If you’re looking for a London chef to worship like a minor deity, then you’d do well to start genuflecting at the feet of Nick Bramham. The sole chef at Quality Wines – Quality Chop House’s romantic and almost aggressively candlelit lady next door – Bramham commands the room’s artfully cluttered corner kitchen with all the chill and grace of a monk. I suppose if there’s only one of you in there, then the usual stuff that’s supposed to plague contemporary kitchens (arguments over the blue roll, wondering why the knives are blunt and asking who hid the mortadella) isn’t so much of a problem.
Ostensibly a wine bar – the clue is in the name, right? – Quality Wines has far transcended the sum of its nomenclature by not only offering pages of perfect plonk, but serving it alongside a short but extremely well considered menu of Mediterranean-inspired dishes. The seasonal à la carte blackboard menu changes monthly – three or so mains, a handful of starter-sized offerings and seriously good snacks – so what you read about here will likely no longer be available, for which we can only apologise.
Named after Rita Hayworth’s character in the steamy film noir of the same name, the Gilda’s seductive nature was crystal-clear
Happily, some items are menu standards, with gorgeous Gildas, bouncy, salty focaccia and indecent pig-fat cannoli (more of which later) – impossible to remove, such is their popularity. There would be rioting on the streets of Farringdon.
So, those Gildas. At £2 a pop, this perfect Basque pintxo is an alchemic combination of an olive, guindilla pepper and a single salted anchovy fillet. Named after Rita Hayworth’s character in the steamy film noir of the same name, its seductive nature was crystal-clear. Order more than one: this is not the time to be stingy. A roast fennel, blood orange and mozzarella salad was oozy and tangy, ideal for dipping that fulsome focaccia into. Happily, we visited in the depths of February, when the fried black winter truffle sandwich was on the blackboard. Unlike Bramham’s other offerings, this was not a good-looking or sophisticated dish. It was thinly sliced truffle between a couple of rounds of standard white loaf. Its sexiness however was innate. Who needs to look flashy when you’re packing the best truffs in town? Next was braised and blasted Iberico pork collar, swimming down a river of Pardina lentils and spinach, with a splodge of bracing aioli on the side. Exactly what was needed to banish those lingering winter blues.
Those who like to ‘um’ and ‘ah’ their way through a lengthy dessert menu will be disappointed – as will vegetarians – as the only sweet on offer is Bramham’s signature pig-fat cannoli, a crispy little powerhouse of a pud which tonight came in either salted peanut praline, Pump Street chocolate or sour cherry and almond flavour. I plumped for the latter, which was not only in possession of a suggestive shape, but stuffed with some seriously creamy ricotta. It might be small, but it’s what they do with this classic Italian pastry that counts – which is something it has in common with the petite but pretty much perfect Quality Wines.
The vibe Romantic and candlelit, but also totally appropriate for a night knocking back glasses of Barolo with mates.
The food A monthly changing menu of chic and indulgent Med plates.
The drink Wine, of course! You’re in extremely good hands here, so plonk for whatever red or white they’re serving at £7 and you’ll be golden.
Time Out tip Gorge yourself on Gildas.