As published in Urbanologie, Founder of Wanderlust Wine, a new online boutique wine merchant, Richard Ellison shares with U his top 5 wine lists in London…
I actually didn’t visit Chiltern until all the hype and long waiting lists died down, but it was well worth the visit and now tables are normally available the week before you want to dine. Aside from the famous smaller plates like their crab doughnuts – the meat alone is worth going there for – the chef’s team have perfectly aged, melt in the mouth beef as their standard steaks.
In an A-list celeb hangout the wine lists can, and normally are eye wateringly expensive, Romain and the somm team consistently outperform with value options, and their by-the-glass house wines are consistently outstanding and thought through. When you go further down the list for something recommended, the somms have always presented really amazing wines I haven’t heard of.
Volcanic soil wines are gaining more and more press with the rise of Etna wines in Sicily and at Chiltern recently, I drank a volcanic soil Pinot Gris from Alsace (Marc Tempe ‘Zellenberg’ at £75) that was a showstopper. But if you are pushing the boat out, Chiltern’s real speciality is their American wine selection. Spell is a small producer based in Sonoma County making tiny amount of wines and Chiltern have some of the 300 cases of their 2014 Chardonnay (£125) which blew me away. Unlike most American chardonnays, this was much more Burgundian in style – tons of acidity and gentle oak when compared to it’s list neighbours on the list.
M seem to be going strength to strength, and now with their Twickenham opening, rugby fans have a great option for lunch and dinner right next to the station. Still, the Victoria and City locations with their Raw vs Grill concept continue to draw back the crowds.
For me this is because of the somm team and wine list. M have ensured service is at the core of their experience with the right levels of staffing per table as they guide you through a list which has safe everyday options for those who know want they want and also some twists and turns when you feel in the mood to try something new.
As well as the more traditional wines that are popular in London, their off-piste options took me to the interesting, old and emerging region of Hungary. I tried a Riesling (Heumann, £29) and a dry Tokaji blend (Kikelet, £40) from their whites and also a stunning 100% Syrah from Heumann again (£42). All were less obvious choices that still delivered way above what I expected. It’s great to see the inclusion of alternative regions to offer a wine list as strong as their food menu.
- Noble Rot
It really is hard not to mention Mark Andrew’s foray into ‘wine with food’. Being a well known and respected wine professional, his curated wine list is brilliantly delivered with everything from safe Pinot Grigio to crazy skin contact naturals. And not only that, the drinking/dining experience seems to deliver every time you go back. I never get bored of Noble Rot – this is one of the hardest things to achieve with wine lists and the overall feel when we dine out.
I love having business meetings here over a fresh burrata and a glass of their house Champagne, made from the traditional blend of 3 grapes (Gaston Chiquet, 1er Cru £11/glass, £60/btl). I expected the Champagne to be top quality here, and it was. Complex, crisp and layered and long, I came away wanting to take a bottle home and carry on drinking it.
Michael Sager-Wilde continues to sharpen the restaurant big sister version of his original wine bar. The food offering has seriously upped it’s game in the last year; I love the way you can just drink, nibble or go all out on a tasting menu in a setting that’s informal but takes itself seriously. The wine list is a favourite of mine, being a huge American wine fan myself – you have the option of everything from cult Napa wines to stars of the Loire, to all out vins naturels from across the globe. The somm team are not pushy, they are reactive not proactive to be help with the diverse knowledge set their customers have. Whether you are a Master of Wine or a hipster, there is joy in exploring the list here, visit after visit.
I’m of course going to shout about American choices on offer – celeb somm turned wine maker, Rajat Parr’s Memorious is a superstar (Domaine de la Cote, £90btl). But for those more traditional, something interesting a less known grape – 100% ‘Chenin Noir’ (as the grape used to be known, now Pineau d’Aunis) from the Loire in Rouge Gorge (£61/btl).
When I feel like a step down into less formal surroundings with friends, the Garrison has always been a winner for me. One of London’s flagship gastropubs, the kitchen is right in front of you in a bistro style setting, and inside and out it still manages the look and feel of a good old English pub. The wine list is diverse, varied but fresh as it continues to change. You also find more emerging producers and regions on a by-the-glass blackboard meaning you don’t have to drop money on a whole bottle if you fancy a foray into the unknown.
Value is so difficult to find in Californian wines now due to Brexit weakening the pound, and it’s likely to get a harder following the awful fire devastation seen there recently. Try their Californian Chenin Blanc from Goss Creek (£8/glass, £32/btl) – this really hits the mark as a well made, New World style of Chenin.