From stylish taverns to subterranean caverns, here’s our round up of London’s coolest wine bars
Words Helen Brown
It’s not just craft beer and cocktails in London’s limelight; a move towards great wine and casual dining has hatched a wealth of exceptional places to wine and dine in the city. Contrary to wine bars past, where choice was measly and limited to a Bordeaux or a Burgundy, venues range from stylish bars to vino-taverns and subterranean caverns. Wine lists are diverse and far more ambitious too. Here are some of the coolest wine bars and the city’s vino hot-spots.
Most people will be familiar with Village East for its cocktail menu and modern dining facilities, but the vinous and the curious will be pleased to discover that the New York-Scando style cocktail bar has applied its expertise to the world of wine. Their new event series is called The Grape Society and spotlights rotating wine varieties and topics each month. Guests are able to sample 8-10 wine varieties they may not usually have access to in the company of experts and fellow wine lovers. The Grape Society adopts a casual and conversational approach and so far has focused on dessert wines and gin. The next masterclass will take place on February 22 and will shed a light on fortified wines.
Founded by the eponymous London-based wine and Lifestyle magazine, Noble Rot has built a well-deserved reputation for its award-winning wine list and friendly, knowledgeable staff. With its flagged stone flooring and vineyard-themed frescos, skilfully prepared British menu and unpretentious attitude, Noble Rot has rapidly earned it’s place high on the go-to lists of wine lovers.
Sager + Wilde
This sleek, Parisian-esque establishment has a great selection of reasonably priced wines from across the globe and from some outstanding producers. Staff are relaxed and informative and the food menu ticks every box. The toasties from the Hackney branch are a must.
28-50 is the second brainchild (after haute cuisine restaurant Texture) of sommelier Xavier Rousset and executive chef Agnar Sverrisson. The surroundings of all three branches are stylish and offer 15 red and 15 white expertly chosen wines available by glass, carafe and bottle, as well as a unique Collectors’ Selection of fine-wines. Wine lists change frequently so you can try new varieties with each visit.
Ostuni is London’s first eatery dedicated to the wines and cuisine of Puglia and offers a true taste of Italy. They have a fantastic wine list from Puglia as well as a range of fine wines from Piedmont, Tuscany and Friuli. This selection matches superbly with the food menu, which is an authentic reflection on the simplicity and flavour of Italian cuisine. Wine aficionado, collector and expert on Puglian wines, Rob Claassen, is the owner and spends half a year living in the Italian region to build up an extensive cellar both at the restaurant and personally.
The Gilbert Scott
As part of Marcus Wareing’s highly esteemed restaurant, the bar at The Gilbert Scott offers grandeur without stiff formality. The bar is Instagram-worthy; all polished marble, tainted brass and smooth glass. The wine list is huge and has been carefully selected to include a mix of safe and quirky options; and much like every establishment under the Wareing umbrella, the atmosphere is buzzy and friendly. The best bit about The Gilbert Scott though is that they sell wine by the glass, which means you’re at liberty to try bottles you might never otherwise pay for.
As the Capital’s oldest wine bar (established in 1890) Gordon’s earned it’s place on many a wine list. Exposed brick work and flickering candlelight are brought together in an atmospheric subterranean venue that offers one of the quintessential London experiences. The wine menu journeys from the classic regions of France to South America and further. A simplistic but delicious menu of buffet-style food and tapas is available to keep you steady on your feet.
The Winemakers Club
This wine-shop-cum-bar is a great place to hang out after work with a group of mates and a plate of cheese. Situated under a railway arch, stepping into The Winemakers Club feels like you’ve journeyed back in time. The wine list is amazingly eclectic and boasts a global selection – think Hungary, Slovenia, and even Poland – natural, organic and biodynamic wines, as well as the tried and tested classics. Discover by taste, glass or bottle.
10 Cases Cave á Vin
A regular haunt of vino-aficionados, the 10 Cases Cave á Vin is another great drink-in-the-shop setup; an arrangement quite commonplace in France and Italy and slowing growing in popularity in the UK. You’ll be hard pushes to choose one from the regularly changing selection of 300+ fine wines from across the globe. Buy wine for take-away or enjoy in-house alongside tapas style dishes from the Bistro á Vin next door.
This independent London-based wine merchant is on a mission to make fine wine accessible to the masses. Staff are fantastically knowledgeable and their passion for the wine craft is evident. Pop in for a glass and a chat, or buy by the bottle to take away. The Humble Grape has a niche for hand-crafted wines from lesser known vineyards around the world and they directly import every bottle so you pay only for the wine you are drinking.