Top 10 UK restaurants for Californian wine
Lucy Shaw rounds up the top 10 places in the UK to sample the Golden State’s finest tipples.
From the vast tome of The Vineyard at Stockcross to the more homely charms of Dalla Terra, the upmarket Cut and country-house fine dining of Gidleigh Park, read on for the ten best restaurants to enjoy Californian wine in the UK.
10: THE PALM
The Palm was opened by Pio Bonzi and John Ganzi in New York in 1926 on Manhattan’s Second Avenue close to the headquarters of the Hearst-owned comic strip and cartoon distributor King Features Syndicate. With no money to decorate the walls, in exchange for a meal the owners would ask local cartoonists to scribble sketches of popular comic strip characters, from Popeye to Batman, on the walls.
Still run by the same families, The Palm now has outposts in Mexico City and across the US, from Atlanta to Nashville. Its Belgravia site is the only European locale. Parquet floors, starched tablecloths and a long, polished bar add to the all-American feel and ensure repeat patronage from homesick US citizens.
Meanwhile, Brits give a collective thumbs-up to the USDA corn-fed prime beef steaks aged for a minimum of 35 days, and jumbo Nova Scotia lobsters.
Cuts include prime New York strip, filet mignon and rib-eye. On the wine front, the predominantly Californian list includes well-known names like Cakebread Chardonnay, Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon, Duckhorn Merlot and Joseph Phelps Fogdog Pinot Noir, along with Piero Antinori’s Napa Valley venture Antica Cabernet Sauvignon from a rocky hillside vineyard high on the Atlas Peak, and Moët & Chandon’s Napa sparkling Domaine Chandon Brut Classic NV by the glass.
Finish with a Key lime pie, bag of small doughnuts or New York cheesecake
The Palm 1 Pont Street, London SW1X 9EJ; Tel:+44(0)20 7201 0710; www.thepalm.com
A graduate of the Cordon Bleu school in Paris, Sally Clarke spent four years in California working at Michael’s restaurant in Santa Monica before returning to London in 1983 and opening Clarke’s on Kensington Church Street, offering her famous “no choice” four course dinner menu.
The menu has since evolved to include a selection of starters and mains, including spring pea risotto and aged parmesan, veal loin filled with spinach, pine nuts and raisins, and chargrilled, grass-fed Angus rib-eye with horseradish mustard cream and a pot of Jersey Royals. The wine list incorporates offerings from Sally’s favourite vineyards in California, from Au Bon Climat Chardonnay 2009 and Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, to Seghesio Arneis 2009 and Sangiovese 2007, Marmiar Estate Pinot Noir 2006 and dessert wine Bonny Doon Le Vol des Anges Roussanne 2007.
Look out for a selection of older vintages of Ridge Monte Bello going back to the 1970s, cherry picked by her close friend Paul Draper.
Clarke’s, 122-124 Kensington Church Street,London W8 4BH; Tel: +44(0)20 7221 9225; www.sallyclarke.com
8: DALLA TERRA
This freshly opened cosy café and wine bar in Covent Garden is a metropolitan take on an Italian enoteca, offering a decent selection of Californian wines by the glass from Enomatic machines, and by the bottle at retail price plus a £7.50 corkage fee. Serving breakfast pastries and a selection of small plates from across Italy for lunch and dinner, including swordfish carpaccio with avocado and lemon oil, blood orange and watercress salad, cured meat platters and cheese boards, the 180-strong wine list is weighted towards Italian wine, but features a broad Californian range thanks to a tie-in with UK-based importer California FineWine.
Keen to flag up the outstanding quality of small Californian producers little known in the UK, Dalla Terra specialises in boutique artisan wines from “underdog” producers from the southern end of the Golden State, taking in Santa Barbera and Paso Robles, many of which are working with Italian grape varieties.
Among the hidden gems are Lodi-based Sorelle Winery Grazia Pinot Grigio 2009 and Troppo Bella Sangiovese 2009, Viña Robles Jardine Petite Sirah 2008 from Paso Robles and Sea Smoke “Ten” Pinot Noir 2009 from Santa Rita Hills, named after the 10 clones from which it is produced. Together with an assortment of olive oils, vinegars and cheeses, the wines are also available for customers to buy in the adjoining wine shop and deli.
St Martin’s Courtyard, 25 Slingsby Place, LondonWC2E 9AB; Tel: +44(0)20 7240 8811; www.dallaterra.co.uk
Founded by Will Beckett and Huw Gott in 2006, the Hawksmoor philosophy is simple: to serve dictionary-thick steaks made from Yorkshire-reared Longhorn cattle from renowned butcher The Ginger Pig, dry aged for 35 days then cooked on a Josper grill. The latest addition to the Hawksmoor family and the largest of the trio is the 170-cover Hawksmoor Guildhall, where a sweeping staircase leads you down into the expansive space furnished with brown leather seats, polished wooden floors and walls lined with wood panelling, which give the impression you are aboard a vintage sea liner.
Reinforcing the nautical theme are Art Deco light fittings modelled on the ones used on the Titanic. Cuts – which are written on a blackboard and crossed through when they run out – include bone-in prime rib, porterhouse, T-bone, chateaubriand, and the 55-day-aged d-rump. The triple-cooked chips are the best in the capital, and the breakfast of champions – including short-rib bubble and squeak, grilled bone marrow and trotter baked beans – is unmissable.
Co-founder Will Beckett is son of wine writer Fiona Beckett, so wine is given top billing, with California generously represented. On the white front, Au Bon Climat Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2009, Ridge Monte Bello Chardonnay 2007 and Kistler Les Noisettes Chardonnay 2008 all grace the list, while Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare 2009 holds up the rosé end. If you’re in search of a punchy red for your top 10 restaurants T-bone, then Seghesio Zinfandel 2009 or Stag’s Leap Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 should hit the spot.
At the top of the tree, you can give your credit card a work out with Sine Qua Non B20 Syrah 2008 or The Line Grenache 2008 at £250 a pop. In addition to the gigantic Guildhall site, the original Hawksmoor in Spitalfields and sister restaurant Seven Dials in Covent Garden are equally excellent.
Hawksmoor, 12 Basinghall Street, City of London EC2V 5BQ; Tel: +44(0)20 7397 8120; www.thehawksmoor.com
Billing itself as “a taste of California in Edinburgh”, Calistoga, run by Gordon Minnis, boasts an entirely Californian wine list of more than 100 bins all at just £5 above retail price. The menu, including homemade bread and ice-cream, features California-inspired dishes such as white bean chowder, chargrilled 8oz flat-iron steak with wild mushroom sauce, and glazed lemon pie with cheesecake cream.
Calistoga also runs regular wine-tasting dinners with guest speakers and a monthly “Wine Wednesday” tasting group. Among the 13-strong selection by the glass is Rutherford Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2010 from Napa, Hawkcrest Merlot 2006 from Paso Robles and Scott Family Estate Pinot Noir 2009 from Monterey County. Wine flights of four 75ml pours are also available for £9 for either a red or white flight, or £14 for the “Mystery Collection”. Bottle offerings include Château Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 for £70, Francis Ford Coppola’s famed Rubicon Estate Rubicon 2003 from Rutherford for a ridiculously good £75, Marilyn Merlot 2008 from Napa for £34, Domaine Carneros Famous Gate Pinot Noir 2006 for £45, Ravenswood Teldeschi Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 2005 for £28 and Heller Estate Chenin Blanc 2006 for £23.
For those with something to celebrate, Domaine Carneros Brut NV is listed at a dangerously drinkable £24 a bottle.
Calistoga, 70 Rose Street Lane, North Edinburgh EH2 3DX; +44(0)131 225 1233; www.calistoga.co.uk
5: BAR BOULUD
This contemporary French bistro boasts Lyon-born, New York City-based Michelin starred celebrity chef Daniel Boulud at the helm. Modelled on the New York City original, the eye catching interiors are the work of acclaimed interior architect Adam D.Tihany. The menu includes signature terrines and patés made on site under the tutelage of Gilles Verot, one of France’s most respected charcutiers. Do not miss Boulud’s much-lauded burgers, including the grilled beef “Yankie”, Dijon mustard fuelled “Frenchie” and pulled pork “Piggy”, smoked in the restaurant’s smoking room.
Whole suckling pig and sucking lamb are also on offer, but they have to be ordered in advance. Looking after the wine is head sommelier David Vareille, who got his first break at Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume in Cumbria, moving to Hotel du Vin in Cambridge, and more recently The Bleeding Heart in London’s Hatton Garden. The wine list stretches to 500 bins and pays homage to Boulud’s homeland with an extensive American offering, including Merlots from Duckpond and Shafer, Chardonnays fromAu Bon Climat and Stag’s Leap, and a fistful of icons such as Ridge Monte Bello, Opus One and Dominus.
At the top end, a three-litre bottle of Sine Qua Non Poker Face Syrah 2004 at £5,500 appears comparatively good value beside a 75cl bottle of Screaming Eagle 1999, priced at an eyewatering £6,400.
Vareille is big on larger-format bottles, opening a different one every day and serving it by the glass to impress guests. To generate a buzz, each morning he tweets the name of the big bottle he’s about to crack open to his followers.
Bar Boulud, Mandarin Oriental Hyde, Park, 66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA; Tel: +44(0)20 7201 3899; www.barboulud.com
4: GIDLEIGH PARK
This small country-house hotel nestled in 107 acres of secluded Devon woodland is headed up by Michelin-starred chef Michael Caines MBE (not to be confused with The Italian Job actor Sir Michael Caine OBE), who has been at the helm since 1994. The restaurant has held its two Michelin stars since 1999, offering modern British and European cuisine based on local and regional produce.
The signature eight-course tasting menu includes dishes such as langoustine cannelloni, partridge with quince purée in a Gewürztraminer sauce, and Hatherleigh venison and braised pork belly in a fig and chestnut purée. The 10,000-bottle, 1,100-bin cellar includes a sizeable Californian offering. For the super-keen, head sommelier Edouard Oger MS offers guided tours of the cellar if you book in advance.
In terms of liquid assets, the extensive white bottle selection from Napa, Sonoma and the Central Coast includes big guns such as Far Niente Chardonnay 2009 from Napa for £145 and Sir Peter Michael Winery Point Rouge Chardonnay 1995 for £450, along with more wallet-friendly offerings like Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc 2008 for £49, Wild Boy Chardonnay 2007 from Santa Barbara for £45 and a Qupé Bien Nacido Viognier/ Chardonnay blend from the Santa Maria Valley for £45. On the red front, Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino and the Central Coast are all well represented.
Some of the more unusual offerings include Larkin Cabernet Franc 2005 from Napa, Pax Cuvée Mariah Grenache/Syrah/ Mourvedre 2006 from Sonoma,Williams Selyem Ferrington Vineyard Pinot Noir 1999 from Mendocino and Il Podere Dell’Olivos, Regazzo Legnonso Barbera/Nebbiolo 1997 from the Central Coast. With bottles starting at £35, the extensive wine list offers not only variety but great value.
Gidleigh Park, Gidleigh Park, Chagford, Devon TQ13 8HH; Tel: +44(0)1647 432 367; www.gidleigh.com
3: CUT AT 45 PARK LANE
Cut at 45 Park Lane – the meat palace headed up by Austrian-born, Beverley Hillsbased chef, US TV regular and occasional actor Wolfgang Puck – opened late last year to much fanfare at the Dorchester Collection’s new Mayfair hotel. Making his European debut, Puck brings with him a modern steakhouse model already successfully tried and tested in LA, Las Vegas and Singapore.
Specialising in prime dry- and wet-aged beef, Cut also dabbles in crustacea. Steakhouse classics are given the luxury treatment with topdrawer ingredients and meticulous presentation. Look out for the show stopping £15 Black Angus burger. Housed in a long, lean room prettified by pale marble, the restaurant boasts one of the few Damian Hirst butterfly paintings that hasn’t been borrowed by the Tate Modern for the artist’s current retrospective.
The 600-strong wine offering is overseen by Turin-born head sommelier Vanessa Cinti. Paying homage to Puck’s passion for plugging US producers, nearly half the list is American, with California dominating proceedings. Sourced from Fells, The Wine Treasury and Fields, Morris & Verdin, highlights include: Napa’s Duckhorn Cabernet Sauvignon and Elysium Black Muscat from Paso Robles by the glass; Frog’s Leap Sauvignon Blanc in magnum; a sprightly Albariño from Randall Grahm’s Santa Cruz estate Bonny Doon, along with his famed Rhône blend Le Cigare Volant; Marsanne and Roussanne single varieties from Qupé; and Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir.
For those in search of a bolder drop, seek out Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel, Araujo Eisele Cabernet Sauvignon or Puck’s very own Rutherford Cabernet – Beckstoffer Georges III Vineyard 2007 – of which only 80 cases were made in collaboration with Schrader Cellars.
The Cut, 45 Park Lane, Mayfair, LondonW1K 1PN;Tel: +44(0)20 7493 4545; www.45parklane.com
Billed by many as London’s best steakhouse, with individual cuts – including USDA Prime, Irish Black Angus and Australian Wagyu – selected from traceable, grain-fed herds matured in the restaurant’s own dry-ageing room, Goodman has thoughtfully complemented its supreme steak offering with a stonking Californian wine line-up, including a “Californian Legends” list and a selection of larger format bottles, from a 1.5-litre bottle of Ridge Monte Bello 2007 for £400 to a 6-litre bottle of Silver Oak 2006 for £1,200.
The liquid legends read like the Hollywood hall of fame: Caymus, Cakebread, Staglin, Shafer, Sine Qua Non and the near mythical Screaming Eagle – a 75cl bottle of the 2004 vintage will set you back £1,999. To sweeten the blow, transatlantic puddings such as New York cheesecake and chocolate-brownie sundae are a must. For those devoid of an expense account, Goodman offers a wallet-friendly £22 set lunch.
In addition to the Mayfair original, sister sites in the City and Canary Wharf are perfect for a power lunch.
Goodman, 26 Maddox Street, London W1S 1QH; Tel: +44(0)20 7499 3776; www.goodmanrestaurants.com
1: THE VINEYARD AT STOCKCROSS
Dubbed “the temple of Californian wine” by Jancis Robinson MW, The Vineyard at Stockcross in Berkshire – a converted Victorian hunting lodge 70 miles down the M4 from London – tops our list for its dizzying array of Californian wines from every last crevice of the Golden State. Home to the largest Californian wine list in the world – more than 800 bins from a 3,000-bin, 30,000-bottle cellar, the California connection comes courtesy of owner Sir Peter Michael, creator of Classic FM and head honcho of the Peter Michael Winery in Sonoma.
Well-known regions like Napa and Sonoma are generously represented, along with a vast collection of wines from more obscure sub-regions like Potter Valley, Chalk Hill, Mount Vendeer, the Santa Lucia Highlands and Yolo County.
To make the daunting tome more digestible, award-winning sommelier Yohann Jousselin has introduced an iPad version for tech-savvy diners. Aside from the impressive selection from the Peter MichaelWinery, which heads up the list, the proceeding pages are peppered with many an alluring name, from Kistler, Littorai and Aubert de Villaine of DRC fame’s Hyde de Villaine, to big guns Ridge, Stag’s Leap, Dominus and Opus One.
If you’re feeling flash, you can splash the cash (£940 to be exact) on Harlan Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2000. In search of a bargain? On Sundays you’ll find 20% off the list price on 20 specially selected Californian wines. Food is taken no less seriously – the restaurant, featuring art-flecked walls and pastel coloured furnishings, serves classic contemporary cooking with an emphasis on British produce.
The Vineyard at Stockcross, Stockcross, Newbury, West Berkshire, RG20 8JU; Tel: +44(0)1635 897 549; www.the-vineyard.co.uk