By Amira Hashish
‘Tis the season to wine and dine. With that in mind, we wanted to shine a light on the restaurants that prioritise their drinks lists just as much as their food offerings (maybe even more). From the lauded Noble Rot in Bloomsbury to Peckham Cellars and Sager + Wilde’s grown-up era, here are some of our favourite wine-first eateries in London…
In its own words, this is a “shrine to the vine” with three award-winning restaurants in Bloomsbury, Soho and Mayfair. Our favourite is still the original restaurant in a townhouse on Lamb’s Conduit Street dating back to 1701. Formerly a bootmaker, a surgery and an electrical shop, it was first converted into a wine bar by a descendent of Admiral Nelson in 1974. These days Dan Keeling and Mark Andrew, the duo behind importers Keeling Andrew & Co and Shrine to the Vine wine shop, are at the helm. They continue to put wine at the forefront of their offering but the food packs a punch too. Believe it or not, Noble Rot started its journey as a magazine and continues to publish issues to this day.
Spread over three floors, with a statement staircase (you’ll see why it deserves a shout out when you visit) and views over Green Park, Hide is a polished and considered Michelin restaurant from the team behind Hedonism Wines. Acclaimed chef Ollie Dabbous and bar guru Oskar Kinberg joined forces with Hedonism’s founder Evgeny Chichvarkin to create a day to night space that works with small farmers and suppliers from across the UK. A tasting menu with matching wine flights is also available on both floors and it is a sumptuous experience.
Founded in 2019 by three friends and long-time South East London residents – Luke, Ben and Helen – Peckham Cellars is a wine bar and bistro experience that feels local but elevated. An eclectic and expansive collection of wines can be purchased to be enjoyed at home or drunk alongside a seasonally inspired menu of small plates. The core of the list is from France and Spain with a head chef from foodie haven San Sebastian. Each month Pablo Urain Alfonso develops a fresh, seasonal menu from the best of British and European produce to complement the tipples.
Authentique – Epicerie & Bar
An 800+ wine list is never to be sniffed at and the team behind Authentique – Epicerie & Bar have passionately sourced every bottle on it. The brainchild of four French guys who grew up with a penchant for artisan food and drinks, their Tufnell Park space shares their enthusiasm for Francophone Gastronomy with a love of great wine. The menu is rotated every six weeks and many of the winemakers pop up in store for special events.
Sager + Wilde
Its dark, moody, cosy bar on Hackney Road cemented Sager + Wilde as a go-to haunt for excellent wines and a cheese toastie. However, the Paradise Row outpost takes it into more of a grown-up realm with a bonafide restaurant to boot. The wine still plays a key role in proceedings and we are pleased to report the signature naturally lit vibes are in full swing. Love your work guys.
Tucked underneath a railway arch in Flat Iron Square or in a blue and white clad restaurant on Finsbury Avenue Square, Bar Douro gives authentic Portuguese food and wine a home in London. The azulejo tiles which adorn the dining rooms transport us to the coast and the largest selection of Portuguese wines in the UK are a divine accompaniment to the sharing plates.
The UK’s only natural wine shop focusing on sustainable packaging, all of Weino Bib’s wines are farmed sustainably and made by people with minimal intervention. So when you are perched on the bar tucking into delicious dishes, you know you are making a conscious environmental effort too. The blackboard at the Dalston taproom displays some of the latest bottles and you can ask any of the knowledgeable team for advice on what to pair with your meal.
Renegade is a London based urban winery that breaks all the rules. Making around 12-14 wines a year, from classical styles with a twist to wines that are entirely unique, they produce around 40-60,000 bottles annually. Their Walthamstow wine bar also turns into a restaurant Wednesday to Saturday with Sunday now open for roasts.
Mediterranean inspired small plates are paired with an ever-changing wine list in this cosy Fitzrovia gem. Italy, France and Spain take centre stage on a monthly rotation in a convivial atmosphere. The wine list is the result of endless research for new and exciting wines from all over the world with a focus on small producers with a low intervention approach alongside those with a more traditional touch. Enjoy tasting by the glass with more than 200 references or splash out on the cellar list for old vintages and rare wines.
The 10 Cases
Covent Garden’s Bistrot à Vin serves a frequently changing menu of modern Franco-European food and a wide selection of wines, by the glass and bottle. The clue is in the name with only 10 cases of any wine being ordered to keep things fresh and interesting. A casual option comes in the form of Cave à Vin, reserved for walk-ins, with wine, cheese and charcuterie on tap. You can order from the bistrot menu too.
This very local secret in Islington found its home in a former car garage and feels all the more enticing for its unexpected setting. The blackboard menu changes every day and is updated on its Instagram page. Low-intervention wines, all of which come by the glass, carafe or bottle, are paired with the dishes to make for a laid-back but well-curated experience.
Vinoteca has become such a staple amongst London’s wine and dine scene that there are now several branches around the capital from Chiswick to Borough. Small producers are always championed on the wine list and the menu is modern British with a European twist. Whether you are in the mood for a snack or a full-blown dinner Vinoteca has you covered.
With ‘Rooms’ in Kensington and Hammersmith’s Brackenbury, these sociable environments recognise that great wine is worthy of great food. You can sample a selection with a pre-paid card or order by the bottle. British cheeses or Spanish meats are on offer for nibbles or indulge in the main menu to make more of an evening of it.
What started as a little shop in Fulham in 2010 branched into an Urban Winery at Battersea Power Station, nine wine bars in London and two outside, each with more than 100 wines by the glass. As the wine offerings grew so did the food options and Vagabond now serves up food menus across its branches.