Set back from the bustling piazza (/touristic-nighmare) of Covent Garden and running parallel to Drury Lane, lies Catherine Street - a short strada that packs a punch when it comes to the act of mange. It’s home to part of rock’n’roll restauranteur Russell Norman’s expansive real estate; the boozy Jewish deli, Mishkins. It also houses a tranche of Salt Yard Group’s sharp Spanish/Italian dining acts, Opera Tavern. Now there’s a new kid on the block and he goes by the name of Augustus Harris.
An evening-only gem of a Venetian wine bar with a snack-tastic selection of bites, Italian wines and a bittersweet cocktail selection
Open from 5pm every night (except Sundays), the timetabling of this operation make for optimum visuals - the opulent copper bar that spans the ground floor and the antique mirror-clad walls were made for candlelit quaffing.
There’s also some Italian store cupboard Italian staples on retail offer for the home cook
But self-catering was not on the menu tonight, and so we started with the definitive opening ritual to all good evenings; the Negroni
In the interest of stomach-lining, we also partook in Augustus Harris’ incredible focaccia (I’m loathe to recall just how many plates of this we shoveled down our greedy little gullets but it was surely approaching four - we were but two in number; January detox, what?)
But the real diet-detonator is this oozing stracciatella cheese - sort of like a cross between the inside of a burrata (liquid indulgent mozzarella basically) and heaven in a bowl.
There’s a short but decent selection of wines by the glass, carafe (500ml) or full bottle.
On Mondays they’ll grant you access to the special wine juke box thing which allows you to sample more expensive numbers by the glass.
Anchovy and butter soldiers - perfect salty umami fillets offest with creamy butter and crunchy toast.
Capocollo & artichoke crostini
Orange and fennel salad - a refreshing necessity when you’re working through as many carbs as we were
Mackerel with pickled red onion - a great balance of tasty oily poisson offset with the vinegary adornment.
I loved everything we ate and drank at Augustus Harris, and, boy, we really hit that menu hard. It’s small but perfectly formed (seating a mere 35, split between basement and ground floor level); laid back but classy; a considered operation without trying too hard. The menu (both food and wine) is sensibly-structured and selective, the staff are charming and the atmosphere is such that you can happily loose hours perusing (/destroying) the menu. Which, incidentally, they’re changing this week - reason enough for a return visit.
Augustus Harris, 33 Catherine Street, London WC2B 5JT
Open 5-11pm (except Sundays)
No reservations (unless you’re a party of 8 or more)