What: A casual bar with a tight food offering with a focus on vermouth in Coal Drops Yard. Vermuteria also doffs its metaphorical cycling cap to bicycle culture, exploring the link between the sport and food and drink.
Who: Anthony Demetre, the chef behind Mayfair’s Wild Honey and sorely missed Soho restaurant Arbutus. The latter was a pioneer of the Parisian bistronomy movement in London and also played a big role in the promotion of affordable fine dining in the capital. Demetre - who has penned the menu but does not cook there - is clear that his latest project is not a restaurant and is in general designed for a quick experience. Demetre is a keen cyclist and consults on the menus for Rapha Cycling Club.
The vibe: Vermuteria is a small space with around 45-covers that brings to mind the bodegas and vermuterias of Spain and Italy. There is some cycling memorabilia on the bare brick walls - including a bicycle made by legendary frame builder Dario Pegoretti - but the space’s most striking feature is the backlit collection of vermouths and amaros behind the bar. Drinks and some food can be ordered to go at the bar but table service is provided to those eating in.
The food: Inspired by where vermouth is most widely consumed - Spain, Italy and France - the menu is chalked up behind the bar and majors on sandwiches, pastries, salads and charcuterie. Hot dishes are limited due to a small kitchen and a modest power supply, but what there is well-judged and good value. Options on our visit included a ribollita-like vegetable soup (a Demetre classic and a total bargain at £4.50 a bowl), crab croquettes with freshly made tomato sauce and quail with girolles, olive oil and herbs.
Vermuteria mainly offers cold dishes
The drinks: Vermuteria stocks more varieties of vermouth than anywhere in the UK ranging from the big brands to more esoteric varieties. For those wanting to delve a little deeper, Demtere has sourced vintage bottles (vermouth does not improve with age, but as an aromatized and fortified wine it can last for decades). As you’d expect negronis take top billing on the cocktail list. High quality coffee is a key part of the offering with a bespoke blend provided by Allpress. If ordered at the bar espressos are just £1, with Demetre looking to recreate the affordable, fast-paced coffee culture of Italy.
And another thing: Demetre will soon to serving house-made vermouth and eventually plans to bottle it and sell on to other restaurants. The recipe is fairly straight forward - wine is fortified with neutral spirit, steeped with herbs and other aromatics and held in a barrel - and apparently went down a storm at Wild Honey.
Vermuteria stock more vermouth than anywhere else in the country