London has plenty of good wine bars. More expensive, inevitably, than their continental cousins (we have the Treasury and import tax to thank for that), the best ones still offer a uniquely civilised experience in which unusual and interesting vintages at reasonably kind prices operate in interesting settings, often aided by the addition of the sort of quirky dishes that help bridge the gap between full restaurant and more casual dining experience. Many of those establishments have fled to the (slightly) cheaper rents of East and South London, so all hail the founders of The Remedy – David, Renato, Dany and Abel – for coming up with something that feels fresh, original and, thankfully, fun.
There is no especial gimmick. The food menu is short, well-cooked and well-conceived, and cheap. A selection of small plates all come in well under the £10 mark, and offer some innovative cooking with fresh, sometimes unusual ingredients. Grilled octopus with ratte potatoes is a big hit, as is snails ‘bourguignon’ on delectable sourdough toast. If I had the faintest of reservations about pumpkin with goat’s cheese and dukka, it was the ambition in the dish, rather than the lack of it. Much is made of the speciality sausages that are served, of which I would unhesitatingly recommend the chorizo – spicy, fiery, delectable – over the more mundane ‘Italian homemade’, which is in fact nothing to do with Italy. Finally, a dessert of dark chocolate mousse was, as is the vogue, salted, and a positive bargain at £4, given that a mediocre supermarket equivalent will often cost you half that.
But, to be honest, the food is what you soak up the wine here with, rather than the reason to head up to Cleveland Street. And the wine is very much the raison d’etre, the remedy – if you will – for all the day’s woes. (There’s also an excellent-sounding selection of reasonably priced craft beers, if you’re not a oenophile.) With a good variety available by the glass, it’s a splendid opportunity to go on something of a tasting safari. I glance blearily at a selection of photos and discover that I partook of the excellent Cépage Gringet to begin with, while a Domaine Garnier & Fils Chablis and a Sicilian Barraco both served as valiant accompaniments. Red-wise, a Mas del Périé Malbec knocked my socks off, which I promptly had to put on again – both for reasons of basic personal hygiene and because a fine, sensuous Saint-Joseph was hovering in the wings. Thankfully, none of these behemoths was served in full-size, or even half-size glasses, as I would have been reeling and stumbling in no time. A 1977 Terrantes Madeira was a suitably luxuriant end to the evening.
So, The Remedy comes highly recommended, first of all as a place to be bibulous within, and secondly as somewhere to enjoy reasonably priced, decently cooked and sometimes really top-notch food. It would be possible to have a lovely evening here at around £30 a head, and given how expensive most places in the area are, including a good deal that are in no way comparable, this should come as both a welcome relief and a destination in its own right. For this relief, much thanks.
The Remedy, 124 Cleveland Street, W1. For your dose, visit www.theremedylondon.com.