Review: Wine Down, Preston's hidden gem, where it pays to have your glass more than half full
It's not often my food reviews land me in hot water, but this week's is an exception to the rule.
Some months back, as I was trying to organise our weekly tea with my two best friends, we were discussing eateries new and old in the city centre and listing which we were yet to try.
One of them had suggested Winedown, hidden away in Lancaster Road, opening in what people will formerly recall as Duk tapas.
She was excited about this particular venue, given it brought together a feast of two of her favourite things – wine and cheese. Around 200 wines of all varieties, to be precise, and lots and lots of cheese.
There is no doubt that, for wine and cheese lovers this is the place to be. But therein lies my problem – I don’t like cheese.
Over the years I have been repeatedly called out on how I can eat pizza and lasagne, even a sprinkling of Parmesan on my spaghetti, and yet the sight and slight smell of ‘cheese on a board’ can turn my stomach.
I even baulk at peeling a BabyBel for my kids, and god forbid anyone add a cheese slice to the top of my burger.
So Winedown’s cheesy menu suggestion did not exactly get my vote; I thought nothing more of it until a Facebook post caught my eye and showed that, as well as wine (and cheese), they served a rather nice looking charcuterie board.
A further nosy at the page gave a little more insight into this quirky subterranean bar and deli, growing quite the reputation not just for its wines but its eclectic retro playlist, which, together with its popular Wednesday quiz night, seems a real lure for customers.
Armed with this new knowledge I decided I would give it a go for a rare night out with my high school friend to celebrate her birthday.
We had a really fun and enjoyable evening, and ironically probably over-ordered on the food to compensate for my lack of cheese selection.
So much was I raving about my great night out, I made the mistake of telling everyone, declaring to ‘suggestion’ friend in the pub over the weekend: “Have you tried that Winedown in town – it really is a good night out you know, lovely food, we’ll have to try it sometime...”
She had no words, just an icy glare and a top-up of wine, her glass... not mine.
For a quick pit stop at lunch time, a night out or even a casual, informal wine-tasting with work colleagues or friends, Winedown’s simple concept hits all the right notes.
This intimate underground deli is run by Dougie Lowe, who has more than 20 years’ experience in the wine trade. He and the team are incredibly personable, and to top it off the service is first rate.
The big bonus is that it comes at a reasonable price too – a bottle of the recommended Barringer, a large bowl of pizza nachos, cheese fondue (for my friend), hummous, pitta, olives and meat board with homemade chutney set us back £42.50. Not bad at all. And it was all delicious.
The only disappointing thing was our night out between childcare, work commitments and rammed diaries happened on a ‘school night’, which meant the one bottle of wine was all we could stretch too. Quite a feat if our usual get-togethers are anything to go by.
It meant we also couldn’t partake in quiz night as it went on till past bedtime! Although I’m sure one week I might be able to push this back an hour or two to make it work.
Many of the TripAdvisor reviews hail the quiz as one of Winedown’s great selling points, with a winning combination of a couple of bottles of wine, nibbles and Winedown speciality prizes instead of cash.
And, finally, a little about the wine...
The wine list includes lots of organic and biodynamic wines from around the world, as well as port, sherry and champagne, and Dougie is always on hand to offer advice and recommendations. There are regular wine tasting events at Winedown, and the venue is also available for private hire.
The capacity is around 50 people and you can also arrange a private wine tasting session for your group or company.
Alternatively, there is also an opportunity for Winedown to come to you, with a wine tasting at your home or office.
I’m very much looking forward to my return visit, which I’m sure is going to now become a new addition to the ‘weekly tea’ venue list, if only to get me out of the bad books.
For more details, visit www.facebook.com/Winedownpreston1