I look pretty spaced out in the photo above don't I....
I think a combination of lots of pain and then lots of painkillers led to a less than satisfactory mental state last Monday. I think that's also why I decided for some reason that a half head topknot was the right look for me... Hey, you have to try these things out!
Despite the fact that I felt like the walking dead, I managed to get myself out of the house for a quick trip into the city centre to the new menu launch event at Veeno, an Italian wine bar-come-cafe right in the heart of the city.
I'm actually a fairly frequent customer at the York branch of this growing chain of "wine cafes", which specialise in family grown Sicilian wines and authentic Italian spuntini, or sharing platters as we would know them.
Veeno has actually taken up the spot of the "safe" option when I want to head out for a relaxed drink, having a better wine selection than a pub, but still retaining an informal atmosphere that is perfect for socializing and catching up with good friends.
As part of the menu launch we were given a glass of house white, red or rose. As I was in a somewhat fragile state, I only managed a few sips, however I quite familiar with the house white, as the fruity option is usually my go to drink here.
As far as I can tell, the wine at Veeno is extremely good for the price point, which starts at around £3.20 for a small glass of the house choice. I have been reliably informed that some of the more expensive options also stand up extremely well and are well worth the extra if you fancy splashing out.
Alongside a glass of wine, we were also invited to try out some of the dishes from the new menu, which were brought out rather hurriedly by the staff. Whilst the dishes were explained individually and rather briefly, I didn't really get a sense of how and why the whole menu worked.
In all fairness, the place was absolutely rammed full of people, so I completely understand that they were pressed for time. However just a couple of minutes on how everything is supposed to fit together would have been greatly appreciated.
Veeno seems to have gone through a few menu changes since I have started coming, which is good from a newness point of view, less good for continuity. I think this menu re-launch was more about adding to their range, rather than completely revolutionizing it. But as I say, it would have been nice to hear why a new menu was being introduced and how it will fit in with their existing offering.
I really do like the concept of serving authentic Italian spuntini, small plates of meat/cheese/bread which come with your drinks, much like the free tapa you get in northern spain.
To be perfectly and brutally honest, I wasn't amazed by the dished we were served, how wrong can you go with cured meat, bread and cheese! It's not exactly groundbreaking stuff. There is something about their simplicity however which makes them extremely appealing.
What must be noted is that the general quality of the ingredients is excellent and always has been. My personal favourite dish of the night had to be the gorgeous slithers of pancetta, which came out seductively draped across a large platter, moreish but not too fatty.
I also loved the manchego cheese, drizzled with truffle infused honey, however this was a bit of a marmite dish among our party.
Whilst the wine and the food was solidly decent, the main thing that lets Veeno down has to be the general decour. I kind of get the look they are going for, somewhere in between an authentic Italian deli-come-cafe and a more metropolitan bar.
Frustratingly, something about the place feels a bit soulless, despite the fact the staff are always lovely and very chatty.
I almost wonder if it comes down to an identity crisis, as I'm even struggling in this article to articulate exactly what Veeno is. Is it a cafe? Wine bar? Deli come wine bar? Do I come here in the day and grab lunch? For after work drinks? A night on the town? Or a quiet weekend socializing?
In my humble opinion, something needs to happen on the branding side to really nail down exactly what they are trying to do and who their customer is.
Despite the fact that there is clearly some work for the chain to do on working out their value proposition and USP, I still think Veeno is a solid option for anyone who is looking for a decent glass of wine and some lovely nibbles.
Closing thoughts: I like Veeno a lot, but I'm not sure why I like it. I think the actual quality of the food and drink offering is really strong, however the venue ls somewhat corporate and bland.