Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Viva!, 25th January

Every now and again I get a hankering for Wahaca's guacamole. Well, now I think my dreams might be invaded with the guac' from Viva! instead!

A low-lit and unnamed restaurant venue at the bottom of Stoke Newington High Street is what houses Viva! We walked in and were lucky enough to be seated immediately as two others were leaving. Otherwise, we may have had quite a wait - the place is what you could call 'cosy'. Which is great, but only if you're lucky enough to get a seat. There are a few seats at the bar and then maybe ten or so other tables. We got ourselves some nachos with some guacamole and a couple of cocktails. The nachos were great - warm, thick, proper corn tortillas, daubed in sour cream, coriander and 'salsa' - or halves of cherry tomatoes. The guacamole was quite smooth, with lots of coriander, garlic and lemon. Delicious. The only thing it didn't really need were the large chunks of tomato but I didn't mind them being there. A nice touch were the slices of radish to give a bit of crunch. Radishes really do deserve more of an outing in Mexican food. They go well in salsas also.




Our cocktails were tasty enough but didn't quite reach the heights of cocktail sophistry like they do at Nightjar or Opium where we went the following night. To start I had a fruity drink and my companion made the mistake of ordering one which turned out to be creamy. I can't remember the names now! Mine was accompanied by a little garnish of sliced chili and was quaffable enough. For my next drink I couldn't resist the sound of the agave sangaree and whew! They do not skimp on the alcohol on that one. Naturally, for our next round, we ordered that again.




We decided we ought to get something else to line our stomachs, and the couple next to us** had ordered what looked interesting and what we rightly guessed was the moqueca. This is what I would term a Brazilian version of a thai curry - prawns, coconut milk, spices but with a little booze, some plantain and served with a lovely long piece of bread to dip. It was delicious, the coconut being on the mild side (which I prefer) and enough prawns that we both felt guilty about eating more than our fair share of them, until we discovered that we both felt that way.




To order our moqueca we'd had to ask for the food menu again (they had taken it after we ordered the nachos) and when we finally flagged someone down to order, they told us the kitchen had closed! This was at 10 pm. Well, not closed, but not taking any more orders. We were disappointed but took it well and as you can guess from the paragraph above, there was a happy ending to this story. Ten minutes or so our waiter came back and told us they'd fit our order in.

I enjoyed the several hours we spent there, arriving at around 8 and not leaving until past 11.  However, it has to be said, that had they been a little quicker with their service, then we would have asked for that other dish well before the kitchen stopped taking orders. We hadn't planned to spend out whole night there, and for the amount we ate and drank, we wouldn't normally have stayed in a place so long - we don't exactly nurse our drinks. No, it was because the staff here take a "relaxed" attitude to service. We always had to flag them down to get our next drink/request the menu/order more food and I prefer my wait staff to be a little more attentive, although they were more than friendly when they deigned to give you attention.

I liked this place, it had good vibes, a buzzy yet intimate atmosphere, and I liked the food. If we'd had further plans other than just getting drunk then the service would have been very frustrating. By all means go (and I will have to return for more guacamole, and I would love to try their taquitos) but be prepared to wait.

**look at me being all cool - the couple next to us happened to be The Libertines' drummer and his partner. Yeah, we chatted, ended up hanging out for a bit at the Dalston Social. Whevs.

Viva Tapas Bar on Urbanspoon

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I work as an editor in educational publishing by day, and then spend most of my spare time discovering interesting things to do in London, and taking people there with my own Meetup.