10 London restaurants to visit when restrictions ease
We round up 10 of the best wine-focused restaurants in London which you should make a beeline for when they reopen.
While the drinks business team has continued to publish online content and a monthly magazine, the same can sadly not be said for its sister publication Wine List Confidential.
The 2020 guide was due to be printed this month in time for the London Wine Fair, which was scheduled for this week, but plans were shelved when restaurants and bars were forced to close on 20 March.
Guide author Douglas Blyde had been conducting restaurant visits and sommelier interviews since January, and this week should have been the culmination of months of work.
It has been a torrid time for the hospitality industry, who have now experienced months of uncertainty. The sector in the UK saw sales falls 21.3% in the first quarter of 2020, according to industry body UKHospitality. Hospitality outlets have been told that they could start to re-open from July, but with social distancing measures in place. For some, stripping out tables and enforcing a two-metre rule would mean reopening with such restrictions would be financially unfeasible.
Some restaurants, however, have been able to reopen as takeaways or as grocery stores. db rounded up 25 such venues across the capital last month.
In recent weeks, more eateries have gone down this route. Just last week restaurants and chefs including Gymkhana, Leroy (with its rotisserie chicken delivery brand Royale), Le Relais de Venise, and Adam Handling, with his delivery and collection service called Hame, began operating once more. This week has brought news of the reopening of some of Ottolenghi’s delis and a delivery service from Mayfair’s Bombay Bustle.
However, all of this does not beat the experience of dining in a restaurant and being waited on hand, foot and finger. So, without further ado, here’s WLC’s list of the top wine-focused restaurants in London we can’t wait to return to. Stay tuned for our list of wine-focused bars and pubs.
Please note that all interviews were conducted prior to lockdown.
Davies + Brook
Douglas Blyde says: “The dining room of Davies and Brook at Claridge’s evokes the auditorium of an Art Deco cinema, the bar where the stage would be. Trolleys promising at-table experiences such as the removal, by red hot callipers, of the necks of prized bottles (you get to keep the cork), are opened by wine director, Gabriel di Bella and his seven-strong team. Born to restaurateur parents, a Sicilian father and French mother, Gabriel di Bella gained much floor experience as a youth before formally studying at France’s first sommelier school, Tain-l’Hermitage, later working at Alain Ducasse, Monaco, Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley, then alongside Guillem Kerambrun at Caprice Holdings.
On joining the Claridge’s project last summer, which follows Fera, di Bella spent a busy two weeks with the sommelier team at garlanded chef Daniel Humm’s New York mothership, 11 Madison Park, working with wine director, Cedric Nicaise, whose 15 years of buying has resulted in a list of 4,800 bins. In comparison, di Bella’s list, currently poised at around 1,800 bins, will seem fitter, though he vows to ensure this “drastically evolves over 18 months to 3,600 bins.”
Di Bella expended considerable care in ensuring his team are “wide and eclectic” and “fit the culture of being nice and caring.” He adds: “It’s the most well-oiled experience I’ve seen and people truly care about what they do, from porter to assistant server and GM – and you feel it on the floor.”
The first in the UK to use “BinWise”, a Californian layout, stock control and ordering system which automatically updates the website, di Bella’s wine book is predominantly organised by grape variety. Genuinely all-encompassing, it is in part a love letter to the Rhône valley, while also acknowledging the restaurant’s parent company with an increasing tally of North American wines, with flights of and Harlan and Mayacamas nestling alongside Grace and Favour fizz from La Garagista, Vermont, and Holus Bolus & Black Sheep Finds from Santa Maria. Acknowledging Humm’s Swiss heritage, expect the odd Swiss wine and cider, too – and a Swiss movement clock dominates the seemingly serene, shiny, daylight flooded kitchen where particularly fortunate diners could encounter a private audience with Estonian head chef, Dmitri Magi, as part of their meal.
A large selection of carafes and wines-by-the-glass could appeal to lunchtime diners and indeed solo diners who clearly feel comfortable dining with the tracks of Miles Davis for company.
Di Bella might pour young Jalousie from Domaine du Closel, Savennières with a virtuous-looking, impeccably textured, carrot salad with sunflower seeds, horseradish and pickled quail egg, “to cut through the natural sweetness of the carrot”. A super clean-cut Guinevere Chardonnay from Kent’s Gusbourne is served with variations of artichoke, mushroom and fennel, then bigger Ampodium, Côte-Rôtie (René Rostaing) with 14 day dry-aged, lavender-scented Creedy Carver duck, which di Bella jokingly calls “the British answer to Peking Duck”. Finish with the joyous milk and honey soft serve, ideally with marmalade coloured and scented, two-decade-old, Suduiraut Sauternes.”
See what db‘s Lucy Shaw thought of the food earlier this year: DB EATS: DAVIES AND BROOK
Douglas Blyde says: “Having worked together at Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck for a dozen years, Canadian chef, Jonny Lake, who is a physics and biology graduate, and Turkish Master Sommelier, Isa Bal, quietly launched their own dining room and no-reservations wine bar in the former, pared-back Londrino site near the revamped London Bridge station. Taking the name of a trusty fire stand, Trivet was re-designed by architect, Umay Çeviker, who is also a contributing author to The World Atlas of Wine.
“He spends nearly as much time on wine as architecture,” notes Bal, who has added his own collection of intriguing, slightly dark pictures.
From the comfort of his designated stool at the bar, the twinkly-eyed Bal, born in 1971, “a great vintage for Alsace, Germany, Burgundy, Tuscany and Piedmont,” talks through his novel ‘Cellar Book’. Unfurling beyond the amphora impressed wrapper is an ode to the grape. With thanks given to the author of Ancient Wine: The Search for the Origins of Viniculture, Patrick Edward McGovern, for advising on the timeline, this starts with wines referring to 7000BC Georgia, continues to 700-650 BC Europe and ends in a prediction that the grapevine will, come 3000AD, have its roots sown on Mars. Throughout are meaningful images of coiled vines, galets roulés, sheer schist, stainless tanks and a stone relief of grape worshiping Hittites, whose empire encompassed Anatolia. “Stealing wine was punishable by death!” says Bal.
Listings feature logos such as the bearded self-portrait of Bal which applies to “challenging / no sulphites / skin contact” wines, while a rowan leaf marks sustainable ones, and the moon is used to identify biodynamic bottles. Notable is the absence of big hitter Champagne brands “because you can get them from any supermarket,” reasons Bal. Democratically, at least 100 wines cost fewer than £50, encouraging guests to feel less guilt, perhaps, when ordering another bottle. These include a considered selection from Turkey.
Be aware, this is not a form of sequel to The Fat Duck, says Bal, who began as a commis sommelier at The Vineyard at Stockcross near Newbury, before continuing to Covent Garden’s Clos Maggiore.
“To mimic what they’re doing would have been a mistake,” he says. “We’re an à la carte restaurant where people can have three-courses then have time for other things.”
Signature dishes realised by Lake and Michele Stanco, himself a former development chef of The Fat Duck, include the not uncontroversial Japanese-inspired, Hokkaido potato mille-feuille served with saké ice cream.
Benefitting from fair mark-ups, the 350-bin list took Bal more than a year to create. Care is also lavished on saké and shochu.
Although he admits to having been “a fireball who got into a lot of trouble” in his early years, Bal later acquired calm, clarity and discipline via taekwondo, in which he holds a black belt.”
Can’t wait to visit? Isa Bal is hosting interactive wine tastings during lockdown. Find out more here.
Core By Clare Smyth
Douglas Blyde says: “At Core by Clare Smyth, head sommelier, Gareth Ferreira has performed carpentry to his inner sanctum-like cellar, within which select guests may now enjoy a snifter of Justino’s 1999 Madeira from the barrel with seven-year-old Davidstow Cornish Cheddar while choosing dinner wines. Amid some 3,000 bottles are two notable empties, being Taylor’s Quinta de Vargellas 1984, contents of which filled the wine gums Smyth prepared for Harry and Meghan’s wedding reception, and the Latour 1996, “which we drank when we won two Michelin stars,” says Ferreira.
The holder of Wines of South Africa’s Sommelier Cup, Gareth Ferreira discovered a fascination for wine at the boutique Saxon Hotel in his native South Africa, furthered at Dubai’s “seven-star” Burj Al Arab, and then in London at 67 Pall Mall, which he helped open under the auspices of Scarborough-born Master Sommelier, Ronan Sayburn.
Representing nature and cooking pans, Ferreira’s list is bound in green and copper, with bookmarks to help diners keep pages open.
“It’s better than using a knife,” notes Ferreira, who has improved the contents almost beyond recognition since the venue opened in August 2017. This is illustrated with maps which Ferreira designed himself using a programme called Ortelius. As well as very fine wines, mandatory for a two Michelin-starred restaurant, he continues to patiently seek brilliant, accessibly-priced bottles, such as the “unbelievably good value” parcels of Coteaux Bourguignons Mes Gamays from a 0.32 acre site tended by Nicolas Faure. Faure “spent time at DRC and Jean-Louis Chave” and La Re-Nommée (Maison Lombard), “from the no man’s land of la Drôme in the Northern Rhône, which I’m incredibly fond of. Like drinking a Côte-Rôtie,” Ferreira says.
Notable also is the collection of mature Bordeaux, particularly some gleaned from 1970. “A restaurant vintage, prices are still good, and I’m never disappointed,” he says, singling out Figeac, “who are building one of Bordeaux’s finest cellars,” and Vieux Château Certan. Of the latter, he recalls: “One of my most memorable bottles was the 1970 tried at the château on a trip which also included Le Pin.”
Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve is the house Champagne, supplemented with older cuvées such as the long discontinued Champagne Charlie from 1985. “We always list a tiny grower, such as Dhondt Grellet Extra Brut, too,” he says. “And there needs to be an English, like Gusbourne.”
Interestingly, Ferreira has listed half bottles on the same page as wines-by-the-glass, “treating it like an extension of the by the glass – which works amazingly well.”
Ferreira hints the Australian section will naturally expand when Clare Smyth opens her new restaurant above Sydney’s waterfront. Of wines such as Bin 389 1988 from Penfolds, he says, “I’m not sure people know how well these wines can age”.
Ferreira underlines how the Northern Irish chef, Chef Clare Smyth MBE, who collects wine herself, understands the value of wine to her restaurant and how to engender loyalty in her team.
“She’s not just an incredible chef, she’s a good businesswoman,” he said. “When I did my interview, she said, if you look at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay over its lifespan, it’s only had three head sommeliers.” Smyth also described a restaurant as a triangle of food, service and wine. “One can’t work without the other.”
In accord with Smyth, Ferreira opened an account with bonded warehouse, Octavian this year to “secure the future of the list,” purchasing Domaines such as Roulot, Leflaive and Clos Rougeard.
Given Ferreira’s want to constantly overhaul the 750-bin list, “which drives my sommeliers crazy”, the five-strong wine team are notified of new arrivals via a WhatsApp group. “I change the list all the time, rarely buying the same thing again, especially with reds when trying to find maturity.”
When not at Core, Ferreira spends time studying with the intention to continue entering the UK Sommelier of the Year competition, for which he has twice finished as runner up, and to succeed in his Master Sommelier theory paper. When time permits, he also loves golf.”
During lockdown, Core has partnered with The Hubb Community Kitchen to provide meals for the local community. Find out more here.
Douglas Blyde says: “Urged by his wife to do so, Matteo Montone attended and won the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Best Young Sommelier in the World in South Korea just six days before the birth of his daughter, Gioia. The Milan born Montone had already scooped Best Sommelier at the GQ Awards months before, attending the ceremony with the head chef of Berner’s Tavern, Phil Carmichael, who also visits English wineries with Montone.
At Berners Tavern, which has such a compellingly ornate ceiling that diners ought to be given mirrors to prevent neck strain, the director of wine aims “to provide good wine for everybody,” hence the conscious decision to include a wide array of affordable bottles, as well as offering them the opportunity to learn more formally about wine.
Since joining the London Edition in 2017, Montone, who previously worked under Giovanni Ferlito at The Ritz, has expanded the selection from 250 wines to 900 references, including large formats. He oversees eight sommeliers who deploy core cuvées of Champagne to 130 diners via two trolleys “to ensure they have Champagne within two minutes of sitting.” Sparklers include the Ruinart range, three Dom Pérignon P2 releases by the glass preserved under the Genii system, and Steven Spurrier’s Bride Valley from Dorset.
With the design of the layout approved by the Edition’s brand team in New York, Montone’s list is inquisitive, touching China, England, India and Switzerland – including a white Merlot by Paolo Basso, the world’s best sommelier from 2013 – alongside big gun Bordeaux such as Haut-Brion 1966, often calmly-priced Burgundy, and a page honouring the venue’s friendship with Trimbach of Alsace.
New for 2020 are decanting stands which bring the more intricate aspects of wine service closer to guests. Montone, who is continually “trying to find space for a bigger cellar”, is also keen to educate guests via pre-dinner “how to taste” sessions in the upstairs private room, as well as offering more structured learning should they wish to attain level one of the Wine and Spirit Education Trust.
As the Edition opens new hotels in Reykjavik, Rome and Milan, Montone is setting his sites on overseeing the operator’s European wine programmes, though vows never to cease to lose focus on London, which he calls “the premier league of wine.” He will also be participating in the next UK sommelier of the year competition while studying towards becoming a Master Sommelier.”
Want to find out more? Read more about Matteo Montone and his journey here: UNFILTERED: MATTEO MONTONE, BERNERS TAVERN
Bocca di Lupo
Doulgas Blyde says: “We’re the same restaurant as when we opened, though the wine list has evolved,” says chef, writer and restaurateur, Jacob Kenedy of Soho staple, Bocca di Lupo, which he runs with fellow Moro alumnus, Victor Hugo.
Built to be “timeless”, beyond the signature brick lettering of the frontage, the restaurant stars art by Kenedy’s mother, Haidee Becker, including a slender pipefish beside the Turkish marble kitchen counter, and a portrait of his sister Rachel against the flattering putty-coloured walls, which “makes people shine.” Meanwhile, the dramatic terrazzo floor is modelled on one appearing in Don’t Look Now. “Film director, Nicolas Roeg was the father of one of my school friends,” notes Kenedy.
Of the re-designed wine list which, arranged seasonally, “showcases traditional winemaking values,” Kenedy, who “grew up in an edible garden,” has bravely “cut off the fat,” having re-tasted the entire selection with sommeliers, Phil and Michael.
Devised by Kenedy, expect “direct – and some might say gritty” regionally-attributable dishes, which could include filleted anchovies beneath “a sea of green” of micro-chopped parsley and garlic, “which I discovered in a Genoese wine bar.” This partners well with the smoky, rich, rediscovered Timorasso (La Colombera).
Also worth trying for its masterful simplicity is the whole round lettuce, “served with its bum cut off” to allow leaves to fall away, and dressed with lemon. Follow on with stewed tripe with Pecorino and tomato, the latter of which Kenedy notes, “is a bitch to pair wine with even though everyone talks of artichokes being bad.” A sure-footed vinous collaborator with this is the rested, depthful, gripping Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva from Praesidium, or Barbera Ottone San Silvestro. Culminate with the colourful Sicilian cassata cake with a duo of white and barrel-aged San Leonardo grappas.
Note, incidentally, the BYO truffle menu, perhaps including tagliolini al limone, or roast partridge with polenta and bagna càuda, for which you can either supply your own black or white diamonds of the earth or purchase them from the Gelupo gelateria opposite, which is also in Kenedy’s ownership.
Kenedy purposely avoided rolling out the Bocca di Lupo brand “because I love this restaurant and didn’t want to spoil it.” He describes it as being, “from the heart” and indeed, “it’s rare we get a table where everyone is new to us… a table is made by the people at it.”
Kenedy is also a publican, running Islington’s Plaquemine Lock pub which features Cosmic Warrior pale ale, Weingut Nelles Spätburgunder and Benedictine.
“I went from being a wino to drinking too much beer with the jazzed-up Cajun/Creole dishes which brings great cheer,” he says.
Can’t wait to visit? Good news, you can order delivery. Find out more about Bocca di Lupo’s home food service here.
Douglas Blyde says: “Co-founder of St. John, Trevor Gulliver, uses the term “fidelity” when talking of wine suppliers such as Sichel who supplied the St. John Claret for 20 years, and Mentzendorff, whose Bollinger family chose the iconic restaurant for this year’s La Grande Année 2012 launch.
“There’s an honesty with which we can speak to producers,” he says. “If you’re a good buyer, you’re always polite because you know farmers can have problems.”
While never deliberately being about trends, St. John has aptly brought in bottles not often before seen by UK drinkers, and in perhaps unusual formats.
“We’re the only Michelin starred restaurant to have BIB (bag in box) on the list,” says Gulliver. He is assisted by head of wine, Victoria Sharples, whom he first met at the masterclass she hosted at The Capital Hotel.
“Trevor came late on his scooter,” she recalls. Despite describing herself as “never a St. John groupie”, she moved to London from Australia “specifically” for this role. Previously the holder a PhD in environmental policy (Melbourne’s Monash University), “which drove me to drink”, she ran The Wine Station, importing wine to Australia.
With “98% of wines imported direct, the strictly two-page list draws entirely from L’Hexagone, including an acclaimed Cinsault and Grenache Gris from St. John’s own winery, Boulevard Napoleon, La Livinière. Providing customers “a sense of trust”, Sharples, resplendent in Emin & Paul tailoring and a Vintage Tissot watch, oversees in total 12 own-labels, including the Gamay-pepped, screw-capped Mâcon Rouge – “the cheap seats of Burgundy!”
Of the dining experience, with paper tablecloths in a monochrome scheme, Sharples says: “Some restaurants can make you feel squashed with the service or abandoned; here, there’s a wonderful comfort level about effortlessness and ease, with no music and no flowers.”
Via events such as the annual Vignerons lunch, the “particularly particular” Sharples memorably showcases the 50 wine producers under the St. John parapluie. “People think of us as a little restaurant, but we also sell to the trade and have online customers.”
St. John isn’t about wine pairing, with the stripped-back dishes realised by Canadian chef, Steve Dareau, which may include bone marrow and toast, and lamb’s brain, in addition to near unbelievably good bread and butter. Hence, bold swirler Sharples is able to position pink wines as perennial. “Rosé is the mission,” she says. Four incarnations ran even in winter months, bringing prettiness to the puritanical, monochrome dining room.
Although Gulliver recalls how onlookers thought he and Fergus Henderson were “mad” to open in the rough, sodium lit, environs of a former bacon smokehouse back in 1994, “when the idea of ‘midtown Holborn’ didn’t exist among the ghosts of carcasses with headless horsemen going past,” Sharples relishes St. John’s location.
She says: “We’re not in Mayfair thank goodness, where I would find it hard to find a balanced wine which makes me happy in the £40s. Wine has a hard-enough image of being in the upper echelons.””
Douglas Blyde says: “”Aiming to deliver a primitive food system which reduces food miles and boosts nutrients, Silo began in Australia when artist, Joost Bakker proposed the idea of “not having a bin”. The restaurant opened in Brighton before moving to the albeit hard-to-find, classy loft above the Crate brewery overlooking the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Chef, Douglas McMaster, whose CV includes Noma and St. John, leads the brigade in tandem with sommelier, Ania Smelskaya, previously of Sager and Wilde, Hackney Road and Silo Brighton.
Waste is most resourcefully banished, hence, food not consumed by guests or the team is quickly composted in an aerobic digester, while packaging, including wine boxes are immediately unpacked on arrival and sent back to the supplier. There is also an impressive on-site flour mill and butter churn. Menus are printed on paper formed from former single-use coffee cups, and lampshades are created from bottles crushed on-site or textured mycelium grown on spent brewing grains. The kitchen makes its own miso from sourdough at the fermentation station.
Venturesome diners should allow the Saint Petersburg born Smelskaya to match drinks to the six-course menu, served on plates, beautifully upcycled from plastic bags, on tables that are made of reconstituted food packaging. Smelskaya, who has also lived in Sweden, proclaims cider is the new wine. Hence the no added sugar cider from Devon’s Find and Foster, “who find and foster old orchards”, may be paired with a sharp, palate awakening snack of a prune, boiled, dehydrated then rehydrated in elderflower pickle and served with luxurious egg yolk fudge. Then, perhaps unfiltered, biodynamic rosé Rondo from Rye (Tillingham) with brown Brixham crab and brined Castelfranco lettuce. With poached artichoke and fermented “punched-up” kimchi-like artichoke, Smelskaya might choose a naturally sparkling Cahors Malbec poured from a bottle featuring come hither or stay clear cats eyes depending on your perception. (La Calmette Nycia Lope).
Smelskaya has devoted significant attention to orange wines, which, being “structured and versatile can go with the whole menu,” she says. These range from light and “un-scary” to perhaps surprisingly popular “full-on, ‘skinsy’ ones” including the rust-coloured Assyrtiko from a brother and sister team at Greece’s Domaine Ligas. “Its caramelised roundness complements the dish of caramelised whey, pink fir potatoes and red flesh apple.”
And to combat the concept that young meat is better than that from an animal which has used its muscles for longer, braised ribs from seven-year-old cows are spectacularly tender. This may be matched with a lush passe-tout-grains Pinot Noir/Gamay (Les Vercheres, Domaine Rougeot) poured from a many times re-used bottle refilled from a keg.
Smelskaya’s current darling region is the Jura, and picks include the grappa-like Chardonnay, Macvin du Jura (Domaine de la Tournelle), which smells brutal but tastes smooth with an almond paste-like flavour spectrum which persists on the palate to the next day. It is best enjoyed overlooking the embers of the open kitchen with buttermilk dulce de leche and pumpkin seed ice cream.
Smelskaya enjoys hosting private dinners in the adjacent Resident’s Studio with producers such as Austria’s Gut Oggau, which she describes as “the producer with the face labels”.
Also note the big brunch game at weekends, served with cider and Pét-Nat.
When not at Silo, Smelskaya enjoys P. Franco’s “fun French ambiance and art – they have nice wines and know my taste.””
Find out more about Silo here.
Theo Randall at the InterContinental
Douglas Blyde says: “Curious and far from fearsome, Umberto Luberto was born in 1987 in the Aosta Valley. From four to 14, his “first career” was as a gymnast, “and my temple was the gym.” Luberto moved to Turin to study architecture, then Milan to undertake a degree in business advertising and communication. But it was at Emilia-Romagna’s eminent ALMA school of Italian gastronomy where he found fulfilment.
“Totally surrounded by chefs from the past, present and future,” Luberto studied wine avidly, “planning gala dinners,” in the process discovering such “goosebump- inducing” dishes, such as praline with white chocolate sphere, Brittany oyster and star anise dust matched with diluted Sambuca.
His first sommelier role was at the sleek Japanese counter restaurant, Zero, Milan where he “learnt to communicate with guests,” then Geneva’s Nico & Co, “a cosy bar by the lake”, where he created the wine selection.
“I was then called by Italy’s youngest Michelin-starred chef, Lorenzo Cogo of El Coq, Vicenza, where I spent a week matching wines with freestyle, emotion-inducing, seven-course menus,” he says.
On arriving in London, Luberto decided to accept a job at the first restaurant which responded to his CV, reasoning, “sometimes you need spice in your life.” That would to be the Mexican-influenced Ella Canta at the InterContinental, “though because of my knowledge of Italian wines, I was guided to Theo Randall’s restaurant next-door”.
Luberto’s list “celebrates the biodiversity of Italy’s grapes and their interaction with the soil, microclimate and hand of the winemaker,” hence the presence of wines such as Elisabetta Foradori orange Manzoni Bianco. Despite the Park Lane setting, mark-ups are generally fair, even on rarities such as the 30-year-old Barbacarlo di Lino Maga from Lombardy.
Being “the business card of the list”, the by-the-glass selection might feature Nero di Troia blend, P. Petrilli, “which, served with seafood, subverts the canonical rule that you must only drink white”.
Of waiter turned chef, Theo Randall, formerly of The River Café, Luberto describes him as “pure heart”. Indeed, Luberto and Randall often talk about culinary pairings, “which is why we’ve renewed our wine dinner series”.
Luberto also enjoys brainstorming with Randall’s “alchemist” bartender, Luigi Cioffi, who devised “a savoury, intense, cleansing caper Martini with essence of Amalfi lemon leaves and gin infused with capers and celery”. This mirrors components in the tuna tartare starter. Indeed, spirits fascinate Luberto, evidenced at his Negroni masterclasses where he blends history and creativity. He says: “In my little lab, we end by creating bespoke Negronis based on guests’ palates.”
Of the future, expect an increase in magnums and traditional method Italian sparklers, and the emergence of wine flights where Italy is pitched against the rest of the world.
Luberto enjoys visiting The Laughing Heart when not working, and other than wine, holds an appreciation for graffiti and music production. When back in Italy, he loves devouring pasta with his mum whom he describes as “my personal truffle pusher!””
Theo Randall is posting recipes you can try at home during lockdown. You can find out more here.
Douglas Blyde says: “Baring pipes and girders alongside a glowing bar, oddly sited fireplace, and positive playlist from the Paris original, Frenchie is the Covent Garden bistro by Gregory Marchand. Raised in a Nantes orphanage, Marchand went on to cook at London’s Savoy Grill, Mandarin Oriental hotel, and Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen, where Oliver nicknamed him “Frenchie”. On Paris’ Rue du Nil, he founded the bijou Michelin-starred Frenchie restaurant, Frenchie To Go (deli and smokery), Frenchie Wine Bar, and Frenchie Wine Shop.
From Montpellier’s seaside city Sète, Maurane El Mokkeddem is Frenchie’s head sommelier and assistant manager. She describes the “uncomplicated” venue as having “bistro energy”, thanks to the “young team”. With a finger tattoo reading “forever”, El Mokkeddem formerly worked with Sara Rossi at Trinity, Clapham. At Frenchie, she sees her role, and that of her “lovely soldiers, Joris Coradello and Jeanne Bobinet”, as helping guests “create memories, discover their first biodynamic wine or first vintage from a new winemaker”. Of teamwork, El Mokkeddem says: “Work together and go further, work alone and you will probably face a wall you can’t climb.”
Featuring custom fonts, the list has a playful by-the-glass selection, eschewing Loire Sauvignon Blanc for rare 100% Romorantin (Domaine des Huards) and offering deeply-hued, amphorae-aged Pinot Grigio (Fuoripista, Elisabetta Foradori) rather than a tabloid version. Indeed, of the latter, and, for example, Clos de l’Anhel Corbieres, El Mokkeddem loves showcasing wines made with “the female touch.”
Also, expect plentiful Sherries, which are remnants from a previous sommelier’s “crazy addiction to it”, as well as interesting sweeties such as Victoria Torres’s Negramoll Dulce.
“The bottle pops when sommeliers visit us,” says El Mokkeddem, who also happens to be a Decanter magazine world wine awards team leader.
Dust-free standard bottles including, from 100-year-old vines, Mont Baudile’s Bourboulenc, London exclusive, 2011 Margaux du Château Margaux, and aromatic, indie orange Slovakian (Slobodne Vinárstvo), whose “honeycomb” works with tortellini with pumpkin and ricotta, hang on a bespoke iron wine wall opposite the kitchen, punctuated by small lights. Magnums, “which Frenchie is very addicted to”, stand behind banquettes and at the bar. The latter may include an older vintage of Henri Milan’s Provençal red. Also expect the odd New World bottle including Kevin Grant’s Ataraxia, and retro Napa by winery, Ashes and Diamond. While there is osmosis between the lists in London and Paris, don’t expect English wine at Frenchie, Paris!
Aside from wine, cider such as the organic, unfiltered Wignac Le Goupil rosé is important to El Mokkeddem, bringing “subtle elegance” to the signature bacon scone “nibble” with maple syrup and Cornish clotted cream. Other dishes from menus, ranging from the pre-theatre option to five-course tasting menu, may include a starter of foie gras with forced rhubarb and sorrel, which El Mokkeddem likes to partner with Broc Love Rosé from California (Valdiguié, Trousseau, Zinfandel), a main of steamed cod, mussels, cauliflower, dill and whey, then yuzu Mont Blanc, and/or an English/French cheese selection.
Note the “Frenchie barrel” behind the bar “bringing a vanilla touch to a house-aged Boulevardier,” for example. And do stay for excellent coffee (Dr. Strangelove San Salvador).
When not at Frenchie, you may find El Mokkeddem at nearby Terroirs, “a second home for us,” or Brat, Bocca di Lupo and, for its pizzette, Bernadi’s.”
Frenchie’s at home service is available to order at its Paris site. The restaurant is also posting recipes for its popular dishes on Instagram. Find out more here.
Matteo’s at Annabel’s
Douglas Blyde says: “Evoking the après ski atmosphere of the original Annabel’s Club, Matteo’s, which launched last year, is a 60-seat Italian restaurant backed up by a £1 million cellar, bottles from which are subject to notably tender mark-ups.
Overlooking the lush garden of the club, with its mechanically parting glass roof, the warmly-lit, gold-tinted dining room features the shimmering Buddha, mirror and art from the first Club at No. 44 Berkeley Square. It takes the name of the operator, Richard Caring’s young son whose portrait subtly appears between Michelangelo and Marco Polo on the opening page of a wine list, which includes likely the largest collection of Barolo in the world, starring many years of Conterno, Gaja, Scavino and Voerzio. This is regionally classified and served in bespoke glasses.
“I try to spend as much time as possible in the Langhe hills,” says Master Sommelier, Clement Robert, the head of wine for Birley Clubs and Caprice Holdings who built the collection with the assistance of sommelier, Erik Simonics (ex The Club at 10 Trinity Square).
There is also an incredibly detailed range of editions from Tuscan luminary estates such as Guado al Tasso, Ornellaia, Massetto, Solaia and, to 1968, Sassicaia.
“We sell six bottles of Sassicaia a day, which created a real issue because we couldn’t find enough on the market, although when Priscilla Incisa della Rocchetta visited us, she was so impressed that we now get it direct,” notes Robert.
As well as Italian sparklers including Annamaria Clementi (Ca’ del Bosco) and 1989 Ferrari in magnum, Matteo’s boasts huge reserves of Dom Pérignon, dating from 1959, including rose gold Methuselahs.
“I’ve true admiration for the brand which screams Annabel’s,” says Robert of the house.
Matteo’s mine host, Cristiano Pellizzari, a familiar face for 15 years at No. 44, is the masterful commander of the restaurant floor, overseeing a troupe of sommeliers in tailored jackets emblazoned with the Italian flag. Be sure to ask him to whisk the stimulating vodka, Prosecco and lemon sorbet Sgruppino cocktail at-table at the end of the meal.
Incidentally, Matteo’s loos, which warranted their own launch party, are the only places within the club to permit photography, the gents feature a 500kg onyx crocodile acting as a basin.
Elsewhere in the club, Robert oversees a massively endowed list of noble names, from Screaming Eagle to magnums of châteaux, Montrose and Margaux, double magnums of Latour and Unico, imperials of Haut-Brion and Lafite, and magnums of Boërl & Kroff Champagne and Domaine Leflaive, as well as a “collection” of Romanée-Conti and Pétrus. Not all is ivory tower, however, with respectable bottles beginning at £29 for a handpicked Pinot Bianco from Slovenia (Goriška Brda) or £35 for Casa Ferreirinha from the Douro (Papa Figos). As well as wine, expect a strong spirits focus throughout the club, including some 600 bottles of Tequila to say salud with at the top floor Mexican restaurant.
Throughout the extraordinarily lavish, carefully realised, four-storey townhouse turned wonderland for well-heeled oenophiles, Robert has strived to build a sommelier team with the knowledge and ability to advise members at the highest level.
“I always had an idea it would become a wine destination,” says Robert. “We’ve finally achieved what we wanted to do and see regulars at Matteo’s drinking exceptional wines for exceptionally fair prices.””
Find out more about Matteo’s here.