Just around the corner from Canonbury tube station unassumingly sits Vins, a pocket-sized wine bar and restaurant with an unadorned charm.
As the rain poured angrily down, we nestled in the cosy nook and were treated to a pleasant evening of bite-sized fun.
The current rise of tapas-style sharing platters prompts the more possessive food lovers to run to the hills.
Yet despite the ease of racking up a rather shocking bill, the effects of a glass of wine (or two) and many little nibbles is undeniably enjoyable.
With Vinny, the owner/waiter/sommelier, recommending the perfect tipple, the evening passed in candlelit harmony.
Greeted first by a towering sharing board, we noticeably rustled in our repurposed church pews with anticipation. What is it about pillars of food that’s so exciting?
The red onion and chilli chutney stands out along with the moreish bread.
My partner clearly enjoyed the artichoke crisps because they were gulped down in a matter of seconds, and caused a mini battle of fingers.
These were quickly followed by a luxurious brown crab on toast, with the nectar-like Jurancon la Magendia dessert wine complementing the rich flavours wonderfully.
Our first slight disappointment came with some rather overcooked potato sharps that although visually pleasing were rather hard to consume.
A beef ragu was next up, giving me my first experience of truffle pasta (where the taste of noodle and the look of cooked worms meet). This dish was one of largest of the evening and was rich with a refreshing tang.
Finally, and rather an anti-climax, was a shoulder of lamb that lacked flavour. Paired with Judion beans and an aioli sauce, the dish didn’t quite work.
Bravely (or so we thought), we departed from our usual choice of sweet wines – we are apparently children trapped in the bodies of alcoholic adults – and asked the ever-helpful Vinny for his recommendations.
A Slovakian Oakenshield Vdovjak 2017 Tokaj was produced, which was sharp and bright with notes of cherry.
My dining companion tried a skin contact wine – a process whereby the grape skins are kept to steep in juice and ferment to impart colour and flavour to the wine, which in this case had a deep orange hue.
Lastly, as we sipping our discoveries rather smugly, we enjoyed a chocolate torte with dark rum and salted caramel sauce, which was as sinful as it sounds, and a divine Brillat Savarin, a soft and creamy Burgundy cheese with homemade crackers that looked a little like cooked skin but tasted light and delicious.
Despite only having been open for a year and a half, Vins has an authentic local feel.
It also has an ethical conscience, shown in its use of a company called Soap and Co, which provides work for visually impaired, disabled or otherwise disadvantaged adults.
Friendly and chic, Vins is hopefully set to become an institution in the Canonbury area.
With all nibbling experiences, the evening can get a little pricey, as the luxurious pace encourages many glasses of wine (and leaning romantically over the exposed wood tables), but as long as that’s what you’re looking for, you won’t be disappointed.
Gazing out into the dreary autumn night, I was very happy to be sitting inside this “labour of love”, as Vinny describes it, whose simple yet endearing ambience is sure to warm anybody up.