We dine at Vins, an intimate restaurant & wine bar in Islington.

I don’t often venture to North London feeling it is ‘far’, which in truth, it isn’t; with age I am just less included to travel across London or even hop across the river to the West End!

The occasion to go north came with an invite to try out a local wine bar called Vins, located in a somehow liminal zone between Inslington and Canonbury.

Vins exterior

On a lovely summer evening I rode my scooter from a very busy Blackfriars Road through a quite empty Smithfield market, via St John Street and all the way up and up past Angel and Essex Road (which brings back memory of my very first proper job in London).

I rode past a couple of Art Deco buildings I did not know existed (so interesting that I made a mental note to stop here one day) and again further up until finally my phone alerted me at the next traffic light turn left and I found myself in an area that never actually visited before.

Welcome to Vins

On a quiet, residential leafy corner is Vans, an unassuming venue from the outside, and inside it’s a small, cosy, almost romantic local restaurant, open Wednesday to Saturday which offers a small but curated selection of à la carte dishes,

Situated in the middle of Islington, Hackney and Dalston, their dining room and open plan kitchen includes ten tables. They also have a sizeable covered terrace which can accommodate 20 guests for al fresco dining in the summer months (the only place where dogs are allowed).

Mediterranean inspired is possibly the best way to describe them. I visited with a friend and we sat at one of the two window tables as the bright light of the evening was still filtering through. We were welcomed warmly and made ourselves comfortable.

Broad beans, labneh

My husband had declined to join me because the menu did not offer him enough choice; indeed the choice is a somehow limited. There are a couple of snacks (olives, Padron peppers) and then there are three starters, three mains and two desserts to choose from.

Vegetarians won’t have too many options: one from the starters and one from the mains. The wine list is quite extensive and they also have a really nice selection of aperitivs and cocktails. As I was riding I limited myself to one glass of a very plasant, dry cold Provence rose while my dining companion opted for an Italian Tuscany red since she was going to have meat for her main.

Duck ham, asparagus & celeriac remoulade

My starter of Duck ham, celeriac remoulade was very enjoyable, the duck perhaps a little tough but the remoulade very fresh and peppery, the asparagus delicious and cooked to perfection and the whole dish well seasoned. My companion loved the Broad beans, peas, labneh, whey, lovage, brioche crutons and found it to be a light and delicate dish.

Her main of Bavette steak and chimichurri excellent, with spot on cooking and tender meat, the cauliflower good choice of a complement.

steak dish
Bavette steak and chimichurri

My Pepperonata (sic) with charred courgette and rocket pesto was not what I expected: the vegetables too chunky for my liking, I found myself longing for a little bit of texture – perhaps something crunchy to go with it – but I loved the grated cheese on top (who doesn’t love cheese).

Pepperonata, rocket pesto

We also ordered two sides: one was Beetroot with blanched almonds in fresh herbs which was a seasonal, light addition to the meal. We also tried Crispy potatoes, bernaise and these were some of the best potatoes I’ve ever had! They were absolutely delicious, the right level of saltiness and crispy sking, they reminded me a little bit of the potatoes that I had in Lanzarote

Beetroot, almonds. The best potatoes top left corner

They were packed full of flavours, and out of this world that is possibly the one reason to go back to Vins if nothing else.

We decided to share one dessert and out of the two on offer we opted for a Chocolate cremeux, lavender, orange polenta cake, pistachio which was a rich, decadent dark chocolate ganache with added texture of cubes of sponge and nuts; it was skillfully made but I am glad we shared it as it was a filling portion.

Chocolate cremeaux

Our verdict

Overall were really liked Vins and we had a great evening; the venue was dainty and welcoming. They do suggest that is ideal as a romantic date spot, yet we weren’t quite sure as the music was a little bit too loud for a date. There were candles but they were only lit up towards the end of evening. Still, it has a friendly, relaxed atmosphere (date night or not) and the the service was very quick (our food arrived in no time). It is clearly a well known spot as people kept coming in through the evening, even arriving as late as (for London!) 9pm.

If anything to comment, is that I would like a little bit more choice on the menu but I guess that is just my personal preference as somebody who doesn’t eat red meat or fish.

I would definitely recommend Vins to anyone visiting this area or living in the vicinity and I am hoping to visit again in the future.

We dined as guests of Vins for the purpose of writing a review on this blog. I received no payment for this. Opinions are my own.


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