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Vivat Bacchus


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Restaurant Vivat Bacchus opened in Holborn last September and sounds an interesting proposition. Chefs are Robert Staegeman (ex Kensington Place) and Terrence Clark (ex Foliage) and is unusual in having 3 seperate wine cellars. A whole room is given over to cheese where diners are invited to visit to make their selections. A big play is made of the wine list which they claim offers some good and unusual bottles at reasonable prices.

Full details at the website.

(Info courtesy of Pink Fish.)

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It's funny, only in the city does the term 'reasonable value wine list' take on a whole new meaning.

Reasonable compared to what? a mugging?

A meal without wine is... well, erm, what is that like?

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Funny you should mention this place, I've been passing by there for a few months, at different times of the day - and have never seen anyone go in or out. But it looked intriguing and I've been meaning to try it anyway. The sign in the window says it's related to a wine-oriented restaurant in Jo'burg (I've never been to Jo'burg).

Jon Tseng and I had a drink there a couple of days ago. The restaurant is located on a depressing junction of Farringdon Street and Charterhouse Street, at the fringes of Clerkenwell. The windows don't give much away, as the restaurant is underground. In fact the entrance is a bit gloomy.

The interior, however, is very impressive. There's a small bar with a couple of cafe tables - down a short flight of stairs from the reception. The bar lists about four red & four white wines by the glass, reasonably priced if a bit standard - and I think a couple of sparkling wines by the glass. The bottles on the bar list ranged from £15 to around £whatever. No bargains but better quality than All Bar One & other 'wine bars'. There's a wine cellar (if I recall correctly it's whites) on the bar level.

The real treat looks to be the restaurant downstairs, it's quite stunning. High vaulted ceilings, stone floors - loads of space between tables - I counted two dining rooms but there might have been three. Because of the hard surfaces, though, I'm guessing it might get loud. But it was impossible to tell, because at 19h00 on a Monday night, there was not a SOUL in the restaurant. (There was only one other party in the bar area, a super-drunk city worker and two male colleagues). We were told it gets busy at lunch but I'd passed by at lunchtime that same day to pick up a card - and there wasn't anyone in the bar, and the lady at reception (who then showed us around later and is apparently one of the owners) had time to chat.

The other two wine cellars - one for red and one for general storage, plus the cheese room - are also on the restaurant level. The cheeses looked beautiful and there were many to choose from, we were told they come mainlly from Machiavelli (I'm not familiar). Jon inquired how they could keep the quantity of cheeses properly if only a few people ordered cheese boards (based on apparent lack of adequate turnover) and was advised once again that there are lots of takers at lunchtime...

I wasn't wearing my reporter's hat so I didn't want to snoop around too much but a very superficial inspection indicates had some good South African wines (I'm not familiar with the SA vintages so can't comment); some interesting Spanish wines; and many big name Bordeaux in fair-to-blah recent vintages. We were told they have some older Bordeaux. I didn't get to look at the restaurant wine list but I'd expect the prices to be standard to high mark-up. The fun part would be to spot the gem...

The menu is French, looks interesting and reasonable for the area.

So: why is it empty? It reminded me a bit of my Flaneur experience, which I keep going on about... thought it was too good to be true, never saw anyone there, prices pretty outrageous - but the more I've gone back, the more enamored I have become. I still don't see anyone there, but I've all but stopped trying to figure out what it's a front for. Vivat Bacchus has pedigree, a big, expensive fit-out and all the right ingredients to be a welcome - if not cheap - addition to the area. If the food is great and reasonable, people will spend money on the wine.

I think this requires more investigation...

Edited by magnolia (log)
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  • 3 months later...

Visited VB yesterday for lunch and it was a mixed experience.

The room is impressive but is also too loud. We had a poor table (for 5) in a corner which lead to service problems, of which more below. One of the party had to sit in front of a portable heater which reduced leg room and overcooked him but at least they turned it off when asked.

I started with cauliflower and parmesan risotto which was good but very hot which suggested it had been pre-cooked then pinged. I then had the calf's liver and chateau potato with baked figs. The liver was good but the potato undercooked and the sauce too sweet and over-reduced. What my other half calls "restaurant sauce". I finished with cheese from the cheese room which was the highlight of the meal -- interesting choices, excellent quality and condition (I was warned that one of my putative choices wasn't ready yet so they knoiw what they're doing here).

I chose the wine from the short list (as opposed to the cellar) and had an excellent Luxembourg riesling (curiousity got the better of me) at a reasonable £23/btl and a glass of South African red at £9.90 - the most expensive glass on themenu but it's wot mandela had when he came out of prison and it was excellent (sorry - can't remember name).

So far then, good wine and excellent cheese and acceptable food.

The problem was the service, which was extraordinarily inexperienced and inappropriate for a place of this type. As well as the litany of low-level cock-ups (having to ask for order again; special cutlery given to wrong diners; dishes given to wrong diners; leaning across table rather than coming round) they were completely insensitive to the fact that this was a business lunch and kept interrupting at inopportune moments or sticking around for too long/providing too much information. Even the maitresse d' kept insisting that I visit the cellar to pick the wine -- I'd love to, but I've got to butter up this client! She should have picked this up after I'd declined her offer the first time. I hate overly formal service, but this was more akin to TGI Fridays than a City restaurant serving £50 lunches.

I will give this place another try, mainly for the cheese and to scope out the cellar, but if my visit was representative the service really has a lot of bedding down to do before it's acceptable for a place of this type.

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Winot - thanks for this review, I still haven't returned since I had drinks there but I just have this feeling it's not long for this world, at least not in its current state.

It had all the right ingredients and just was too ambitious for its own good.

I wager it will turn into a wine and cheese place, private party venue etc. for all the reasons you described bad service, wrong price point for the food quality - you are obviously paying for the high rent and the cheese room/wine cellar. Also its location is just unfortunate. Little if any food traffic, and a very unauspicious facade (there's this big sign that looks like a "for rent" sign on the outside, something like 'for wine and cheese parties call 7XXX XXXX" so you don't even know it's a restaurant - frankly it could be anything from the outside, a gym, an office building)

However I was intrigued by something...what is chateau potato? Sounds like my kind of place... :smile:

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I was intrigued by something...what is chateau potato?

I may have got the name wrong, although a Google search reveals quite a few hits so there's definitely something called that.

Whatever it was, it wasn't very good -- a single large potato chiselled into something resembling a zeppelin truncated at both ends, then baked (I'd guess). But not for long enough.

I agree with your pessimistic prognosis, although it was pretty busy when I was there and apparently also when a colleague went a few weeks ago. Perhaps the presence of Lovells upstairs will be enough to keep it going.

The web site says they do a cheese lunch with "3 Cheeses, 4 Cold Meats, Preserves etc, Glass of Wine" for £15 -- I'm tempted to pop back soon for that, if only to have that tour round the cellar.

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  • 3 months later...

I'm going to join the chorus of "erms" about this place. We went on a Friday night and it was almost completely empty. There were two other people in there when we arrived and they soon left. Jack and I have that effect on people.

The cheese room is such a brilliant idea I want one at home. But I think they are starting to suffer from lack of turnover. Several of the cheese I would have like to eat were dried up sad little specimins. The waiteress (actually, I think she might be part of the management team) steered me away from those and she did build us a plate of really good stuff, but there's something about seeing such bounty and not being to have everything that rankled a bit with me. Why not throw the stuff that was past its best away?

I don't think I'd go back. It feels a bit strange to me. I think their location isn't helping them at all...

Suzi Edwards aka "Tarka"

"the only thing larger than her bum is her ego"

Blogito ergo sum

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  • 3 months later...

Just got back from a short holiday in London and really enjoyed the cheese plate from Vivat Bacchus on Farringdon Street. I would highly recommend it to anyone. Now I'm planning another trip to London for early Spring and does anyone have any recommendations for restaurants/bars with great cheese selections similar to Vivat Bacchus?

Thank you.

Stephen Bonner

Vancouver

"who needs a wine list when you can get pissed on dessert" Gordon Ramsey Kitchen Nightmares 2005

MY BLOG

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Cheese in fine London restaurants can be dicey; often the selections are good but the cheeses aren't well kept, and they end up dry or ammoniated.

The two best cheese services I have had in London have been at Gordon Ramsay, Royal Hospital Road, and Chez Bruce, on Wandsworth Common. In both cases, the cheeses are consistently in good condition, and the staff clearly love cheese and are knowledgeable about it. Bruce's English cheeses come from Neal's Yard and his French ones from La Fromagerie.

Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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Cheese in fine London restaurants can be dicey; often the selections are good but the cheeses aren't well kept, and they end up dry or ammoniated.

Agreed - but y'all know why? If we all kept to EEC regs and wanted our cheeses at the right temperature, you'd need to throw out and replace the entire cheeseboard every hour.

Cheers, Howard

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We are very familar with the cheeses from Neal's Yard... the only problem is storing and eating all that cheese in our hotel room. We had a great day at the Borough Market and the Wine Wharf run by a friend of ours. Cheers.

"who needs a wine list when you can get pissed on dessert" Gordon Ramsey Kitchen Nightmares 2005

MY BLOG

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  • 1 year later...
Walked past this place today and was somewhat intrigued - has anyone been more recently? And does anyone know anything about their Monday night wine tastings?

I know that they've been busier of late. We took a call at 8.45pm from a table of 4 last thursday who were booked in with us for 8pm. They asked 'sorry but we were just wondering what the full name of the restaurant is?'. 'Bacchus' came the reply.

'As in Vivat Bacchus?'. Erm, no. They are about a mile and a half up the road'

Silence.

'Oh shit'

:laugh:

They'd already sat down, ordered wine, had bread and a discussion as to what all the fuss was about with these strange combinations of food as they thought the menu looked fairly straight forward!

To their credit they had starters, paid the bill, got a taxi and came and had the tasting menu at ours.

<a href='http://www.bacchus-restaurant.co.uk' target='_blank'>www.bacchus-restaurant.co.uk</a>

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