So are you feeling as credit crunched as I am?? Redundancies everywhere, a grocery bill that just seems filled with helium and rises every week despite the fact that we are buying exactly the same stuff – and a bathroom renovation that seems to have a budget like a small country. Clearly, expensive holidays abroad are out of the question this year… But what if you yearn for a city break to Italy and the yearning won't go away whatever your bank manager says? Well, for my money, I'm heading back to The Wine Theatre in Southwark.
Two weeks ago I was lucky enough to be invited to attend a Bisol prosecco tasting here, together with my friends and fellow-bloggers Andrew and Denise. Although it's conveniently located a short walk from Southwark tube station, I had never stumbled across The Wine Theatre and was pleasantly surprised by the sleek, modern decor. One wall is dominated by a great black & white photo triptych of the interior of an ornate theatre, and the kitchen is surrounded with red drapes very much like a stage, continuing the theatre motif. We were enthusiastically greeted by the very charming and enthusiastic Roberto from Bisol, and owner Fabio who explained what it was that The Wine Theatre is aiming to achieve.
Much like the Spaniards enjoy tapas with their cervezas, Italy also enjoys a long tradition of drinks accompanied by little nibbly snacks, called cicchetti in Venice. This is the very civilised concept that The Wine Theatre intends to promote in London. All you have to do is show up between 17h30 and 20h00 and order a glass of wine for £4.00 or more and you get to make unlimited trips to the buffet table. Now you'd think that in these credit crunched times, people would jump at the chance of free food – but according to Fabio, the Brits seem deeply suspicious of the concept of a practically free meal. Surely there must be something wrong with the food? Well let me assure you that this is not the case! When we arrived after a long day of tasting at the London International Wine Fair, we headed straight for the buffet table full of beautiful fresh food and here's what we got:
Some great salami, a little square of frittata, a rice salad, a mayonnaisey pea and corn salad, carrots in a wonderful vinaigrette dressing, a pasta salad, a little toast round with olive oil and tomatoes, and some truly delicious cheese (pecorino?) with dried apricots. Heavenly! And everything was fresh and delicious, not last night's unsaleable leftovers dressed up as a buffet. So there, unbelievers! ;-)
Suitably refreshed, we were all set for the Bisol prosecco tasting. The Bisol family has been producing prosecco at their estate since the 1600s and because they own larger-than-average vineyards in the Prosecco region, they can maintain control over how the grapes are grown and thereby maintain quality. To this end, they produce far fewer grapes per hectare than Prosecco DOC regulations allow, and carry out a green harvest of grapes each July, lowering yield but increasing quality. The result is available to the public in the form of about 14 different proseccos produced by Bisol – here are the four we tasted plus their matching cicchetti.
The Bisol Jeio Prosecco was light and refreshing and paired extremely well with its accompanying (very delicious) calamari and olive bruschetta – the rocket salad really brought out some wonderful pepper spice flavours in the wine. And the bruschetta was the nicest I have had in years. Calamari on bread – who knew??
The Bisol Cru Crede Prosecco (a single vineyard prosecco) had a lovely Granny Smith apply nose which gave a hint of its fairly tart, crisp palate. This was a distinct advantage when it was paired with the deliciously creamy farfalle pasta with a creamy smoked samon and dill sauce. The wine cut neatly through the richness of the pasta sauce and made for another great paiting.
Up next was the Bisol Jeio Rose (a perfectly pink blend of 95% Pinot Noir and 5% Merlot). Despite some fruity notes, this delicious wine was richer than the others but no sweeter. Still, the richness made it a good match for a plate of excellent charcuterie – coppa, salami and Prosciutto. The star of the plate, however, was the astonishingly good bread – a sweetish brioche-like crumb studded with little chunks of meat and sweet bell pepper. Heaven!
Last but not least, to accompany our dessert we had Bisol Cru Cartizze Prosecco which had a touch of residual sweetness as compared to the others. This definitely was my favourite prosecco to drink on its own, and it was served with excellent chocolate brownies and a white chocolate and orange sauce. But, sadly, I do not think that the wine matched particularly well with the dessert – it was rather overwhelmed by the strident flavours of the food. Maybe better with mild cheese??
All in all, we had a fabulous evening. Fabio and Roberto were charming hosts, the prosecco was delicious, and I was very impressed with all the food. If you feel in need of a fix of Italian food, wine and charm but can't afford a weekend in Venice, I can recommend The Wine Theatre as the next best thing.
The Wine Theatre
202-206 Union Street
Tel. 020 7261 0209