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Top 10 London wine lists by price

WLC logoLike a self-assessment tax return or an Iris Murdoch novel, a restaurant wine list can be a distressing, agonising document. Unless you’re operating with a company expense account – in which case, hooray, party time – finding value is usually the keenest priority. But it’s far from easy, particularly in a city like London, where price inflation is at times maniacal and restaurants face a constant uphill struggle to stay in the black.

Wine has always been one of the best means for restaurants to make a big profit. It is almost always the most profitable part of the business. The average margin most restaurants look to gain from a bottle of wine is around 70%, and slightly more for wine by the glass. Another way of looking at it is the they will generally charge three times more than the retail price for a bottle, then add VAT.

These are the general rules, beyond which everything’s up for grabs – mark-ups of 400% or more on the retail price of a bottle are not uncommon. Many restaurants are unscrupulous in this regard. However, those restaurants that care about wine will tend to calibrate their prices to encourage guests to dabble, to take a punt – for example by setting prices closer to the cost price the further you go ‘up’ the list.

For anyone who enjoys wine, finding restaurants like these is a great thing. Fortunately for such ones, Wine List Confidential can lead the way. The free-to-use Wine List Confidential website (and, imminently, app) is a unique, transparent and straightforward way to connect wine lovers with restaurants.

Using a numeric rating system, it allows wine lovers to quickly compare the wine offer in restaurants whatever the food and format.

Using a simple 100-point scale, Wine List Confidential scores restaurants on all aspects of their wine offering – from service to range, size, originality of the selection and price. These scores are then used to calculate an overall Wine List Confidential Score for every restaurant reviewed.

So, for the wine bargain hunters, in the pages that follow, we present the top 10 London restaurants on WLC based on price…

10. Quality Chop House

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The value-quality ratio here is notably high, offering some seriously good drinking at very fair prices – which is what you might expect from a venue co-run by Will Lander, son of wine writer Jancis Robinson and restaurant critic Nick Lander.

Numbering around 70 wines, the list is, in the restaurant’s words, ‘a broad church’, without specific focus but ably reflecting some of ‘the world’s most interesting wine regions and styles’ right now. At the time of writing, at £21 per bottle, entry-level red Château Thenac from Périgord may be the best red in town at that price point.

The list is cleanly, simply laid out, easily navigated and unintimidating, despite comprising a collection of fairly serious producers.

To view the full Quality Chop House Wine List Confidential entry, including individual category scores and wine recommendations, click here.

To view from all 350+ Wine List Confidential entries click here.

 

 

9. Portland

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Like a majestic bird of prey hunting for the choicest quarry, the Portland team homes in on the most exciting, characterful bottles from the wide, wide world of wine and plucks them singly, with a confident, uncompromising swoop.

What this perhaps laboured metaphor is getting at is that the list at Portland, while brief, is packed with intriguing drinking options, representing the finest artisanal producers, wheresoever in the world they might reside.

The list changes monthly, with around 50 labels at any one time. Clearly organised under the headings ‘Textbook’ (pleasingly Partridgean), ‘Special’ and ‘Leftfield’ (the latter broken down in to single-bottle examples of ‘Orange Wine’, ‘Skin Contact’ and ‘Oxidative’), the list allows diners to try almost everything by the glass.

Those wishing to keep it classical might plump for a chalky, lemony ‘Tuffo’ 2015 Vouvray from the talented Damien Pinon (£42) or a structured, semi-serious Renato Ratti, ‘Battaglione’ Barbera 2014 (£38).

More geeky stuff includes the beautifully poised David Franz Long Gully Road Semillon from Barossa – made from c.129-year-old Maderia clone Semillon bush vines, or an orange Pinot Noir from Stapleton & Springer in the Czech Republic (£38).

A separate single bottle list represents a diverse bunch of some of the more famous names and historic vintages. It’s a thrilling collection offered at a generous margin to the diner –eg, 2001 Vouvray Marc Bredif for just £65 and 1998 Château Balestard claret for £58.

To view the full Portland Wine List Confidential entry, including individual category scores and wine recommendations, click here.

To view from all 350+ Wine List Confidential entries click here.

8. Clipstone

Clipstone

A restaurant that’s already created a huge buzz within the first few weeks since opening, thanks to a flurry of glowing reviews, including this five-star one from AA Gill.

It’s a succinct wine list which manages to say a lot with little. One thing you’ll spot instantly when looking at the single-page wine list is its ‘On-Tap’ section.

Check out also Cahors minimal intervention winery Mas del Périé’s ‘Mr Thirsty’ vin de soif, a crisp, peachy Gruner from WK Huber in Niederosterreich, or a nice Macon Chardonnay from Le Grappin. In London restaurant terms, bargains, the lot of them.

The rest of the list makes short but compelling reading – surely the best kind. A grassy, almondy Quealy Turbul Friulano from Mornington might pair with Ravioli of hay-baked carrot & ricotta, brown butter & hazelnuts; Tondonia 2003 white Rioja from Lopez de Heredia will never not be a good choice.

Among the reds, Marcarini’s Langhe Nebbiolo is decent value for a major Piedmont name, at £48; there’s also some interesting more mature stuff, including a 1999 Bordeaux blend from DeLille Cellars (£75) in Washington State.

To view the full Clipstone Wine List Confidential entry, including individual category scores and wine recommendations, click here.

To view from all 350+ Wine List Confidential entries click here.

7. Bubbledogs

Bobbledogs

When considering the margins applied to the wines, probably the best place to drink grower Champagne in London, a true ‘Who’s Who’ of great producers that would grace the finest Michelin-starred tables in town: Larmandier-Bernier; Egly-Ouriet; Georges Laval; Laherte-Frères; Benoit Lahaye; Vilmart; Chartogne-Taillet; Francis Boulard; Christophe Mignon – and so it goes on.

Those who may want a glass of wine can request something (the Kitchen Table restaurant behind the curtain has a full wine list) but it would be churlish (and foolhardy, given the friendly margins) to drink anything else but fizz in the UK’s first Champagne and hotdog restaurant.

To view the full Bubbledogs Wine List Confidential entry, including individual category scores and wine recommendations, click here.

To view from all 350+ Wine List Confidential entries click here.

6. 10 Cases

10 CasesWine List Confidential Score: 93.2

A lovingly put together wine list in an enclave of good drinking on the edge of Covent Garden. This is something of a wine geek destination. It’s is a two-sided affair consisting of a ‘Bistrot à Vin’ and a ‘Cave à Vin’.

The Bistrot à Vin is a small restaurant (a monthly changing menu of modern European fare) with a short but beautifully formed wine list; the Cave a Vin is a wine bar and shop with a dynamic 150+ selection of great wines from all over the world at all price points, aiming to offer the best value wine list in London available to drink in or take away. The overall aim here is to give guests access to incredible wine at the best price in a relaxed, fun atmosphere.

The Enomatic machine in the wine bar, where you can charge up your card and taste away at your leisure, leaves room for plenty of experimentation. For such a central location, the feel of the place is like a homely neighbourhood joint.

To view 10 Cases’s complete Wine List Confidential entry, including individual category scores, click here.

5. The Laughing Heart 

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A minimal intervention wine-focused restaurant, you say? Named after a life-affirming Charles Bukowski poem, you say? Whose wine list begins with a stanza from Ode to a Nightingale, you say? That serves fantastic, freewheeling food, stays open till two in the morning, and where wine is priced with some of the most generous mark-ups in London, you say?

Is this the figment of some wine lover’s fantastical dream?

No – it’s The Laughing Heart on Hackney Road, a real place in a real road in a real city. It was launched by Charlie Mellor (Brawn, Elliot’s) late last year and prompted one reviewer to describe it, quite sensibly in my view, as possibly the only good news to come from 2016.

To anyone who thrills to names like Joly, Robinot, Foradori, Bini, Tschida, Radikon, etc, this is a very fine list. All the more so when one looks at the price column. This is a cherrypicked collection of some of the best natural, minimal-intervention wines in the world. Such wines don’t come cheap, yet Mellor has shown a bold commitment to making these wines more accessible by setting margins almost as low as 60% for the bulk of what’s on offer (London average is 70%), with a basic £30 cash margin for the most expensive stuff.

This is, frankly, brilliant, and a rarely seen instance of on-trade magnanimity in London. That there is a wine shop in the basement from which you can buy these stellar wines at similarly low prices is yet another reason to cheer, to woop-woop, to do a small celebratory dance, and to wish Mellor and his team every success in the world.

You’ll find a great section of wines by the glass (around 30 of them), changing frequently, as does the main list. This gives you a great chance to dabble in what is a very varied field. I dabbled with a deliciously poised and nutty Limoux, followed by a nicely structured, floral Frapatto blend roasto from Sicily. That was before moving on to a stunning bottle – Tscheppe’s Green Dragonfly. That this could be purchased for less than £60 made me feel like a winner.

This is a restaurant worth discovering – with wine prices which make such discovery all the more attractive. I hope it’s around for a long time.

To view The Laughing Heart’s full Wine List Confidential entry, including individual category scores and wine recommendations, click here.

To view from all 350+ Wine List Confidential entries click here.

4. 67 Pall Mall

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Perhaps the daddy of them all in London, though we should point out straight away that 67 Pall Mall is a members’ club.

If you are a member you’ll have access to an unrivalled list of wines, all of them sold at an eminently sensible price, and all expertly curated by Master Sommelier Ronan Sayburn.

This masterly list is crafted “to excite, challenge and captivate” the club’s members, its amazing diversity and depth made possible thanks to 67 Pall Mall’s extensive sub-basement cellars, which allow it to hold thousands of cases of the finest and rarest wines in the world on the premises.

Pricing is a fundamental consideration and works on the basis of a small cash mark-up, rather than a multiple of the cost price.

Members make their wine choices on a searchable list on iPads which is packed with winemakers’ notes, tasting notes and critics’ scores.

Further expert guidance is available from 67 Pall Mall’s team of 10 full-time sommeliers – possibly the best in London, including head sommelier Terry Kandylis (Moët UK Sommelier of the Year 2016, formerly Best Sommelier in Greece), assistant head sommelier Gareth Ferreira (UK Ruinart Challenge 2016 winner, Best Sommelier in South Africa 2016), Roberto Duran (formerly Best Sommelier in Spain) and Caroline Fridolffson (currently competing  for the title of Sweden’s Best Sommelier).

A section of Sommelier’s Recommendations presents an ever-evolving list of the crack sommelier team’s favourite wines. This section gives guests immediate access to an edited selection of wines from 67 Pall Mall’s 5,000 bin cellar.

In addition, a massive 500 wines are available by the glass, including such drops of gods as Château Latour 1961, Harlan Estate 1997 and Sassicaia 1985, as a small sample or full glass thanks to Coravin technology.

To view 67 Pall Mall’s full Wine List Confidential entry, including individual category scores and wine recommendations, click here.

To view from all 350+ Wine List Confidential entries click here.

3. Shampers

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A gem of the London wine scene. Shampers is still brilliant, and now occupies something of an ‘under the radar’ existence due to the trendy young places that have come along.

A loyal customer base keeps it busy, the prices are still impeccably low, and the squid with ginger and chilli is the dish you must order on every visit.

A shining beacon in the face of wine bar trends.

To view the full Shampers Wine List Confidential entry, including individual category scores and wine recommendations, click here.

To view from all 350+ Wine List Confidential entries click here.

2. Otto’s

Ottos

Exceptional, short fine wine list put together by Otto himself, a flamboyant German who struts the room with some panache. Although there are a few selections from Otto’s motherland, including a half-bottle of trockenbeerenauslese priced at £1,950, this list is predominantly a love letter to France, topped with a fine selection of Madeira.

‘Entrées’ may include beignets of veal brain with tarragon jus, followed by a ‘plat’ of fillet of Scottish beef prepared table-side, with optional seared fresh foie gras for a modest supplement, or indeed the signature duck breast and leg served in two courses from the press invented in the 19th century at Paris’ Tour d’Argent (book this delicacy in advance).

To view the full Otto’s Wine List Confidential entry, including individual category scores and wine recommendations, click here.

To view from all 350+ Wine List Confidential entries click here.

1. Andrew Edmunds

Andrew Edmunds

Old school and remarkable value – a list that will perk up even the most jaded palate by revealing an abundance of serious producers and iconic vineyards from across the world with fair mark-ups and, often, a good few years of age under their belt.

The atmosphere certainly harks back to the ‘old Soho’ in this busy, bijou, romantic spot. The word ‘gem’ is bandied about all too loosely when it comes to London dining spots, but here we have the very essence of that word.

Given space constraints, the wine list is surprisingly ample. Start with an £9.50 glass of Pol Roger White Foil Champagne, then fill your boots, perhaps with a bottle of Corbières which comes in at less than £20 a bottle (Château La Bastide), or if you are feeling particularly gregarious, a well-priced double magnum of Domaine de Chavalier.

To view the full Andrew Edmunds Wine List Confidential entry, including individual category scores and wine recommendations, click here.

To view from all 350+ Wine List Confidential entries click here.

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