the larger plates. It's also not cheap, so you may risk leaving hungry if you're on a budget. But, if you're after some nibbles - olives, cheeses, meats - and a refreshing glass of Grillo in a relaxed, sociable setting, you've found the right place.

Bottles is now open on 67 Brushfield Street, in Spitalfields Market.

**I visited Bottles in exchange for review, but all thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are my own.

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