Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Schiller’s Favorite Wine Bars in London, 2012, UK
This is a list of my favorite wine bars in London. I have never lived in London or spent larger periods there. But I have stopped over in London many times during my career at the IMF (going from Washington DC to an Anglophone African country) and I have spent time there with two of my daughters who studied in London.
The Cork and Bottle Wine Bar
This 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.
The Cork and Bottle Wine Bar
44-46 Cranbourn Street,
London WC2H 7AN
See more: Wine Bars in London: Vats Wine Bar, the Cork and Bottle, the Providores and Tapa Room
The Providores and Tapa Room
A hip place divided into a restaurant (upstairs) and a wine tapas bar (downstairs). Plus, there are a few tables on the sidewalk of Marylebone High Street. The Providores and Tapa Room is run by New Zealand’s star chef Peter Gordon and his business partner Michael McGrath. The wine list is large and the wines are exclusively from New Zealand.
Downstairs is the buzzing Tapa Room, with a large communal table. Breakfast is very popular here, in addition to the selection of excellent tapas. Upstairs is the serene Providores, a classic dining room, where you order fixed-price menus. I did not eat upstairs, but I understand it is very, very good.
A long classic wood high counter table stands in the center of the Tapa Room. So, lots of chatting with people you don't know. Einstein-esque orange light bulbs hang from the ceiling. And an enormous Rarotongan Tapa, or ceremonial cloth from the South Seas, is covering one wall, hence Tapa Room. Tapa cloth can be found throughout the Pacific and is used either as a decorative piece, as a ceremonial floor covering at feasts, or in some cases as fabric for clothing.
The wine list is almost entirely from New Zealand and has well chosen growers. If you do not like New World wines, do not go there. But if you are open to the wonders of the New World, your will find them there, right in the center of London. 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.
The Providores and Tapa Room,
109 Maryleborne High Street,
London, W1U 4RX
See more: New Zealand Wine El Dorado in London: The Providores and Tapa Room
Gordon’s Wine Bar
Gordon’s Wine Bar is quite a place. It is London's oldest wine bar. Full of character, it’s something of an institution in London . It has been established in its present form in 1890, when it was founded by Arthur Gordon. Time seems to have stood still at Gordon’s. It drew literary figures like Rudyard Kipling, who wrote The Light That Failed in the room above the bar and numerous celebrities including Lord (Lawrence) Olivier and Vivien Leigh.
Gordon’s is buried deep and dark beneath the streets with only a small doorway and a subtle sign indicating its presence. As you enter Gordon’s, you find yourself in a room with old wooden walls covered in historical newspaper cuttings and memorabilia faded with age.
Make your way to the cellar to get a candlelit table. You’ll probably have to wait a while for a table, but there’s no great hardship in propping yourself up in a corner and waiting for one to become available or, alternatively, asking to share the corner of someone else’s.
If the sun is out you can also sit outside in the Watergate walk and enjoy watching the world go by.
If you look for outstanding wines, do not go there. Gordon’s wine list is not bad, but does not impress a wine expert. Gordon’s wine list includes a wide-ranging collection from the New and Old World, at reasonable prices. It is the stunning atmosphere of Gordon’s that makes these average wines so special. I liked the sturdy tumblers of port or sherry served straight from casks behind the bar.
Equally, the food is simple stuff; but it comes in generous portions ranging from home made pies to mature cheeses. Basic, good food.
Gordon’s Wine Bar
47 Villiers Street
London WC2N 6NE, United Kingdom
020 7930 1408
See more: Time Seems to Have Stood Still at Gordon's Wine Bar in London
Terroirs is a wine bar and restaurant situated in the heart of the London West End, a stone’s throw from Trafalgar Square and adjacent to the Charing Cross station. It seats 45 covers with a further 12 seats at the zinc top bar (which are non bookable).
In terms of the wine selection, it resembles very much the San Francisco Terroir. But while Terroirs London also focuses on natural wine, it defines natural wine in a broader sense than the Terroir San Francisco, wines that I would call “green wines”, wines made with an ecological concept in mind. There are lots of certified organic and biodynamic wines on the list.
The focus is on France and Italy. I did not see any New World wines. Many of the French growers are certified organic and biodynamic. Several of the Italian growers belong to Vin Veri (Real Wines), a movement of like-minded natural winemakers. About 25 wines are under £20 and 80 in total under £30.
Charcuterie is a feature of Terroirs. The selection changes but usually offers a terrine, a rustic jambon persillé, some French saucisse, lardo di Colonnata and ham. A selection of seasonal cheeses is available. The cheeses can be ordered individually or as part of a selection. There are also quite a number of full-sized dishes - pot-roasted quail with pancetta and gremolata, for example, or salt cod with soft-boiled eggs.
See more: Focus on Natural Wines: The Terroirs Wine Bar in London
St. Pancras Grand Champagne Bar
The St. Pancras Grand Champagne Bar is situated just next to the tracks were the Eurostar arrives, below the magnificent Barlow Shed, allowing a full appreciation of the amazing architecture of the historic Victorian St. Pancras Station.
It is a truly unique and stunning venue. The set up is very nice and comfortable with a range of different seating options. It is a formidable place to celebrate the arrival in London or wait for the departure of the train for Paris or Brussels.
The St. Pancras Champagne Bar has an outstanding and very wide selection of NV Champagnes as well as older vintage Champagnes. If you are in a group, you can go for a larger size: The bar carries Magnums, Jeroboams, Methuselahs (= 8 bottles) and even super large sizes.
See more: The Amazing Champagnes of the St. Pancras Grand Champagne Bar in London – But no English or Other Sparklers
Wright Brothers Oyster and Porter House at Borough Market
Not really a wine bar, but my favorite place for having oysters and a glass of wine in London. On fashionably foodie Borough Market, it is a spit-and-sawdust kind of place with customers huddled around barrels outside or crammed shoulder-to-shoulder in the brick-walled bar.
Shucking and guzzling in the business of the day and everyone has a great time: have your British oysters with pints of Guinness, or go for Champagne. The day's selection of oysters is written on the blackboard. Other exciting sea food items include wild mussels, razor clams, langoustines, pints of prawns, winkles and whelks.
The owners just opened another place in Soho, to which I have not yet been. The restaurant comprises three different floors. Downstairs combines the Wright Brothers Oyster House feel with high table communal seating and an open-plan kitchen. Upstairs is a more traditional restaurant experience. On the ground floor the raw bar spills out onto the courtyard of Kingly Court, just off bustling Carnaby Street.
Planet of the Grapes
I still have to check out Planet of the Grapes, which was recommended to me by Claudia Schug, the daughter of the California Pinot Noir Giant Walter Schug.
This posting is part of the Schiller’s favorites series. Here is a full list of all Schiller’s favorites postings so far.
Schiller’s Favorite Wine Bars and Other Wine Spots in Vienna, Austria
Schiller’s Favorite Wine Bars in San Francisco, USA
Schiller's Favorite Wine Bars in Bordeaux (City), France
Schiller's Favorite Wine Bars in Budapest, Hungary
Schiller’s 12 Favorite Restaurants of Antananarivo, the Capital of Madagascar
Schiller's Favorite Apple Wine Taverns in Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Schiller’s Favorite Wine Bars and Other Places where you can have Wine in Mainz, Germany
Schiller's Favorite Wine Bars and Other Places Where You Can Have a Glass of Wine in Healdsburg, California
Schiller Wine - Related Postings
Focus on Natural Wines: The Terroirs Wine Bar in London
The Natural Wines of La Cremerie in Paris
Wine bar: Paris, Berlin, New York, London
Wine bar: Paris --- Le Petit Monceau, Willi's wine bar and Lavinia
Wine Bars in London: Vats Wine Bar, the Cork and Bottle, the Providores and Tapa Room
A Cult Paris Wine Bar - Juveniles
New Zealand Wine El Dorado in London: The Providores and Tapa Room
The Amazing Champagnes of the St. Pancras Grand Champagne Bar in London – But no English or Other Sparklers