Forget everything you thought you knew about wine bar food, because Vagabond Wines‘ appointment of Adam Parker as their first executive chef just changed the game completely.
Boasting stints at the likes of Brawn, La Trompette, Sonny’s and Medlar, Adam’s fine dining background means wine bars across London will be taking a second look at the clammy cheese boards, tinned olives and dried-out charcuterie on their menus. ‘I want to take all of my experience and use it to take the food here to the next level’, he told us. ‘I want it to be a kitchen where chefs want to work.’
Known for their self-service wine bars, Vagabond has made a pointed effort to raise its head above the parapet when it comes to the food that goes with their drinks. The cooking is best showcased at their Northcote Road branch and at the newly-opened and utterly cavernous Victoria branch, which has a sizeable semi-open kitchen overlooked by a counter where diners can watch the chefs at work.
Cheffy tricks and pretty plating mean many of the dishes wouldn’t look out of place in a Michelin-starred dining room – a sous-vide is put to good use for deliciously tender squid, and teeny-tiny winter truffle and wild mushroom éclairs are a triumph of delicate flavours and textures. Our bouches could not be more amused. Equally delicious are croquette-like crispy bites filled with boudin noir and served with honey and mustard. In a nod to classic tapas, there’s also chorizo al vino – but drizzled with sharp, herby salsa verde that lifts this rich, soft chorizo dish to new heights.
Bigger appetites will likely be drawn to the sharing platters. Have you ever had a roast dinner in a wine bar? If not, you’ll want to after reading this: Slow-cooked chicken breast with a crispy leg, pancetta roasties, glazed carrots, roasted cauliflower and chorizo aioli. Your local pub’s Sunday lunch will never seem the same again.
There aren’t many wine bars in London that put as much care and technical skill into their food as they do their wine, so it’s refreshing to see a fast-growing chain like Vagabond invest in improving the quality of their offering rather than just the scale of it. Keep an eye on them, because if they’re opening up in your ‘hood then you might just have a new favourite foodie hangout.