With Pollen Street Social, Little Social, Social Eating House, City Social, Berners Tavern, not to mention a plethora of restaurants all over the world, can Jason Atherton do no wrong? Well I think he might have stretched himself one too far with his latest opening Social Wine and Tapas on James Street, right opposite Patty&Bun.
It’s an odd space made up of lots of little dining rooms. We were seated at a cramped table which couldn’t have been more in everybody’s way. The lighting was terrible; a spotlight shone in my gentleman companion’s face like he was being interrogated. The crippling rock music, I’m not sure anyone enjoyed listening to Staring at the Rudeboys by The Ruts, was SUCH a misguided choice. Nothing felt like it worked together.
The food on the whole was fine but everything, and I mean everything, was seriously over salty. Ham croquetas (£4) had generous amounts of salty ham, but then to be sprinkled with salt seemed overkill.
Pan con tomate (£2.50) had a sweet tomato topping but the plate was covered in salt. It was if there had been an accident with the salt shaker. The Jamon and manchego cheese toastie topped with a quail’s egg (£6) was probably the best thing we tried, mainly due to the addition of some pepper. Heirloom tomato salad with truffled burrata (£6.50) needed far more burrata which was a shame.
Schezuan fried chipirones (£6.50), which are little baby squid, were crisp but the accompanying squid ink aioli had the texture and appearance of crude oil; it was most unpleasant to eat. Gloopy, claggy and flavourless.
Rose veal and foie gras burgers with pulled pork (£12) were better but there seemed one too many flavours present; they drowned each other out. Cumbrian lamb rump with crushed potatoes (£12) was pleasant but the dollop of saffron aioli tasted like that of Lenor. Seriously. I can still taste it now. It really wasn’t very nice.
Instead of dessert we opted for cheese, a Bosworth Ash goat, Sharpham soft and a Beauvale blue (£9) and even the blue cheese was salty.
London is clearly going through a surge in tapas and it feels like Social Wine and Tapas have jumped on the bandwagon here. That’s fine if it’s well executed but all the elements don’t gel together particularly well. And that music really is awful.