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

Red Lion & Sun

Blyde says: Heath Ball, landlord of Highgate’s handsome Red Lion & Sun pub, grew up in New Zealand “where I was lucky to get an education at the school I went to in West Auckland.” He received exposure to the world of hospitality young via his grandfather who opened the country’s first hamburger restaurant in 1939, “being the first place to sell Coca Cola in New Zealand.” He left the Land of the Long White Cloud in 1993, working for Hugh “Sooty” Corbett, the mind behind Slug & Lettuce and Harvey Floorbangers.

Ball’s first business in the UK was the Drunken Monkey in “frontier territory,” Shoreditch. To the horror of staid regulars, he brightened-up Highgate’s Red Lion and Sun on taking over in 2007, followed by The Wenlock Arms six years on which had been slated for demolition.

Ball has taken Pinot Grigio seriously in recent months. “I was annoyed at myself for having a really average Pinot Grigio so did the maths on what I would have to charge to make the same cash margin for selling the ultra-sustainable, biodynamic one from Alois Lageder in Trentino-Alto Adige. I only had to increase the selling price by £5 per bottle to maintain the same margin. Granted the GP dropped, but you can’t bank a GP. Now my customers enjoy a stunning Pinot Grigio from a beautiful, family estate,” he says.

Although he has been known to drink the odd glass of it, one suspects Ball would rather be drinking Riesling, however. “After many arduous afternoons experimenting, I found Markus Molitor Haus Klosterberg Riesling and Scottish langoustines work in harmony like Simon and Garfunkel (before the fight),” he reveals.

Despite having his hands full “with the 3 P’s – Poppy, Pixie and the pub,” Ball recently managed a trip to La Guita, Sanlúcar de Barrameda. “On returning I had an infectious love of Sherry and now my customers are enjoying the wine.”

Events have included an evening hosted by Paul Pujol of Prophet’s Rock, Bendigo and François Millet of Burgundy’s Comte George de Vogüe, and their collaborative wine, Prophet’s Rock Cuvée Aux Antipodes, is a staple.

Ball recalls a fulfilling table. “We get a nice gaggle of famous people who treat us as their local. However, my favourite experience was on a busy Friday night when four elderly French holidaymakers enquired after a table. I managed to do some hustling. They had seen Domaine Des Comtes Lafon Meursault 1er Cru Charmes 2010 in the Enomatic. They nailed two bottles with four fish and chips. £340 on wine and £56 on the food. They said they would never be able to buy that wine at that price in France.”

The Red Lion & Sun is open from Tuesday to Sunday for deliveries and takeaways. Daily menus are uploaded on its website here. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to our newsletters