The 10 Cases is a bistro à vin on Endell Street, just a stone’s throw from the Royal Opera House. I first spotted the bistro-cum-wine bar a few years back as I was cutting through this mostly ignored part of Covent Garden to reach my hairdressers near Shaftesbury Avenue. Outside was a chalkboard displaying an interesting menu with reasonable prices. So I put it in my mind as a place to go if I were in the area and in need of what would hopefully be a good French restaurant. Finally, the other day such a requirement came to pass.
The name of the restaurant comes from the fact that they never buy more than ten cases of any wine, so that there is always something new and interesting on offer. There are two parts to The 10 Cases: the bistro à vin with its 6 tables and a few bar top dining spaces, and the cave à vin, its wine bar. The menu, divided by course, is displayed on chalkboards stuck high on the wall. Each course offers three options, and there are another three small boards, each with a special on it, and a larger board showing the charcuteries and sharing plates.
Everything coming from the kitchen looked good, with the classic simple descriptions on the boards not doing the dishes justice. Unfortunately my chosen starter of frogs’ legs had sold out, so I opted for tiger prawn and crayfish tortellini with carrot puree and a red wine jus, while my dining companion chose the beetroot and goats cheese salad with candied walnuts.
The pasta was perfectly al dente, while the walnuts were the star of the show
Both dishes were faultless. The pasta was perfectly al dente and the filling was tightly packed with the tiger prawn and crayfish, which were lifted by the hint of chilli that also helped to tie in the carrot puree. I wasn’t expecting much from the beetroot salad, as this has been a staple of restaurants and cookbooks as a vegetarian starter option for some time now. And just how many ways are there to prepare it? But I have to say it really was good; it was clean, crisp and fresh in a way that isn’t usually the case, while the candied walnuts were the stars of the show. Rather than being rolled in sugar, they had been dipped in sugar syrup, creating a lovely sweet hard shell around them, helping to liven the whole plate as you crunched through them.
For mains my dining companion had the tortellini starter, while I chose the lamb sweetbreads with mashed potato, wild mushrooms and grilled chilli. This was a nicely cooked dish if a little over spiced. For me it could have done with a little more sauce as mashed potato can be quite drying, and the three larger sweetbreads were a little under cooked, making them slightly unpleasant. This was a shame as otherwise the dish was lovely.
In the end the bill for two people having two courses each, albeit that one of us chose two starters, a glass of fizz, a G&T and service came to just under £60, which was, I thought, very reasonable. If you’re after a good wine bar, or no-frills but well-prepared food at a reasonable price (with, of course, a good wine list) then I’d suggest you can’t do better than The 10 Cases. Personally I’m looking forward to going back one weekend for a long lunch of charcuteries, cote de boeuf and many, many glasses of different reds!