Unwined (Waterloo)

As the name betells, Unwined is a little wine bar in Waterloo that has the kind of by-the-glass wine list that you should treat as a Friday night to-do list.  Located on Lower Marsh Street, a cute parade packed with bookshops and cafés just behind Waterloo station, it’s casual yet cosy.  Rather frustratingly, Unwined is closed at the weekend for private events and only open for dinner on Thursdays and Fridays. So it’s worth planning ahead as it’s a spot that should be on your radar for any Waterloo (weekday) wine needs.

Forming the ground floor of the Stow Away, a hotel made entirely from shipping containers, this is the second bar from owners Laura and Kiki.  The team started out running wine tasting pop-ups before launching their first permanent bar in Tooting Market in 2015.  The Waterloo edition is much bigger, with a wood-filled space spilling out onto the pavement outside.  Tastings sessions are still run, at the moment on Tuesday evenings.

Unwined’s ethos is to shine a light on lesser-known regions and winemakers so its wine list has unusual picks, such as Chateau Mercian, a dry-white from Japan, and a Turkish merlot.  Staff are wine specialists and can guide diners through the list.  At the moment, the wines are guided by the seasons.  I went for a dry yet fruity glass of South African Chenin Blanc (£6.00).  Described as soft, with an apricot / orange blossom, it’s light, summery and fresh – the kind of white that’s ideal to enjoy on a sunny evening alongside sharing plates.

On the food side, Unwined have regular guest residencies in the kitchen, cooking up small plates and snacks to accompany your wine.  The menu also offers recommendations of which wine to pair with each dish.  Though Unwined is obviously all about the wine, the real draw to this place for me was the current residency by Klose and Soan, serving up a menu that’s as global as the wines.  Describing themselves as “creative cooks and caterers” (see their website here), their food is influenced by the Mediterranean.  Knocking out unfussy, convivial and colourful plates, the food prepared here is as outstanding as the wine.

The menu is also incredibly vegan friendly. To share, we went for the Chickpea panisse, chilli and parmesan (£2.00 / each).  Crispy little bites, these brought the perfect balance of sweetness and spice.  A very sumptuous mouthful.  Ideal alongside wine.

Alongside, we shared the Greek fava bean dip, with a caper & coriander salsa and pickled shallots (£6.00).  This was utterly glorious: creamy, full of flavour, tangy and served with crispy pitta.  A dip of dreams.

For mains, we shared the Basil gnocchi, cauliflower creme, chipotle pesto, confit cherry tomato (£14).  An unusual combination, the cauliflower base provided a creamy base layer above which the spicy pesto added a punch.  The dish was a touch under seasoned but these unusual pairings are testament to the creativity of the kitchen here.

Unwined also sell affordable bottles (minus the £15 restaurant mark-up) that are perfect for date night.  Unwined is an underrated spot but may be it’s best kept low-key and off-the-radar.  After all, it’s easiest to unwind at a quieter spot…

Unwined at Waterloo, 137 Lower Marsh, London SE1 7AE

Website: unwinedbars.co.uk

Rating: ****

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