London may be the capital city in a nation of beer drinkers, but don’t let deceive you about the love of wine. Be it lunchtime, secret rendezvous, after-work tipples, pre-dinner aperitifs and post-theatre nightcaps; there are bottles being consumed somewhere in the city at any time of the day. Add to that the success of the English Wine Fair that was held in Chelsea last month and you may even be surprised to find some English wines on menus too. Haute Living takes a look at five of the best London wine bars.
Located at celebrity chef Jun Tanaka’s Pearl, The Bar is as expansively elegant and glamorous as the rest of the Silhouette establishment. Pearl’s award-winning wine list features some of the world’s best wines with almost 500 wines by the bottle, half bottle and over 40 available by the glass.
Thanks to Pearl’s unique Cruvinet System, wines are served by the glass and then kept on a nitrogen system, which displaces oxygen from the open bottle. Each bottle remains as fresh as the time they were opened giving everyone the opportunity to sample some of the most exclusive wines money can buy. And it all looks very cool and hi-tech.
If you can’t decide which wine to sample, Pearl offers a selection of wine flights, where guests can sample three wines of a common theme. There are several pre-determined flights on offer, including a Chardonnay flight where guests can sample three different Chardonnay varietals from around the world. In addition to pre-determined flights guests can also make up their own selection.
Iridescent, futuristic and timeless elegant, there is something magical about Pearl. Possibly, it’s being located in the former grand entrance to the Grade II listed Silhouette building that, even today, puts everyone in an extravagant and hugely glamorous mood.
252 High Holborn, WC1V 7EN
020 7829 7000
Gordon’s Wine Bar
Despite being in the touristy central Charring Cross, this tiny underground cellar has had a long-standing following of regulars. Long standing being the operative phrase considering that this bar opened in 1890 making it London’s oldest wine bar and that being so popular it’s very rare that you’ll find a seat. It’s so popular, there’s even a three-drink limit to keep clientele moving.
But don’t let the popularity put you off. Gordon’s remains very much a discrete Dickensian styled retreat. With yellowing newspapers that line the walls and candles stuffed into dusty bottles, it’s very much like a drinking hole from a century gone by—which indeed it is.
And the wine? The wine list is extensive and varied and includes a great selection of sherry, Madeira and port from the barrel. Order a plate of cheese, find a darkened corner and enjoy wine experience unchanged for over 120 years.
47 Villiers St, Westminster, London, WC2N 6NE
020 7930 1408
Bleeding Heart Bistro
A busy candlelit bistro set within an attractive cobbled courtyard that holds a tragic history (a Victorian murder at the hands of a jealous lover) all makes a popular spot for informal French-inspired dining. Nineteenth-century French wine posters line the walls while uniformed French waiters gild between tables; the whole scene feels like a refuge from the chaotic modern day capital.
Not surprisingly, in an intimate and proudly French retreat in central London, the wine menu is a huge hit. Regulars and connoisseurs alike are ever delighted by the quality of choice and the wine menu has won an array of awards over the years. Indeed, even ‘the connoisseurs wine bible,’ the Wine Spectator, described the selection as; “one of the best in the world.” With more than 450 wines from all over the world, the Bleeding Heart Wine List is regularly expanded and updated. The restaurant also hosts regular winemaker dinners with Chateau owners and winemakers from all over the world showcasing their wines and champagnes.
3 Bleeding Heart Yard, London, EC1N 8SJ
020 7242 8238
Once described as ‘the restaurant serving the most wine-challenged dishes in the capital,’ Hakkusan may be a surprise ranking on a list of the city’s best wine bars. But Phillippe Moranges, deputy head sommelier, at the Michelin-starred restaurant didn’t get nominated for 2010 sommelier of the year for nothing.
Hakkasan’s world-renowned Chinese dishes are indeed complimented by a fantastically eclectic wine menu with wine regions and grape varieties rarely seen on a list. Moranges himself is always on hand to offer suggestions by the glass such as the Nyetimber Classic Cuvee from West Sussex or wines by the bottle which grouped into inspirational themes such as Strength and Beauty, Meditation, Harmony, Curious and Prestige. Rarely does a wine menu read as eclectically as Hakkusan—go with an open mind and prepare to want to try a lot.
8 Hanway Place, London, W1T 1HD
020 7927 7000
Terroirs Wine Bar
A super addition to the West End, Terroirs Wine Bar is an adaptation of the classic Parisian ‘natural wine bar’, food and wine which is natural and free of additives, with their emphasis on superb, rarely-seen wines and informal service.
Terrior’s objective is to present wines that sympathetically reflect the place from which they originate, the nature of the vintage itself and the personality of the grower—in short those wines that encapsulate the notion of terroir. Each wine is sourced from small artisan growers within France or Italy, who work sustainably, organically and biodynamically and who often farm with horses rather than tractors. All of the picking and selection is by hand.
With three floors to choose from, it is the addition of the ‘downstairs bar’ that has really got wine lovers talking. Here you’ll find the much-coveted wine list composed of biodynamic and organic wines complemented by a tapas menu of seasonally changing dishes which includes petit lucques olives, tapenade and crostini or vegetables and bagna cauda. There is something very cool, rustic and equally ahead of its time about Terroirs. Good luck getting a seat.
5 William IV Street, Strand, London, WC2N 4DW
020 7036 0660