It’s official – the wine bar is back. But forget glitzy venues with smooth jazz and wines from the big names; this time round they’re low key hangouts run by young wine buffs who source exciting, often unheard of, varieties from small producers across the globe. Here, the specialists at Ten Lifestyle Concierge have chosen a selection that are well worth checking out.
40 Maltby Street
40 Maltby Street, London SE1 3PA
With trains trundling in and out of London Bridge station overhead, sipping wine under the railway arches in Southwark is a charming experience. The back street has become a popular outpost for Borough Market traders and it’s where Monmouth Coffee roasts its beans, Kernel Brewery bottles its beers and St John’s peddles its freshly baked breads and sweet treats. All are fitting neighbours for this ethical wine bar, which only serves produce from winemakers that eschew chemical fertilisers and pesticides.
Operated by the Gergovie Wines warehouse next door, the staff here really know their stuff, which is lucky, as you’re completely at their mercy – they open six or seven varieties at the start of service and these change as the evening progresses. A small Italian-influenced sharing menu also follows the sustainable produce model. Be sure to pick up a bottle or two to take home.
The 10 Cases
16 Endell Street, London WC2H 9BD
London has seen an influx of French-inspired brasseries in the past couple of years. All bow-tied waiters, red-leather banquettes and gleaming brass fixtures, they’re places dripping in glamour. But what happens when you strip back the glitz and concentrate on the basics? If this unassuming bistro in Covent Garden is anything to go by, it can work rather well.
Set up by wine buffs Ian Campbell and Will Palmer, the bistro’s name comes from the idea that they only ever buy 10 cases of each of the 20-plus wines on the menu, meaning that when they’re gone, they’re gone. Things are kept simple on the food menu too, which offers three choices of starters, main courses and desserts of classic French cooking.
The dining room follows suit with black and white tiled floors, simple wooden furniture and whitewashed walls – which may lack that ‘je ne sais quoi’ of nearby Balthazar, for example, but the buzz of chatter and dim lighting give the room its edge.
Sager and Wilde
193 Hackney Road, London E2 8JL
Back at the beginning of 2013 East London was awash with pop-ups, many of which never made it beyond their temporary home. There were, however, a few success stories and this wine-led offering from Charlotte and Michael Sager-Wilde was one of them. After finding a permanent home on a part-gentrified stretch of Hackney Road, the bar became a neighbourhood institution overnight.
Hidden away behind slatted blinds, the narrow room is all bare brick, filament light bulbs and tall stools at the industrial bar. Behind the knowledgeable bartenders lies the selection of wines, which change each day and are all available by the glass. There are some big name French vineyards but most are selected from boutique California producers, with South African, English and Australian grapes often making the cut. The cheese and charcuterie boards are a delicious accompaniment.
Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels
8-10 Neal’s Yard, London WC2H 9DP
When the team behind the Experimental Cocktail Club set up this wine bar in the heart of Covent Garden, we knew it’d be good. This place has become highly regarded among serious wine connoisseurs, but those who simply like a good glass of wine shouldn’t be put off – there’s no ego here, just lots of passion. The switched-on staff will make sure you find a variety you’ll love and with more than 40 bottles to choose from there’s certainly something for everyone.
It’s a chic spot that feels like someone’s tasteful living room and it’s easy to while away an evening on one of the plump sofas. The small plate menu offers simply prepared treats like crispy baby squid, buttermilk fried frog legs and a creamy burrata studded with pomegranate seeds.
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Best of the rest
Green man and French Horn
54 Saint Martin’s Lane, London WC2N 4EA
This Covent Garden curio has unearthed liquid treasures from along the Loire Valley and offers an impressive selection by glass or carafe. Stretching from the Ardeche to the coast of Saint-Nazaire, the list showcases well-known labels as well as vintages from small batch producers. The bar is cast in a golden glow from the low-hanging lamps and guests and tuck into generous sharing plates of Liore produce.
15-17 Marylebone Lane, London W1U 2NE
With a wine list overseen by Master Sommelier Xavier Rousset drinkers are in safe hands at this inviting bolthole close to St Paul’s. The ethos is simple – serve sensational wines by the glass, carafe or bottle for a sensible mark up, accompanied by excellent French food. Those serious about their wines should pay close attention to the Collector’s list which showcases hard to find bottles handpicked by Xavier.
124 Cleveland Street, London W1T 6PG
With Fitzrovia becoming a foodie hotspot it was crying out for a decent wine bar. Thankfully, Remedy filled the gap and the area’s now got one of London’s best. David and his friendly team all know their stuff and scour the globe for the finest bins from independent producers. The small bare brick-walled space is dominated by the long bar and it’s a convivial spot for a drink or two. At weekends it’s open later than most bars in the area.
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