On a weekend visit to Kent, Palate stumbled upon Rosa’s Vinarium in Sandwich. Located in a former shop called ‘Roses Supply Stores’ and next door to a garage that looks like it’s stuck in a 1950s time warp, we weren’t quite sure what to expect but what a gem this turned out to be. Although ‘sandwiched’ in the middle of a quaint English street, this place really does feel like the bars and enoteca of northern Italy: partly an emporium with floor-to-ceiling shelves offering bottles of wine for sale; partly a decent wine bar with wooden tables (nicely spaced apart), a sofa for more intimate, casual seating (whereupon a Larry David lookalike sat with his lady friend) and a traditional espresso machine whirring away indefatigably.
Perhaps it was the Brunello talking but we made various pronouncements about coming back to Sandwich for an overnight stay just to hang out at Rosa’s Vinarium and get thoroughly sloshed
When the Palate inspectorate arrived it was quiet and we were the only customers, which we thought was odd for 6pm on a Saturday. This is never really a fair way to judge a place but within just an hour of our arrival it had filled to maximum capacity with loyal local regulars coming for their Aperol Spritz fix: a testament to its popularity, and a popularity that has been earned quickly (they only got their bar licence in 2016). Overall, Rosa’s Vinarium attracts older clientele but that’s representative of the general demographic in Sandwich anyway. Safely (and perhaps smugly) installed at our premium table, we tucked in to a beautiful Brunello di Montalcino (around £60) with titbits of ham and mozzarella for soakage, whilst around us it became standing room only for anyone else after 7pm. Our timing was perfect. For a brief few hours, life was very good indeed. Perhaps it was the Brunello talking but we made various pronouncements about coming back to Sandwich for an overnight stay just to hang out at Rosa’s Vinarium and get thoroughly sloshed.
Aside from the Super Tuscans, there’s a very good wine selection generally and service is well-oiled and friendly. We got talking to the owner, a guy from Napoli, who told us he is renting the space from the garage owner next door. He probably can’t do much to change the space, not that it needs changing much (we loved the interior design as it was). But there is room for improvement. It could benefit from bar stools for lone or small groups of drinkers who basically have to stand until a table becomes free, and some way of circulating the air better – perhaps opening the back door and installing a couple of ceiling fans.
However, its main weakness is its food. Do not expect this to be a restaurant (to be fair, it says this very clearly on their website, so it would be churlish to criticise it too much). As there isn’t a proper kitchen they are somewhat limited in what they can do: charcuterie is assembled by one of the multi-tasking waiters; pasta dishes are very simple, obviously from a packet and coated in a microwaved tomato sauce, like a supper you’d give a pre-school child. If there was some way of improving the culinary side of things, this place might just be close to perfection. One thing we did find very surprising though was how the owner didn’t know how to make a basic Martini, his Italian cocktail repertoire being limited to Aperol Spritzes and Negronis.
Hopefully these criticisms won’t dampen their spirits or put you off: their hearts are in the right place, or thereabouts. We want them to succeed and we will return.
60 King Street
by J A Smith