"I suspect that I shall be popping in on a regular basis"Review Rating: Reviewed by KimT
St Martin’s Courtyard is a new development with entrances from St Martin’s Lane or via Slingsby Place off Long Acre. My professional work had required me to tour the site’s commercial and residential developments during their construction so I was keen to see how the retail and restaurants (and there are several places to eat and drink there) in the rather pleasant courtyard turned out.
Despite the fact that it isn’t on a major thoroughfare, on a Saturday evening at 7pm it was comfortably busy. Mind you, it isn’t a large place and desperately needs some al fresco seating both to expand its capacity and to take advantage of the lovely courtyard.
It’s a bit weird as the large windows have “Wine Shop” on them and the walls are covered with shelves of wine for sale. At the rear there is a glass temperature controlled room. Whilst there, I witnessed a couple of people – including Italians and a Brad Pitt lookalike – popping in to buy wine and receiving lots of helpful advice from the staff.
There’s a relatively large bar – where there were a number of male and female lone drinkers and diners. Some were even writing. There are a couple of large high level tables with modern wire framed backed stools. There were a gay and a straight couple at either end of one of these. There are a few ordinary level small tables around the edges. More couples and small groups – including some tourists, Italians (local?) and other folk.
Is it a shop? A wine bar? A restaurant? Well, all three I guess. A sort of upmarket, modern Italian tapas bar – perfect for meeting up with friends in a sophisticated – but informal - bar before an evening out in the West End.
The transient nature of Della Terra is confirmed by the extensive wine list which shows a startling array of Italian regional wines by the glass ranging from £4.95 (125 ml of Vernaccia 2010 Terruzi & Puthod) to £16.95 (175 ml of Nosiola Fontanasanta 2010 Foradori – we tasted this and my friend liked it very much, although it was a little too lively for my palate but tasted much better when drunk with some chickpea and mascarpone puree topped with salt cod bruschetta - £3.80).
We also tasted a volcanic wine from Sicily (£12.95 a glass – Vinujancu 2010) which was extraordinary and not really comparable to anything else I have ever tasted. Call me a heathen but on the white wine front I was more than happy with a Chardonnay from Valle D’Aosta (£9.95 a glass) and even – my favourite - a full bodied Venetian Zyme (£6.25). Particularly when accompanied by marinated hake, roasted preserved peppers, broad beans and mint (£9.45), beef carpaccio with rocket, shaved caciocavallo cheese and truffle oil dressing (£11.60) and smoked swordfish carpaccio with parsley and lemon dressing (£12.20).
Both of the red wines I tasted were marvellous – the traditional Antenata 2007 Bindella from Tuscany (£15.95) and the Sicilian Vinupetra Rosso Nerello 2007 (£8.95). If you like dessert wines – we had some with some frangipani tart – the Venetian Torcolato was lovely (£7.20).
There are numerous other “on the board” options (from £9.90) and items on the dinner menu (e.g. confit portk medallions, cannellini bean fritter and cabbage - £7.60 and baked pecorino cheese wrapped in culatello ham and grilled radicchio £7.75). The chef here is Araldo De Vitis, an Italian from that most British of places St John Bar & Restaurant in Smithfield – so an interesting blend.
Two other things of note. The staff were amazing – friendly and earnest Francesco and Giuseppe. Their passion for and knowledge of the wine and food conveyed in their every word. Whether you are a wine expert or a complete novice, they will put you at ease with a warm smile. The other thing was the music. Quite an eclectic selection – some of the tunes I noted included David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Rhianna, Jackson Five, Amy Winehouse, James Brown and Fontella Bass (I love “Rescue me”).
So. An unusual but pleasant modern venue with charismatic staff offering quite an extraordinary range of interesting Italian wines – some of which are ferociously expensive whilst others priced at standard Central London bar prices – and excellent food prepared by a thoughtful and creative chef. Being in its central – but off the beaten track – location, I suspect that I shall be popping in on a regular basis.
KimT reviewed Dalla Terra Wine Bar & Restaurant on Tue 12 Jun 2012