Veeno's Selezione Wine Tasting Experience:
A few weeks ago I was contacted by Veeno and invited to their most recent cafe / bar, Reading, to try their Wine Tasting experience. I said yes immediately (who wouldn't!) but I was also really intrigued - I must admit, I hadn't heard of Veeno before and couldn't wait to see what they were all about.
According to their website, Veeno is "The Italian Wine Cafe and focuses on the Italian Aperitivo, the ritual of drinking, nibbling and relaxing after work. A daily occasion to share moments of happiness with friends and family". This appealed to me, especially as an after work option (Reading's Veeno is on Valpy Street, in the heart of the office blocks - clever planning!) or just as somewhere to catch up. Sometimes I don't want a full meal, just a snack, or I might want meet friends for a drink, but not necessarily want to go to a noisy bar where you have to keep shouting "what????" every time you try to talk to each other.
So, after scouting out the website, Sam (the long suffering boyfriend) and I headed into town to try them out. I deliberately avoided reading reviews because I wanted to give an authentic review and first impressions where good - Veeno is situated on the corner of Valpy Street and The Forbury so overlooking the beautiful Forbury Gardens.. add in the hanging fairy lights in the window and it's a very aesthetically pleasing place. There's also a terrace outside, which I can imagine will be amazing in the summer. Upon entering we were struck by how busy it was, but it was a Friday night so hardly surprising! It wasn't uncomfortably full (or loud) though, so we managed to get through the crowds easily. If anything, it just added some ambience. We were then seated at our table set back from the main bar area which meant we could talk easily and met the manager, Nino, and our server, Matt who were both brilliant: friendly, funny but professional.
We ordered some water and relaxed whilst we waited for our food and first wine. Veeno do various wine tasting experiences including the one we tried, the Selezione, which includes two white, one rose, and two red wines paired with "some of our most (appetisers) on a delicious sharing platter". I've never done a wine tasting before, so I was excited to find out what we were in store for. During this waiting time I had a nosey through the menu (drinks and food) and was pleased to see they do various boards and lunch options, including two veggie panini's, so we'll be back for those at some point! Nino then brought out our sharing board and told us a little bit more about the food and wines - the wine's are all sourced from Sicily, from family connected to Veeno's creators and so are really authentic wines - no Echo Falls here! We started with the white wines first (my personal favourites), the Timpune Grillo and the Corte Ferro Zibibbo. They were both delicious- fruity and dry and very, very drinkable! We then moved onto the Rose, the Tasari Syrah, before the two reds: Sachia Perricone and Nero D'Avola Riserva. I'm not really a red wine fan, but I actually really enjoyed both and Sam, a man famously of few words (but a red wine lover), said they were 'really, really good' which is high praise indeed! There's a huge emphasis on the wine here (as you might imagine from a wine cafe!) but it's not done in a snobbish way: the staff are extremely personable and just tell you what you need to know about the wines and some facts which keeps it interesting. There's a difference between snobbery and passion, and Veeno are definitely just passionate and want to share that with the masses.
In terms of food, our sharing board / platter was amazing: we had various breads (including focaccia which is my personal favourite) dry cured ham and beef for the carnivores (again, another 'very nice' from Sam, continuing his high praise) and three types of cheese for the herbivores which I devoured - the blue cheese was a highlight as it was beautifully paired with the rocket - but the others were tasty too. There were some extras, including olives, bread sticks and some cheese biscuits. It was a lovely variety and it was all fresh, packed with flavour and of course, worked beautifully with the wine. As Matt, our brilliant server, would bring the wine he would tell us which food it worked best with (so, for example, the second red went best with the blue cheese) and he would tell us about the wines and the food and where it was sourced, how it was made, etc which was brilliant - it was so interesting and shows the care and attention Veeno give to their wines and food.
Once we'd demolished the board and the wines (with me still dreaming of that gorgeous blue cheese), we had dessert: tiramisu for me, which is my absolute favourite, and Sam had the , "Italian chocolate ice cream originating from Pizzo, Calabria") which tasted amazing, chocolatey without being too heavy. We had dessert wine with these which although didn't float my boat, was a lovely finishing touch!
We spent approximately 2 hours at Veeno, service was slightly slower than you would expect, but it was a Friday night (and packed!) and it is new, plus we were happily seated and grazing on our food so this wasn't a problem for us at all. Once we'd finished, we had a look around the cafe as we hadn't managed to do so when we entered, and noted the lovely 'market' area (where I had to stop Sam buying multiple bottles of the red wine he'd been enjoying!) which is similar to Carluccio's and Bills, and a great touch - especially for wine which you can't get elsewhere! I also admired the interiors, it was the suitably on trend 'industrial' look but which lots of gorgeous touches, including the 'Veeno' sign made from corks.
We absolutely loved our evening at Veeno and loved the concept: it was nice to go out and eat together and really enjoy spending time together while trying new wines and learning about them in a relaxed atmosphere. Veeno has grown hugely, from its original Manchester site opening 4 years ago, to now having 14 sites across the UK (and more coming, including to London) soon. I can see why Veeno is so popular: while we were there we saw various post-work-drinks, couples and groups of friends, a real mix of people. This is a place for everyone, whether you're after a quick lunch, post work drinks or the full food and wine tasting to make an evening of it, Veeno works because they provide an authentic Italian experience with brilliant service and food and drink for everyone. We really enjoyed it, and can't wait to return - if only to work our way through the wine list!
*We received our food / drinks at Veeno free in exchange for this review. However, all opinions, as always, are my own.