Sunday, February 1, 2009

Vineyards Wine Bar & Bistro

On Wednesday night Chris and I had the pleasure of spending a few hours at Vineyards Wine Bar & Bistro in the Byward Market, where a casual friend of ours was singing jazz standards with a couple of other musicians. I’ve been to Vineyards a couple of times in the past, with various people, and have always enjoyed the atmosphere. It’s located in the lower level of the building that houses the Fish Market and Coasters Seafood Grill. They obviously have a lengthy and broad wine list, and they also serve a full menu including apps, mains and desserts. We had an early supper, and so we decided to share the assorted cheese platter ($12), which was billed as “Double cream brie, aged cheddar and spiced gouda. Accompanying this tasty assortment are slices of fresh apple, kalamata olives and our house fruit chutney.”

Not quite. Sadly, all three cheeses were served fridge-cold and had obviously been pre-sliced; there were indeed apple slices, but no olives. The “house fruit chutney” was, I am nearly certain, bottled mango chutney, and there were about seven tiny red grapes and a scattering of dried apricots and prunes. It wasn’t the worst cheese plate I’ve ever eaten, for sure, but it would have been much better an hour later, when the cheese had warmed to room temp. The accompanying sliced “French” bread was spongy and tasteless. The menu also says “ask about our artisanal cheese platter”. I’ll be doing that next time for sure.

Our wines were terrific, though – my white, a Niersteiner Spatlese Riesling, had a medium sweetness with just enough acidity to stand up to the cheeses, and flowed like honey over the tongue. Gorgeous. I had two glasses. Chris’s Chilean pinot noir was equally yummy.

After the disappointing cheese platter, we were still peckish, so we decided to share a dessert. Most of them come from the respectable Rideau Bakery, according to the very affable bartender, so we split a slice of vanilla cheesecake with raspberry sauce. It was served just a trifle too warm (temperatures seem to be a problem with this kitchen) but was unctuous and lovely.

We saw and smelled many lovely plates come out of the kitchen around us, so it’s possible that we simply didn’t choose the best representatives from the menu – but in my opinion, a restaurant that focuses so heavily on wines, and wine flights, should have a showstopper cheese platter at an affordable price. I’ll give Vineyards another try, but I’ll be asking some pointed questions before I order, next time.

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