Andre Simon, the prolific French wine merchant once said “wine makes every meal an occasion, every table more elegant, every day more civilised”. Whilst we at Gentleman’s Journal can call to mind a (small) handful of evenings at which wine did not necessarily have the effect of making the occasion more civilised, we will raise a glass wholeheartedly to Simon’s sentiment.
A restaurant, consequently, cannot be considered truly exceptional if its wine list does not meet the standard of the food menu, and the noble work of an in-house sommelier is therefore of paramount importance.
With this in mind, we called on the expertise of Richard Ellison, Founder of Wanderlust Wine, the ethical importers of wines sourced from off the beaten track, and revered wine consultant and writer Anne Krebiehl. Thanks to their globe-spanning experience and professional insight, we can now present the Gentleman’s Journal definitive guide on where to find the best wine lists in the world.
Best for natural wines: L’Enclume, The Lake District
This two Michelin star restaurant is owned by renowned chef Simon Rogan, who can be reasonably credited with leading the way in the UK for menus driven by foraging and local sourcing.
Richard says: “Simon Rogan’s flagship foraging restaurant once pushed us to consider how restaurants should source their seasonal elements, and its wine list has followed suit. Unlike many of the other Michelin rated restaurants , it has pushed into offering new styles of ‘natural’ wines which experiment with textures, smells and flavours. Orange wines from the natural wine mecca, Jura give textural journey alongside Rogan’s food and ‘farmyard’ reds will have you nosing the wines as much as drinking them.”
Best for New World wines: Scully Restaurant, London
Having only opened in March this year, this is the debut restaurant of Ramael Scully located in St James’ Market. A hit with critics and public diners alike, Scully’s is also a brilliant place to head for an impressive selection of natural wines.
Richard says: “One of London’s newest and hottest openings that focuses on flavours and textures of the vegetables, not the meat. Their wine list is eclectic and non-interventionist, sourced from three of the most eclectic merchants; Le Caves de Pyrennes, Indigo and Wanderlust Wine. Expect new grapes, off the beaten track producers, new styles and something for everyone – from wine snob to foodie. 90% of the list is available by the glass, too.”
Best for wines by the glass: M Restaurants, London (Victoria, City & Twickenham)
Alongside their London restaurants, M also have a Store located on Victoria Street. There, Head Sommelier Lenart says “we look at iconic producers who leave a mark in their wine growing regions. There are quite a few wines that we source directly from interesting wineries that we have visited, and some of them are exclusive to us in the UK.”
M is a must-visit venue for wine connoisseurs and novices alike, with a small-plate tapas menu designed to perfectly complement its wines, the store aims to make vintages currently perceived as pretentious or intimidating accessible.
Richard says: “M Restaurants do not mess around. With 122 wines available by the glass, from big names to small producers. You can drink wines that you might not want to fork out a whole bottle for, whilst refining your palate across a large range of styles, countries and price brackets.”
Best for pairing: Makaron at Majeka House, South Africa
Majeka House is a boutique hotel breaking into the fine dining scene. It has everything you want from a fine dining restaurant, without any of the stuffiness — including a large tasting menu paired with more-than-generous wine pouring. Wines are sourced from a selection of South Africa’s best wine farms.
Richard says: “As our ‘Brexit pound’ continues to struggle; the only currency in equal trouble is the South African Rand. That makes South Africa one of the best value places to holiday right now.”
Makaron at Majeka House
Best for dessert wines: Hide Restaurant, London
Hide is a collaborative restaurant and bar by Hedonism Wines and Ollie Dabbous. Set over three floors, flooded with natural daylight and enjoying views across Green Park, head to Hide to experience the very best food and drink in a refined but relaxed setting.
Richard says: “When you throw together London’s best wine shop, with Ollie Dabbous’ cooking you get exceptional food alongside the biggest selection of wines available. Hide’s iPad ordering system gives you access to all of the wines in the Hedonism cellars – hand delivered by a guy who nips over Grosvenor Square with whatever you have chosen.
Their overall offering is incredible, but particularly their sweet dessert wines. The standard tasting menu offers classics such as late harvest Tokaji, Sauternes and new world stickies. However when you leverage the Hedonism options you then can go upgrade to the hallowed Chateau d’Yquem. If you’re wondering how old and rare can you go, the answer is all the way back to 1847 – a time from which hardly a bottle can be found around the world. Enjoy a bottle here for the measly price of £96,400, plus a mere £20 corkage fee.”
Best for Champagne: Les 110 De Taillevent Paris
This is a Parisian restaurant which takes its wine list very seriously. Its name alludes the fact that no less than 110 vintages are available by the glass, so the London branch comes in as Anne’s top recommendation for a brilliant spot for wines by the glass. However, for Richard this is the place to head for Champagne.
Richard says: “Where else for the biggest and best selection of Champagne in the world, but Paris? Les 110 De Taillevent Paris’ reputation alone allows it to source the producers and the range that others can only dream of. Better yet, the London branch is now available if you have no time to spare for the 2 hour Eurostar commute!”
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