Vivat Bacchus, London Bridge

by Jeanne on January 14, 2010

in Meeting bloggers, Restaurants - London

Eat, drink and be bloggers!

So did you hear the one about the girl who called up a couple of central London restaurants one Friday afternoon, asking:  "Hello, do you have a table for eleven people available for dinner tomorrow evening?  Yes, that's this Saturday evening I'm talking about, and I'd like the table at 19h30."

OK, so those of you who live in London can pick yourself up from where you've been rolling on the floor laughing, wipe the tears of mirth from your eyes, and let me finish the story. 

London is notorious for the fact that any restaurant where you'd actually want to eat will a)already by fully booked weeks in advance; b) be unlikely to have a table at prime dining time 19h30 and will helpfully offer you a table at 6 or 10 p.m.; and c) get jittery when you book for more than 6 people and start talking set menus.  So my request was an act of blind faith over grim experience – and when a restaurant I actually like said they could accommodate us, I nearly fell off my chair in surprise.  Could we have a big table?  Let me just check… yes, you can!  And you know the menu you normally serve in the bar – could we have that in the restaurant?  I'll speak to the chef and call you back…. yes, that won't be a problem.  Now why can't all London restaurants be more like this??

I have writtten before about Vivat Bacchus in Farringdon, the South African-owned restaurant and deli bar with the fantastic wine selection – and the good news is that they now have a second branch on the doorstep of London Bridge station.  Upstairs is the more casual bar deli area where sharing platters and tapas (including a spectacular pata negra platter) are the order of the day; while the formal restaurant is downstairs.  Both floors have their own dedicated cheese room where you can go and select cheeses for your platter - veritable Alladdin's cave for cheese lovers!

The reason for our visit was the post-Food Blogger Connect dinner, and because I knew we would probably not be hungry after an afternoon of feasting, I asked whether we could order their wonderful deli platters in the downstairs restaurant. This turned out to be the perfect solution:  we all ordered different platters and got to pick at each other's!  All the platters are attractively served on wooden boards, and the portions are really generous – one platter is plenty for a meal for me.

Vivat Bacchus - French platter I

I made sure at least a few in our group had the South African platter (springbok frickadels or meatballs; biltong; spicy dried sausage or droewors; tomato & cumin chutney; and root vegetable crisps).  A couple had the vegetarian platter (pita bread, humous, aubergine dip, marinated artichokes, sunblush tomatoes, and piquillo peppers) or the Greek platter (humous, soutsouki sausage, aubergine dip, feta cheese, Kalamata olives and pita bread).  And I opted for the French platter (comte cheese, saucisson sec, celeriac remoulade, cornichons, bleu de Sassenage cheese, and pork rillettes). Everyone got to try some new things, and judging by the enthusiastic swapping of food and the empty boards, everyone found something to like.

Vivat Bacchus - vegetarian platter

As with the Farringdon branch, the wine list is full of South African wines – and I mean good South African wine, not Kumala – and an excellent selection of wine by the glass.  The spectacular Springfield Whole Berry Cabernet Sauvignon is particularly good value at £33 per bottle, and you can even try the famous Vin de Constance dessert wine by the glass.  The staff, from the people taking the bookings on the phone to everyone that served our table, were all friendly and knew their stuff.  Yes it sounds so simple but no, loads of restaurants just can't get this right.   

Platters range in price from £10.95-£13.95 and wines start from about £5 for a 175ml glass or £18 for a bottle, making this an affordable treat.  And as I've said before, the cheese room makes for a wonderful value-added feature not usually seen outside stratospherically expensive fine dining restaurants.  Vivat Bacchus also hosts regular, well-priced wine tastings and wine dinners with leading winemakers.

And let's face it – if you can make eleven food bloggers happy, you are probably doing something right!  More pictures available on my Flickr page.

Vivat Bacchus
4 Hays Lane
London Bridge
London
SE1 2HB

Tel:  +44 20 7234 0891
Fax:  +44 20 7357 7021
E-mail:  londonbridge@vivatbacchus.co.uk

Food: 8/10
Service: 8/10
Ambience:  7/10
Value:  8/10

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

bellini valli January 15, 2010 at 1:20 am

We food bloggers have pretty high standards when it comes to eating out. This was a great story Jeanne.

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elra January 15, 2010 at 5:09 am

What a wonderful gathering Jeanne. Seems like a perfect place to eat, with the right group of people of course.

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nina January 15, 2010 at 5:56 am

I love this kind of informal dining although it remains elegant and tasteful Trust a South African to show the pommies that it can be done!!!!

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Juno January 15, 2010 at 6:40 am

Lovely photos, Jeane, as always.

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Jan January 15, 2010 at 6:52 am

LOVE all that food – everything looks soooooo good!

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meeta January 15, 2010 at 7:30 am

i see my arm in that first picture!!!! Oh that was a lovely day, evening the wine was great but I was not 100% with my platter I had the South African platter. The Greek platter and the French platter were really divine as I got to indulge in both from Pam and Hilda! I think if I want South African food I just have to get you to make it for me.

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Sarah, Maison Cupcake January 15, 2010 at 8:11 am

Swoon! Those platters look wonderful. I wish I had been there and not just for the food.
We had a similar quandary when we went to Marylebone High St on the day after Food Blogger Connect, where on earth would we find anywhere who would have space for a dozen food bloggers at 1.30pm on a Sunday with no notice? We ended up in The Natural Kitchen who made us very welcome and let us sit there for two hours nattering and taking photos of everything in sight.

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Mowie @ Mowielicious January 15, 2010 at 8:29 am

I remember that! =) What a lovely evening it was.

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Sunita January 15, 2010 at 9:49 am

Jeanne, you’ve taken me back to that evening. I really enjoyed the food , and of course the company.
“And let’s face it – if you can make eleven food bloggers happy, you are probably doing something right!”- I agree :-)

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Solange January 15, 2010 at 10:40 am

Great photos, must give Viva Bacchus a go.

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Andrew January 16, 2010 at 6:15 pm

I had forgotten just how excellently tasty those platters are…

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Jeanne @ Cooksister January 18, 2010 at 12:47 pm

Val – yes, as I was writing I was thinking about what you told me about the lunch at Blogher Food!!
Elra – it truly was. Would have been lovely if you could have joined us!
Nina – Hahaha! But yo uare right, there is something abotu the South African attitude to customer service and casual yet classy dining that is hard to replicate in other cultures.
Juno and Jan – thanks :)
Meeta – oh yes, your super-gorgeous arm! ;) A pity you were not that keen on your platter but maybe biltong is not for you ;-) Still, I’m glad there were enough of us that everyone could share and find something they liked. Can’t wait to cook a meal for you in the summer!
Sarah – next time :) And yes, we certainly seemed blessed with luck re. restaurant tables all weekend!
Mowie – it was fun, wasn’t it?? Definitely should make it a regular occurrence…
Sunita – it is funny how the photos take you back instantly! Lovely to see you there.
Solange – yes, yes! Do yourself a favour!
Andrew – mmmm, yes. Come to think of it, it’s my “go to” restaurant when dining with food/wine bloggers!

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deeba January 18, 2010 at 3:40 pm

Certainly had an elated bunch of 11 happy bloggers spilling over their food & enjoying good food & good company! You just brought it all back like a blast from the past! GOSH…seems like only yesterday! So great to have met you!! {HUGS}
PS Passion fruit reserved for special occasion. You will hear me scream with joy when I do!!

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Kerri January 19, 2010 at 9:22 pm

I’ve had this place on my list for ages but rarely get out to Farringdon, great to know there is a more central branch too. The SA platter sounds great!

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