10 London wine-focused pubs and bars to visit when they reopen

The Drapers Arms

Blyde says: “I bloody love that people share knowledge, drink together and are kind and friendly, opening places like Noble Rot, The 10 Cases and Quality Wines basically to indulge and share their passion and enthusiasm,” says financier-turned-publican Nick Gibson. With Ben Maschler, the son of the famous restaurant critic, Fay Maschler, Gibson saved Islington’s handsome Drapers Arms from receivership a decade ago.

Adhering to the motto “always raucous, always fun”, The Drapers Arms fast accumulated fame under Gibson’s tenure for his “Drink the List” showcases, “where we opened every bottle on the list and let everyone help themselves.” However, as the list grew, “with irreplaceable bottles too numerous,” such events would today prove ruinous. “Overall, the list gets longer,” says Gibson. “When I re-organised from a long list on price to groupings, it became apparent where there were holes, so fixing the lack of exceptional Loires has, for example, been work in progress – I may have some Domaine Clos Rougeard on its way.”

With thanks to “excellent suppliers – especially Greg Sherwood MW at Handford Wines”, regular guests have learnt to look out for the Friday weekly mixed takeaway case to take away, which may include “curiosities – a comparison of reductive and oxidative whites – to the more prosaic, such as Tuscan Sangiovese.”

To drink in, “fair, cash mark-ups” are applied to carefully kept bottles such as: Puligny-Montrachet, 1er Cru Les Folatieres, Gevrey-Chambertin Estournelles-Saint-Jacques, La Crouzille St Emilion and Podere Salicutti Montalcino.

“Demand for higher-end wines has been greater than I anticipated years ago, so the challenge is keeping things hidden until the whole point of buying and keeping is actually delivered by an aged appropriate release,” he says. Hence, 2012 Ornellaia “which may come out if the 2011 goes.” Meanwhile, Gibson has “overcompensated by buying a lot more 2016, 2017 and 2018 Bordeaux, and filled my boots with 2018 Burgundy. So this should be a decent place to drink in 10-years-time when I shall be a Port-faced gammon drinking almost exclusively Claret.”

Alongside, dishes by head chef, Luke Frankie, include brandade, parfait, duck hearts and octopus. “He does an amazing fish stew and a sensational bone marrow mashed potato,” Gibson says.

When not in his clearly beloved pub, Gibson enjoys visiting other operators, namely, The Camberwell Arms, Guinea Grill and Red Lion and Sun. He also rates Soho’s French House.”

Gibson also developed “a concerning marathon habit”, visiting châteaux, Leoville-Poyferré, Gruaud-Larose and Phélan-Ségur “who gets extra points for serving Frank Phélan in glasses” during Bordeaux’s extraordinary, bibulous, Marathon du Médoc. Fortunately for Gibson, hangovers are rare visitors, “although I am happy to pretend I have one as an excuse for a sausage and egg McMuffin.”

The Drapers Arms remains closed, but gift vouchers are available for purchase on the website here. 

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