Peddling mouth-to-vermouth resuscitation
Vermuteria, in Coal Drops Yard, celebrates the golden age of Italian cycling with cooking that's casual in style but high in technique and flavour
31 January, 2019 — By Tom Moggach
Reasonable prices and excellent quality – Vermuteria in Coal Drops Yard
IT’S epic, imaginative, mind-boggling – you can’t fault the ambition behind the King’s Cross redevelopment. The latest addition is Coal Drops Yard, a vaulting space by designer Thomas Heatherwick.
Builders have restored two strips of Victorian brick arches, once used for storing coal, crystal glass and other goods. These are now united with swooping roofs that caress in the middle, providing a second story and covered thoroughfare.
Coal Drops Yard is a destination for quality shopping, with retailers such as Paul Smith, Aesop and Tracey Neuls, whose handmade shoes dangle on display from red ribbons. There are multiple restaurants, too, from some of the capital’s big hitters.
The team behind Palomar have opened The Coal Office; the Hart brothers have another tapas bar Barrafina, taqueria El Pastor and wine bar The Drop. But a place called Vermuteria was the first to pique my interest.
It’s been set up by Anthony Demetre, a wonderful chef who ran the much-missed Arbutus in Soho. This new venture specialises in vermouth, a drink enjoying a revival in London and defined as a fortified wine flavoured with botanicals. Cinzano is a well-known brand. But I counted around 70 bottles behind the bar here, infused with mysterious ingredients such as hibiscus, gentian, cassia and cinchona.
Vermuteria is open all day, with a sideline in coffee, patisserie and sandwiches also available to take-away.
Ciabatta-style rolls are stuffed with salsa verde, lemon, tomato, salad and spinach; there’s banana cake, Portuguese custard tarts and Viennoiserie galore.
The design concept is strong and smart: a celebration of the golden age of Italian cycling (Demetre is a big fan), when drinks brands sponsored the teams.
On one wall you’ll spy a row of vintage cycling caps above shelves of artisan wines. Bike geeks can coo over the hand-forged frames from cult craftsman Dario Pegoretti.
The food menu is chalked up on blackboards. The quality is excellent; prices are reasonable; and it’s all cooked by one chef in a miniscule galley kitchen.
We kicked off with rich, gooey crab croquettes with aioli (£8) and a plate of top grade charcuterie (£12), sliced to order.
A wobbly fresh burrata cheese arrives draped in razor thin slices of pear (£8) – a clever and elegant dish. We share a plate of fluffy gnocchi slathered in a venison ragu (£16).
Other mains included pumpkin with Trompette wild mushrooms, razor clams and chorizo, and tender rabbit in a mustard sauce.
This is fine cooking – casual in style but high in technique and flavour.
We sipped vermouths, of course, starting with one of four riffs on the negroni cocktail and finishing with a pale vintage vermouth served with a single ice cube and slice of orange peel.
The place was packed, the atmosphere buzzy. This was in contrast to the retail shops in Coal Drops Yard, which seem rather quiet so far. But it’s still early days.
38/39 Coal Drops Yard, N1C
020 3479 1777