Zoilo – London W1U
December 12, 2013 § Leave a comment
Big Argentinian flavours on small plates – if you haven’t yet been, this is one for the list.
When you first push through the heavy door, you are met with pitch black darkness. But the darkness is only fleeting. A smiling waiter soon pulls back the heavy curtain to welcome you in, revealing a long bar with counter seating and a trickle of bunker-back tables, enveloped in the warming glow of hanging bulbs and enriched with the soft murmur of relaxed conversations.
I had waited a long time to come to Zoilo, but I enjoyed it from the moment those curtains parted.
We perched ourselves atop the comfortable counter top stools and settled in at the long bar, running the length of the restaurant. Unprovoked, our waitress launched into a detailed explanation of every dish on the menu but no assistance was necessary – we ordered, and we ordered very well!
Whilst we sipped on ‘Norton Malbec Rose 2010′ (£10.95 for a carafe), we nibbled on ‘Queso de chancho | Braised pig head croquettes & quince jam’ (£5.95). These meaty little mouthfuls were intensely succulent, rich with flavour and only bettered with a touch of the sweet quince jam.
The ‘Pan & Manteca | House bread & butter’ (£1.95) would have been passed over was it not for the gorgeously molten cheese we ordered - ‘Provoleta, almonds & oregano honey (£5.50). It wasn’t quite melted enough to allow for dipping unfortunately but the decadently gooey forkfuls of cheese, sweetened with honey and accented with the crunch of almonds, was the perfect topping to home made focaccia.
A lighter dish of ‘Crab on toast, humita, coriander & pickled turnips’ (£7.95) arrived with a pleasing mound of soft, white crab meat, refreshingly absent of unnecessary additions, whilst the ‘Duck egg, wild mushrooms, faina & malbec jus’ (£7.50) offered full bodied and earthy flavours, further enriched with a perfectly runny yolk.
Two final plates of ‘Scallops, sweet potato, caramelised pork belly & chorizo’ (£9.25) and ‘Grilled quail, lentils ragu, cauliflower & sherry sauce’ (£7.95) ended our Argentinian feast. Jenn’s first ever taste of scallops was a storming success though I think the quail stole the show. The cauliflower was in fact pureed; its creaminess contrasted wonderfully with the strong game flavours of the bird and earthiness of the lentils ragu.
We ordered a second carafe of ‘Astica 2009′ (£10.95) and chatted our way through til home time.
Zoilo is a perfect dating spot – the counter top seating adds an element of intimacy and playfulness – but it is equally good for a long over due catch up with a friend, or even larger groups, as they do have a handful of bunker seats. Dishes are, on the whole, dominated by intense, rich and meaty flavours with only a scattering of lighter options but when food tastes this good, you can forgive the imbalance. Head to Zoilo for an evening of good food and great wine; push through those curtains and enjoy.