The latest wine bar and brasserie from Jason Atherton, near Selfridges.
When Jason Atherton, one of London’s leading restaurateurs, opens a wine bar next to Selfridges, you take notice. And employing Jason’s wife Irha as the venue’s manager suggests that the Athertons’ investment in this project is personal. Yet it was the personal touch that was conspicuously lacking on our visit.
Although it’s styled as a wine bar, everyone was tucking into full meals: a smart decision, because the food is terrific. The Josper grill sears colourful vegetable assemblies, the deep-fryer turns out a lip-puckering salt and pepper squid, and poached egg with oxtail was a triumph of texture and flavour.
So why are we hesitant to endorse it? Because food is only one part of a successful meal out.
On arrival, you may well have to wait for a table. Good tapas bars, such as Barrafina, let you nurse a glass or perch on a seat while you’re waiting; here you’re confined to the entrance. It’s about as much fun as waiting to go through airport security.
On being seated we had three separate very long waits: to be given menus, to have our orders taken, and to pay. In fairness this was recognised, and the manager gave us our drinks free by way of apology. But the problem wasn’t the place being too busy; it was training, and systems. The staff simply didn’t seem to know how to wait tables effectively.
There is a great, wide-ranging wine list, but few staff, if any, appeared able to tell us anything useful about it. We were not warned that a Spanish white, costing £11.50 for a small glass, was a ‘natural wine’. It smelled and tasted like cider; we had to send it back. A good wine waiter warns you first.
We enjoyed the food a lot, and would have ordered desserts, but we simply couldn’t face another hour of trying to flag down inattentive waiters. So we went home hungry instead. Let’s hope they sort out the service here soon, because the outstanding food deserves far better.
|Venue name:||Social Wine & Tapas||Contact:|
39 James Street
|Opening hours:||Mon-Sat noon-10.30pm|
|Transport:||Tube: Bond Street|
|Price:||Meal for two with wine and service: around £80.|
|Do you own this business?|
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