Next week is not only British Tomato Week and Vegetarian Week, it is also London Wine Week. There are absolutely loads of events, tastings and pairing dinners happening across the capital (check the lineup here). With all this talk of sipping Sancerre and quaffing Crozes Hermitage as got us thinking – where are London’s most interesting wine lists? Here are 20 of our favourites, in no particular order…
“A new and fantastic experience every time”; with its menu of “quirky” small-plate dishes (usually meaty) and “cheapish and unusual wines”, this “noisy” Shoreditch canteen is “always a joy”; indeed, the survey rates it more highly than its fabled Smithfield parent.
“A weird and wonderful wine list with some corkers” (and “some like home brew!”) is the undoubted star at this “reassuring” Gallic bistro, near Charing Cross; its “strongly flavoured” small plates inspire more diverse reactions than they used to, though, and service can sometimes be “chaotic”. Also check out Caves de Pryène’s East Dulwich yearling Toasted and Battersea Rise outpost Soif.
Dale Osborne, a graduate of Hix Soho and Chiltern Firehouse, has taken the reigns at Terroirs’s downstairs dining room The Cellar.
“Ambitious”, “meticulously executed” cuisine and “an interesting and varied wine list” (presided over by an award-winning sommelier) make this Chelsea spot “more than just a neighbourhood gem”; fans say the ambience is “lovely” too, though critics find it “unremarkable”.
“A hidden gem, only 100m from the Millennium Bridge”, and offering “stunning” views from the outside tables; its culinary appeal is “straight down the line” – “excellent steak” plus “amazing South African wines”, so “be sure to walk through the temperature-controlled cellars”.
“An oasis of peace”, “tucked away” in a Mayfair mews with “discreet” service, where Arnaud Bignon’s “inventive but un-gimmicky” cuisine is the counterpoint to an “enormous”, “connoisseur’s” wine list; apart from the fact it’s “cripplingly expensive”, what’s not to like?
“An outstanding all-rounder” – Gordon Ramsay’s Belgravia dining room may be a bit “corporate” in feel, but no one’s complaining about its “wonderful culinary creativity”, “legendary wine list” or “tip-top” service.
“Astoundingly good” – the food in the upstairs room of this relaunched Soho wine bar can come as a “surprise”… until you learn that it is now overseen by Hedone’s Mikael Jonsson; on the ground floor, you get “fantastic biodynamic and natural wines” too.
“Get a seat in the cave – it’s about as interesting a place to get drunk as there is!”; by Embankment tube, this cellar wine bar, which also boasts a huge terrace, is a “fun” spot, with an “excellent and varied” wine list; “you don’t really go for the food”.
“Limited but fascinating”, the wine list is the “star” at this “convivial” Covent Garden two-year-old, explaining why its “crowded” quarters are so “busy, busy, busy”; “decent” food plays a supporting role.
“Take the wine flight”, if you visit the famous grocer’s basement wine bar, where you can “sample a huge variety of very good wines” – their whole list is available, plus £10 corkage; the tapas-style platters also make it a decent “snack lunch” option.
“Thankfully Leicester Square is not totally lost to chain restaurants”, and this “quirky” ’70s basement “feels like a step back in time” (even after recent refurb); the food’s not the main event, but “you’re spoilt for choice for wines”.
“The best Loire wine list in the world” has long been the special appeal of this remarkably consistent stalwart, near the National Theatre; it would win few prizes for interior design, but service is “efficient”, and the food is “dependable” and “reasonably-priced”.
“The perfect place to entertain all wine buffs!” – a lively bar, offering a “very large assortment” of wines by the glass; the food is “probably of secondary interest”.
A “huge range of wines by the glass” garners plenty of praise for this pub-conversion near Notting Hill Gate – the food is rather incidental.
A “one-off”; these ancient City cellars offer “a place for wine lovers to explore and relax”, and their “eclectic and expert array of wines” (at cost plus a small mark-up) is the “star of the show” – the picnic-style buffet is “just so you can say you had something to eat while you drank”!
A Haggerston “oasis” – a “personal” operation, where an interesting wine list, including some “beautiful” finds, is backed up by “a good small selection of food”.
It doesn’t fully live up to its cathedral-like setting under South Bank railway arches, but this café attached to a museum of wine served some “surprisingly good” meals this year – recommended pre-theatre, and for Sunday lunch. Catch it while you can, Cantina Vinopolis will close in December to make way for a shopping centre.
This “under-the-arches foodie destination” – in the ‘new’ Borough Market – offers a “most interesting selection of bio and small producer wines”, complemented by “outstanding” small-plate dishes; “get there early as it’s full by 8 pm”.
“Heaven for wine lovers”; these “cramped” bars are run by staff “with a real passion for inspiring their customers” with their “creative” and very “sensibly-priced” list; the “simple” bistro fare? – “sound but unexciting”.
“The food is fine, but the real story is the wine” – “interesting selections by the glass”, and a “killer collector’s list of old and rare bottles with modest mark-ups” are making a big hit of this growing bistro chain; it’s often hailed as “a good choice for lunch”.
Top of the tips – restaurants with great wine lists that haven’t featured in our survey just yet. Review them in this year’s survey.
From the Jason Atherton stable, a Marylebone wine shop offering counter and table service tapas menu.
From the owners of the “buzzing” Truscott Arms in Maida Vale comes a new wine bar in Belsize Park with Aidan McGee (formerly of Dinner) spearheading the kitchen.
The second wine bar opening from the husband and wife team behind Hackney Road’s lauded Sager + Wilde.
A welcome addition to Mile End’s Roman Road that’s winning a devoted following among locals for its carefully selected wines from small, indy growers. There’s also a small but tasty menu of French and Italian dishes, excellent coffee too.