Neptune Food & Wine
An ambitious two-level Windsor wine bar with a 'fireplace lounge' and 'cocktail saloon'.
There's something very comforting about walls of books and walls of wine. Neptune Food and Wine, as its name might suggest, has the latter. It also has a fairly impressive collection of empty wine bottles lining the window ledges down the back of the restaurant in something of a visual ode to the wines of times past.
The product of a happy collaboration from such hospo stalwarts as Nic Coulter and Simon Blacher (Hanoi Hannah, Saigon Sally and Tokyo Tina) and brothers Dave and Michael Parker (Pastuso and San Telmo), Neptune is easily a place to suggest for a first or second date, grab an after work aperitif alone or with friends or have a long and possibly boozy Friday lunch. With two levels to choose from, where you position yourself might depend on your mood and who you are trying to impress. Downstairs has the wine wall, an atrium-style boothed space and a darker area featuring a leather sofa in front of the fireplace. Upstairs is for cocktails and whisky lockers, should you be so regular as to set one up.
There's a Mediterranean flavour to the menu with the large framed photos of Italian, Spanish or Portuguese coastlines reinforcing the feel. While seafood and fish plays a fairly winning hand — both fresh in papillote or tinned, featuring some fancy pants premium Spanish canned fish served with crisps and pickles — you can also go the charcuterie and cheese way or get your chops around a wagyu hangar steak or a roasted hen with patatas bravas ($29). The canned octopus from Ramón Peña has been poached in seawater, hand-packed in olive oil and is tender with a firm bite ($17) and perfect with a glass of Spanish wine from the Albariño region.
The garlic and oil anchovy tossed through rye spaghetti is a great example of how less can so very often be more — and that simple can be the winner at the end of the day. Paired with a glass of Domaine de Rapatel Bourboulenc, this dish is heaven with the rye spaghetti giving a little rustic al dente twist in amongst the salty savouriness of the garlic and anchovy. And if you like what you're drinking and you want to prolong the moment, you can take a bottle home with you from the aforementioned wall.
UPDATE NOVEMBER 11: Neptune has added aperitvo hour to its daily offering, running from 4pm to 6pm. Patrons can grab a pre-dinner refreshment, with a range of cured meats, cheese, olives, crostini and house-made bread on offer for free with every beverage purchase.
Images: Steve Murray and Jo Rittey.