10 Cases – London WC2H
July 6, 2013 § Leave a comment
Wines may be the focus but the food doesn’t disappoint at this tiny wine-bar with chalk boards full of tasty plates.
With a glass of Riesling Grand Cru pressed to my lips and the glorious British sunshine peeping through chimney tops, casting a spot light of warming rays onto our al fresco little table, I think to myself, ‘I must have the best seat in London right now.’ I did.
The 10 Cases is a tiny bistro on the edge of Covent Garden – and wine is kinda their forte. The premise, as the name suggests, is that there are only 10 cases of each wine; 10 white and 10 red. The wine list is thus not just ever changing, but full of unusual wines, from small organic vineyards in France right through to grape blends from Croatia (Croatia produces wine? Who knew!?). But it isn’t just because of the wine that this place has had me back thrice in 4 weeks.
With only 10 indoor tables (and al fresco seating very much subject to the weather) tables are hard to get your hands on at this buzzing bistro. With its large French windows pulled open, the tables which tend to be filled with carafes of wine, baskets of French bread and plates of tapas-like nibbles, are like eye candy to passers-by who try their luck for a walk in table, often to no avail. Thankfully this is one of those rare breeds of restaurant that not only takes reservations and has your table ready for you when you arrive, but is also not yet well known enough to be constantly fully booked, so last minute reservations are often available.
As mentioned, the wine menu is diverse; filled with unrecognisable oft unpronounceable names – but fear not, the staff are more than happy to make recommendations based on your preferences and they’re usually spot on. The beautifully honeyed Riesling Grand Cru, ‘Zinnkoepfle’ Haag (£27 carafe) was my favourite, far superior, in my opinion to a perfumed Sicilan Grecanico ‘Mazaiolo’ (£19.5 carafe) and very drinkable Txakoli Zudugarai (£18 carafe) from the Basque country that I also enjoyed, though undoubtedly this means it will disappear from the menu soon – a frustration of the otherwise refreshing concept behind the 10 Cases.
The food menus here are also ever changing; literally – as the larger a la carte specials sell out, they are scrubbed from the blackboards that hang off the walls in a dramatic swish of chalk; whilst the smaller tapas dishes are more constant – always available and constantly tempting. The ‘Salt and Pepper Squid‘ (£7), light and crispy with a hint of heat from the dipping sauce is probably my favourite dish and one I have ordered on every one of my visits. The ‘Soft Shell Crab‘ (£7.5) ‘Marinated Artichokes (£6) and ‘Padron Peppers‘ (£5) come in close second.
All of these dishes, along with a pleasing cacophony of others, fill the evening with colour and flavour, all accompanied with a basket of sliced French baguette, frequently replenished as the meal goes on.
My almost worrying addiction to the 10 Cases is born not from any single element of its offerings but the combination of the superb, interesting wine list, the selection of tasty and reasonably cheap tapas, the relaxed service and casual ambience of the bistro, all of which form the basis of a what I consider a pretty perfect evening. Add to that the fact that the alfresco tables catch the post-work evening sunshine and you can see why the 10 Cases might be considered home to the best seat in town.
Note: The 10 Cases has in fact been around for a while, but recently came under the spotlight again as they’ve just opened up a wine shop right next door which showcases the wines that have proved most popular in the Bistro. This is very good news indeed, although does mean my beloved Riesling is more likely to disappear soon.