10 London restaurants to visit when restrictions ease

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. 

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