As I’ve written before, I love the simple format of the Parisian wine bars that are slowly gaining popularity over here: good wines, available by the glass, served with a simple plate of cheese and charcuterie. When done well, it doesn’t get much better
I was therefore very happy to meet family at the DesVins Café & Wine Bar within St Pancras station in London. The format is simple: a café bar with a fairly extensive list of wines available by the glass, serving a ‘continental menu.’ I also love the way the station has been restored, and DesVins is set within the brick arches on the main concourse.
Great in theory, but our experience was far from great, right from the start. By the time I arrived, delayed by problems on the tube, my family had been waiting 15 minutes for sparkling water they hadn’t even ordered, but the waiter had insisted he would bring.
The bar prides itself on its ‘state of the art’ Enomatic system and, in fairness the wine list was broad, even if I do have a personal dislike of lists that are divided up – usually arbitrarily – into categories such as ‘Light & Fruity’ or ‘Smooth and Subtle.’ However, I did appreciate the opportunity to sample three or four wines, in 175ml measures, with an average price of about £7 a glass. The list was reasonably ‘safe’ (and strangely didn’t include any vintage information) but I particularly enjoyed the Chapel Down Bacchus (2007 – I think) from Kent, which I’d been meaning to try for a while – a lovely crisp refreshing white with hints of peach on the finish. Perfect for a summer’s evening.
The food, however, was a let down. We should perhaps have noticed that most people seemed to come in for a quick drink and then leave. To start we ordered the ‘Big desVins platter’ (£15.50) to share, which included both cheese and charcuterie. Our mains included lasagne, duck confit (of which they only had one portion left) and lamb shank.
After yet another wait, the waitress appeared with our mains, but no platter. When questioned, she said she was going to bring it with the third main course. I’m fairly certain we’d made it clear we wanted it as a starter, but what wine bar serves its cheese and charcuterie with the main courses?!
When it finally arrived, as a dessert, again the experience was mixed. We all agreed the onion marmalade was a hit, and some of the charcuterie was pretty tasty, but the cheese consisted of three small chunks of (I’m guessing) brie, cheddar and stilton. The addition of pork luncheon meat also seemed a bit unnecessary, and I’m sure would have horrified any passing Frenchman.
Returning to the mains, my duck confit was pleasant, served with a rich, fruity sauce, but it came with only a small spoonful of the ‘signature mashed potato’ and a few lettuce leaves that were dripping in oil, such that they were really quite unpleasant.
So… all in all, DesVins has a long, long way to go if it is to compete with the likes of Terroirs, near Charing Cross station. Perhaps that’s not their aim though. In future, I would definitely skip the food, and maybe consider a quick glass of wine, but only if the Champagne Bar upstairs at St Pancras was unavailable. I have to say we decided to abandon DesVins in favour of there, after dinner, and finished off a very pleasant evening with a couple of glass of Laurent Perrier.
(Pictures taken from DesVins website)