Located in rather an unassuming corner of Covent Garden, tucked at the Freemason’s Hall end on leafy Endell Street is the 10 Cases – effectively two locations; a Bistrot a Vin, where you can eat a full dinner (in tiny but cosy surrounds) and enjoy a myriad wines by the glass and the Cave a Vin – which showcases a range of wines which have proved most popular from the menu next door or are simply carefully selected and which include a good choice under the £10 bracket.
We sat at a small table for two in the Bistrot, where the menu is scrawled on hanging chalked boards flocked around the room and the wines by the glass list is regularly reprinted. As the name suggests, The 10 cases only ever stocks 10 cases each of the red or white wines on offer and once those are gone, they choose a new wine.
There is a nice selection of charcuterie and cheeses from which to make up boards to accompany the wines, as well as large dishes to share including – on our visit – whole roast seabass and a cote de boeuf, and mains such as quails with miso broth or steak tartare. We opted rather to go for a selection of small sharing plates.
Jamon iberico was soft, feathery and nuttily sweet – ever a pleasure. The soft shell crab with tamarind sauce was deliciously crispy, although the rather heavy sauce wasn’t necessary and lacked bite. Smoky octopus was delightful, as was the spicy crispy squid.
A big disappointment was the heritage tomato, basil and mozzarella salad. For such a simple dish, they’d made too much faff over it and not used a really good mozzarella – which is odd, given how readily available it is in London. This tasted like supermarket cheese, with rather bland tomatoes and a sort of basil puree which had lost the herbs pepperiness.
Accompanying all of this we opted for a selection of tipples. I enjoyed an apply and citrus crisp 2013 Malvasija Koslovic from Istria, Croatia – pale lemony yellow in colour, bordering on green, with a finish of sweet grapefruit. This went particularly well with the squid. A natural Zinfandel by Lammershoek winery in South Africa’s Swartland was an almost Disney-jewel ruby hue with zingy red fruits on the palate, light and refreshing.
M. had a fun, fresh young red by Oregon wine producers Sokol Blosser, a nine-grape blend dominated by Syrah and Muller-Thurgau. Very juicy, with appropriately autumnal flavours of blackberries, cherries, plums and sweet spices such as nutmeg and cinnamon. A nice choice to pair with a board of salamis or chorizos, very (dangerously) easy to drink!
The 10 cases is a cosy, ever-busy little place to snuggle up in in a corner and work your way into a pleasant wine fug as you match wine with dish and slowly work down the menu. I don’t try any of the mains, but would stick in future to the cheese and charcuterie boards as the small plates didn’t quite deliver for me. But the wines were superb in value, interesting in range and with such a regular rotation, there’s always an excuse to go back.