Friday, October 16, 2009

Wine Bars in London: Vats Wine Bar, The Cork and Bottle Wine Bar and The Providores and Tapa Room

When my daughter Cornelia studied at the London School of Economics, on her way to and from her apartment, she would always walk by

Vats Wine Bar, 51 Lambs’ Conduit Street, London, WC1N 3NB

which she liked from the outside and which she wanted to show to me. Now back in London at the School of Oriental and African Studies, I visited her to help her set up shop there. The first thing we did was to stop by Vats Wine Bar. It is a French inspired wine bar with a large bar area plus a restaurant. The wine list is long and French dominated, but you also find wines from other European countries. Nothing from Germany however. They have about 20 wines by the glass. Wines are reasonably priced, but you do not find higher quality wines. Nevertheless, an excellent selection, as you would find in a “down the road” wine Bistro in Paris, but the wines teand to be from large producers.

The Cork and Bottle Wine Bar, 44-46 Cranbourn Street, London WC2H 7AN

is clearly in a different league. It is a hidden gem in the center of Covent Garden. It is difficult to find, as it is in the basement and there is only a small door at the street level. But it has a soul. I felt very comfortable there. They have a wide selection of new and old world wines, which includes many excellent wines. Large selection of Bordeaux wines, but also other French regions. The wine bar was established 30 years ago by Don Hewitson from New Zealand, who still owns and runs it. There are many tables were you can eat or just drink a glass of wine and several of these tables are in unusual locations such as under the stairs or in a corner niche. Remember the wine bar is in cellar.

Finally, Stuart Pigott told me to go to

The Providores and Tapa Room, 109 Maryleborne High Street, London, W1U 4RX

A hip place divided into a restaurant (upstairs) and a wine tapas bar (downstairs). Tapas have become very popular in London. The chef is from New Zealand and is currently there to promote his latest cook book. If you do not like wines from New Zealand, stay away. But if you like them, this is the place to go. I have never seen such a broad and deep selection of excellent wines from New Zealand outside of New Zealand. Naturally, the focus is on Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc.

But I had an amazing Riesling

2006, Riesling, Waipara West, Waipara, North Canterburry

The wine displayed a nose of citrus with mandarin and lime and slight floral aromas. Green apple, floral and lime aromas, a full palate with an oily texture and a persistent finish.

The knowledgeable waiter told us that Waipara is situated some forty - five miles north of Christchurch in the South Island of New Zealand. Vines were first planted there in 1981 although commercial winemaking really only started in 1990. Waipara has many natural advantages for grape production - long dry summers, sheltered from cold easterly winds by a range of coastal hills but exposed to the hot nor-west winds which help to control disease, and a remarkable range of soils, including shingle, river stones and pockets of clay loams over limestone.

The bottles at The Providores and Tapa Room were in the BP 30 to 40 range with some wines going for BP 20 and some for up to BP 60.

We sat on a nice communal bar table and had a great time.

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