Vivat Bacchus: South African steaks and wine

Vivat Bacchus in Farringdon, which describes itself as a South African Steak Restaurant and wine bar, has now been open for over 12 years and it clearly has the commercial touch of resilience.  Barbican Life had not been back for a while and my partner remembered the Cheese Room, so we paid another visit on a Thursday night.

With a great address near-by (just a short walk down from Charterhouse Street, and it is over on the other side of Farringdon Street), the exterior is perhaps rather too understated and you might miss it unless there is a poster in the window.  Inside, however, the place is large yet very inviting.  The décor is modern wood and tile with spacious and well-spaced tables.  Most tables enjoy the passing world through well-placed windows and there are some nifty design features to make the most of the space and keep things comfy.  There is a clean and buzzing open kitchen on the way to your table.  I noticed a flexibility to the restaurant with areas of different sizes which could be intimate for smaller parties or massive for larger Christmas-type functions.

Lively restaurant interior - bar and open kitchen on left

Lively restaurant interior – bar and open kitchen on left

We noticed the Cheese Room straight away.  As expected, it is like a wine cellar with its special climate-control and large windows luring you in.  It wasn’t going to be possible to not go for the cheese at the end so I tried not to fill up too much on the other courses.

As a South African restaurant, there is biltong, of course.  The word BILTONG is derived from the words “BIL” (BUTTOCK) or meat and ‘TONG” or strip.  Biltong has been inherited from pioneering South African forefathers who sun-dried meat during their trek.  The spices make it very more-ish.  Today the dried meat of biltong and DROE WORS (dried South African sausage) is a massive industry and one of the most sought after delicacies in Southern Africa, so well worth a try.

Carpaccio starter - almost hidden under salad leaves and parmesan crisps

Carpaccio starter – almost hidden under salad leaves and parmesan crisps

I’ve had biltong before, so I chose the Carpaccio starter (£10.00) of Black Angus, wild rocket and Planeta olive oil which came topped with wafer-thin Parmesan crisps.  I’m still in two minds about the cheese crisps but the meat was delicious.  I see that the new menu is out now and it has a different Carpaccio dish which sounds much tastier.  The platter was rustically beautiful, and presented on a wooden block.  My partner’s Crayfish cocktail (£9.50), with Iceberg lettuce, cucumber pickle, celery cress, Marie Rose sauce and sourdough Melba, was also top-notch, tasty and a well-updated nod to the 80s.

The new a-la-carte starter menu includes:

Crayfish cocktail

Crayfish cocktail

SALADS & STARTERS

Hebridean smoked salmon £10.50
Guacamole, rocket salad, caperberries

Charred carpaccio of aged rump £9
Asian slaw, banana shallots, ginger & soy

VB ‘super foods’ salad £7.25/11.50
Quinoa, baby spinach, candy beetroot, broccoli, pomegranate, mango, roasted pumpkin seeds & goji berries (Add Serrano ham)

King prawn, Galia & Charantais melon salad £8.75
Pak choi, cucumber & daikon ribbons, sweet & sour chilli dressing

Sautéed forest mushrooms on toasted sourdough £7.50
Soft poached duck egg, garlic, gremolata (Chanterelles, girolles, porcini, mousseron and oyster mushrooms)

Caesar salad with Cos, Parmesan & croutons £6.75/10.00
Soft boiled free range egg, anchovies & Caesar dressing (Add grilled chicken)

Asparagus & spinach soup £6.50
Crostini, olive oil, yogurt

Bocconcini, smoked aubergine & mixed leaf salad £8.50
Cherry vine tomato salsa, red onion, parsley cress (Add Serrano ham)

Mixed olives £3.00
Herbs, chilli & olive oil

Salted almonds £3.50
Valencia, coarse Maldon salt

Beef biltong £4.00
Cured silverside, sea salt, spices

Bread, crackers & dips to share 4.50
Aioli & rose harissa tapenade

Baked Camembert £8.50
Fruit chutney, crostini

South African cured meats £9.75
Traditional, ostrich & chilli biltong, Stockies’, traditional droëwors, biltong & goat’s cheese straws

My partner is the wine expert and it took quite a long time to choose from the very extensive wine menu.  Most are available by the glass and we settled on a smooth South African Pinotage.

Massive Angus double burger (with cheese)

Massive Angus double burger (with cheese)

For the main course, there is a great choice on the menu, but my partner noticed a burger walk by and couldn’t resist.  I warned him not to double-up, but you know what men are like and it arrived like a challenge!  Do not choose the Vivat Bacchus Angus double burger (£18.50) from the menu unless you are really hungry.  Having said that, if a burger is what you crave, then the two massive patties on Viennese bun, pickles, relish, garlic mayo, triple cooked chips are for you, if a little dry on the night!

I was mindful of the cheese platter coming up, so I opted for the Slimmer’s sirloin (£15.90) from the VIVAT BACCHUS GRILLS menu with Maple roast tomato, English watercress & king oyster mushroom salad.  Presented on a wooden block, again, the steak was perfectly done as requested, and pre-chopped for me.  There was plenty of salad, of course, but I still stole my partner’s triple cooked chips; there was no way he could cope on his own!

Slimmers sirloin steak (plenty large enough)

Slimmers sirloin steak (plenty large enough)

The new a-la-carte main meals include:

MAIN DISHES

Grilled halloumi £12.50
Kalamata olives, rocket pesto & seared lime

Smoked haddock fishcake £13.25
Braised leeks, crème fraîche & lemon

Asparagus and pea risotto £13.50
Shallots, Parmesan & olive oil

Grilled sea trout £16.00
Minted pea purée, pencil asparagus & samphire

VIVAT BACCHUS GRILLS

Marinated chicken brochette £14.00
Yoghurt & lemon, steamed mushroom & feta cous cous

Welsh lamb cutlets £19.50
Borlotti bean & piquillo pepper stew, courgettes & olive oil

Ostrich steak with biltong crust £23.00
Buttered greens & triple cooked chips

Home-made beef burger £13.25
Brioche bun, tomato relish, garlic mayonnaise, vine ripened plum tomatoes, mixed leaves, dill pickle
Double beef burger £18.75

Crocodile burger £14.50
Brioche bun, tomato relish, garlic mayonnaise, vine ripened plum tomatoes, mixed leaves, dill pickle

225g ribeye steak £19.95
300g sirloin steak £26.50
700g Cote de Boeuf £49.00 (for 2)

ADD A SAUCE TO YOUR GRILL
Béarnaise • green peppercorn • chilli tapenade • steak relish • garlic aioli • truffle butter

SIDES
Steamed asparagus & broccoli £3.50
Borlotti bean & Piquillo pepper stew £3.50
Rocket, Parmesan & aged Balsamic £3.50
Triple cooked chips £3.50
Mixed leaf salad £3.50 with Chardonnay vinaigrette brochette/skewer
Tomato, caper & red onion salad £3.50
Buttered new potatoes with soft herbs £3.50

There is a BAR MENU and also a BRUNCH MENU (the later available 11am to 3pm on Saturdays).

For dessert, there was really no choice for me; I was going all out for Cheese.  I’d been facing the Cheese room for the last 2 courses and I could see the platters walking by.

The full a-la-carte dessert menu includes:

DESSERTS

Sticky toffee pudding £6.50
Sharrow Bay style, salted butterscotch, vanilla ice cream

New York vanilla cheesecake £6.50
Baked, Philadelphia cheese, blueberry sauce, crème de mûre

Ice cream sundae £6.50
Madagascan vanilla, salted butterscotch, hot chocolate sauce

Chocolate Textura £7.50
Valrhona, caramel, thyme, molten white chocolate, crushed hazelnuts

Don Pedro £8.75
with liqueur of your choice

Petit pots 3 Petit Pots for £12.50

Rhubarb & custard Petit pot £5
Champagne rhubarb, rich custard, walnut crumble

Pot au chocolat £5
Cointreau, orange, crème fraiche, shortbread

Mango panna cotta £5

There is also an accompanying DESSERT WINES menu.

For the cheese-lovers amongst you, this restaurant is a must goto.  I’m no cheese connoisseur but after a trip into the Cheese Room for tasting, I’m sold.  I’ve been back already – just for the cheese and wine!

Inside the climate controlled cheese room. Huge selection.

Inside the climate controlled cheese room. Huge selection.

I really can’t do it justice, so I’ll just list the practical elements.  There are 3 set platters you can choose from if you like; these represent what is considered the best seasonal cheeses from Britain, France and Italy.

CHEESEBOARD SELECTION

British Cheese Board £14.90 / £18.50
40g x 4 cheeses / 50g x 4 cheeses – Cheese selection: Cornish Yarg, Isle of Avalon, Quickers Smoked Cheddar, Oxford Blue, sun-dried tomato chutney, apple, salted almonds, apple & quince chutney

French Cheese Board £14.90 / £18.50
40g x 4 cheeses / 50g x 4 cheeses – Cheese selection: Brie de Meaux, Tomme de Savoie, Munster, Bleu d’Auvergne, onion marmalade, honey & nuts, dried apricots, pear

Italian Cheese Board £14.90 / £18.50
40g x 4 cheeses / 50g x 4 cheeses – Cheese selection: Taleggio, Piave, Testun al Barolo, Blu Mauri, apple, honey & almonds, plum & ginger chutney, blueberry jam

Alternatively, you are invited into the Cheese room to taste a few new ones, or old ones and then choose your own custom platter.  I was impressed by our waitress, who could name the provenance of every block, and I stayed well clear of the Cabrales.  You’ll know what I mean when you visit, if it hasn’t walked off by itself in the meantime.

Typical cheese board selection

Typical cheese board selection

I barely remember what I chose, but the accompaniments were stunning and I resented having to share with my partner, who thought he had “been too full” for dessert!  Saying that, I’m being mean; the small platter size is perfect to share as long as you leave some room from the first two courses.

Coffee and home and I stayed off the scales for a day or two, but I went back today (Saturday).  Vivat Bacchus have a Saturday Opening Offer of 20% off all orders up to 6pm until the end of July.  Please don’t miss out!

Vivat Bacchus is at 47 Farringdon Street, EC4A 4LL.  Tel: 020 7353 2648.  Email: info@vivatbacchus.co.uk   Opening hours are Mon – Fri: 12 noon – late
Sat 5pm – late, Food until: 10:30pm Drinks until: 11:30pm.  Closed Sundays.