Vivat Bacchus London Bridge: Great grapes and pretty good food (March 2016)

Bacchus, according to Wikipedia, is the god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, ritual madness and fertility. That’s a lot to expect from a restaurant. Fortunately, Vivat delivered on the former part of the description and there has been no sign of imminent madness yet, despite the alcohol consumed. A recent visit on a weekday lunchtime was a clear success and that almost every table in the place was taken constitutes a strong endorsement of a proven formula. Although, as the name would suggest, the place focuses on wine, the food certainly is not an after-thought. After an initial mix-up over sherry (our server brought us a sweet Pedro Ximinez as an aperitif and seemed thoroughly confused that such a thing as a dry Fino might even exist; perhaps more training required…), the wine list certainly impressed. We enjoyed an excellent bin-end Bonny Doon wine from California, 2007 vintage. This was chosen from a wide selection, taking in not just the predictable (Bordeaux, and also South Africa – from where the restaurant group hails), but also good, enterprising winemakers from the new world (America, Australia, New Zealand in particular). The inevitable pairing for such a wine was with steak, but for those seeking something different, the menu offers a range of sensibly priced mains spread across other meat dishes, burgers and also some lighter options such as salads. The artichoke soup with which I began was a good choice, creamy and flavoursome yet not too filling. The steak was by no means the best I had ever had, but certainly above-average. Service was efficient and reasonably friendly, and for diners after interesting wines with decent food in the London Bridge or Farringdon area, this is a good option. Vivat Bacchus also offers an exciting range of cheeses, although time did not permit on this occasion to sample them.