sager-wilde-wine

A love of wine is the most refined of guilty pleasures – or perhaps the most noble of rots. There’s a strange magic in the way a simple meal can be elevated to something memorable by the tender embrace of the grape, and how a mouthful can instantly transport you to the banks of the Rhone Valley or sunny California. London is a global centre of wine and food culture, so whether you want to crow over a Meursault or go toe-to-toe with a young Brooklyn Chardonnay, behind the whitest of tablecloths or simply over olives in a jolly basement bar, we’ve prepared a selection of London’s most interesting wine-focussed bars, restaurants and bottle shops for you to try out.

Andrew Edmunds

Soho in 2018 is an area in transition. New shops, restaurants and cafés cut through the former home turf of London’s bohemian set. But there are diamonds in the ashes of old Soho, and Andrew Edmunds is one of them. The darkly inviting 18th-century frontage reveals a candlelit interior illuminating the perfect setting for sumptuous, relaxed degustation with friends, which has been the formula since it opened in 1986. And it works brilliantly. The handwritten menu is seasonal, simple and balanced, but it’s the wine list that you come for. Deep and reasonably priced, with some rare treasures which the friendly staff will help you imbibe with ease, it’s a labour of love as much as the rest of the place. There are few more welcoming views in Soho than Andrew Edmunds on a chilly autumn evening. No wonder it’s a stalwart among wine critics and the West End creative crowd.

34 Mayfair

What a joy it is when an initially imposing restaurant turns out to have a heart of gold (and grape). This upmarket modern grill in Mayfair with a genteel, chatty ambience is one of the first to dedicate a section of their carefully curated wine list to the produce of urban wineries, working with London’s Renegade Wines, Brooklyn’s Red Hook Winery and Cape Town’s Dorrance Wines. Along with the wholly delicious cooking, you’re sure to try something more interesting than standard wine-list fare here. There’s a story behind every glass, so have a chat with the sommelier to uncover it (we were put at ease by the charming and expert Fiona Kohler). Accompanying the warm feeling of a good evening out, you may leave surprised at how well modern urban wineries can stack up against their more traditional rivals.

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  • 34 Grosvenor Square
    Entrance on South Audley Street
    W1K 2HD

Medlar

Watching sunlight pass through a delicate glowing glass of Corton-Charlemagne 1985 in your Burgundian gite, with a tear rolling down your cheek as you realise you’ll never be able to drink that same golden delicious bottle again… If that’s going to happen anywhere, it’s Medlar, our little secret at the end of the King’s Road. The food is assured and beautifully prepared from seasonal ingredients, the ambience is calm and unpretentious, and a wine list of exemplary quality has been put together with care to include a huge geographic and stylistic variety at every price point (aided by eminently reasonable set menus). An excellent fine-dining venue in West London, which you’ll leave feeling both looked after and enlightened.

Terroirs

Tucked off the Strand by Charing Cross (with a second branch in East Dulwich), this French bistro and wine bar is a go-to for discovering characterful natural wines. The extensive selection focuses on artisanal growers who employ organic and biodynamic practices with minimal intervention in vinification – think hand-picking grapes, natural yeast fermentation and horses instead of tractors. It all adds up to a journey of discovery as you leaf through the richly informative wine list (there probably isn’t a better description of Rhone wines than “…cockle-warming wines for when you forgot your cardigan”). The earthy daily changing food menu covering everything from charcuterie and cheeses to full rustic French dishes is a great complement to discovering the wines on show.

Vini Italiani

We stumbled into the South Kensington branch of this bar some years ago and were instantly impressed. London’s first wine bar dedicated solely to Italian wines, Vini Italiani is the way to deep-dive into Italy’s rich wine culture beyond bog-standard Chianti. You can (and will) get lost in the extensive wine list covering all 20 Italian wine regions – fortunately, expert staff are more than happy to guide you. Aside from a rotating by-glass menu, there are some very fine wines available from tasting machines (which push inert gas into the bottle through a needle in the cork, sparing you having to finish the lot) – a great way of sampling something special without excessive outlay. This is all accompanied by choice Italian cold cuts and cheeses, as well as hot plates, and the ability to buy wines retail.

Cork & Bottle

“The celebrations, meetings, parties, friendships, marriages (and divorces), not to mention the hangovers that this place has been responsible for are too many to even begin to recount…” states the first page of the wine list – and who are we to disagree? A longstanding favourite of West End flaneurs and the occasional weary journalist, Cork & Bottle was founded by New Zealander Don Hewittson in 1972 on a Beaujolais-fuelled crusade to rescue Londoners from awful wines and crap food. Once you’ve muscled your way through the crowds of tourists gawping at the neon lights outside, you’ll slip through an inconspicuous entrance to descend into a small bistro glowing with joviality. The food is simple and satisfying (the hangover-ending ham and cheese pie is legendary if you’re feeling a bit delicate); the wine list is a curated joy, replete with curious descriptions, drawings, and a spread of favourites from across the new and old worlds (better still, you can buy most bottles retail too). It also has the useful characteristic of being open late on Sundays when you’re struggling for options. Relax into a juicy bottle of Ozzie shiraz, close your eyes, and you’ll forget you are effectively in a very finely decorated cellar under Leicester Square.

Noble Fine Liquor

A great bottle shop specialising in authentic, natural wines from small winemakers. Come here to get lost in varieties and producers you didn’t know existed and without which, it turns out, your life has so far been incomplete. Carries rarer orange wines and a unique collection of craft gins and liquors. Noble Fine Liquor also a good place to pick up reasonably priced yet high quality table wine, and casual beers and ciders you won’t find stocked in your local supermarket. Every bottle on the shelves has been tasted by the staff and is there for a reason – because they would drink it themselves. Which is probably an occupational hazard in a place like this.

Naughty Piglets

This adorably casual charcoal grill restaurant with impeccable small plates and “low intervention” wines aka ones where the winemaker hasn’t messed about with what nature is giving us. Which is undoubtedly a good thing. Guiding you through the collection is an evocative wine list quite unlike any other (with sections entitled Mountain Draught, Dirty South and The Game of Rhone) which will almost certainly get you drinking something you’ve never tried before. There’s also a basement bar operating on a walk-in basis for those in need of a hit of Swiss Pinot Noir or Sicilian Catarratto on a Tuesday night.

P. Franco

Cram a bunch of talented chefs, a humble induction hob and crates of carefully curated natural wine inside a former Chinese cash ‘n’ carry in Clapton and you’ll get this spankingly good restaurant experience. A bar and wine retail space with fantastic food on a supercharged caves à manger model, P. Franco is owned by Liam Kelleher and James Noble of Noble Fine Liquor in Hackney and has quickly risen to the status of a local treasure. A constantly rotating menu (reflecting the short-term chef guest residencies) combined with an unpretentious and sympathetically priced selection of natural and biodynamic wines which changes like the wind means that you’ll never be short of inspiration, enjoyment, or superlatives.

Primeur

So the sign above the dining space says “Barnes Motors”, but what happens inside is anything but mechanical. This airy, pretty communal dining space in a quiet, relaxed and out of the way location in Canonbury does all the hard work for you (once you’ve done the walk from the station). The menu board is simple – about 10 delicious and varied European food options on the left, a roughly equal number of eclectic and brilliant wine options on the right, one cheese option and dessert, and you’re done. Unpretentious and refined; so much so that you leave trying to work out how you can make your own meals quite so comfortable.

Sager + Wilde

What happens when you gut a grotty old pub and replace it with an atmospheric and urban-chic wine bar? Sager + Wilde, duh. You’ll drink from the very extensive list of premium and rare wines by the reasonably priced glass while admiring the interior decor, which is essentially a cornucopia of early 20th-century industrial remnants brought together with lashings of wood and glass. The menu at the Hackney bar is a brilliant collection of moreish wine-friendly fare (think cheese boards, sharing plates of charcuterie and upmarket toasties). There is also a darkly inviting restaurant on Paradise Row which takes the concept into a full format and whose wine list is stuffed with lesser-known producers from across the world.

Legs

While this wine-focused restaurant is named after the Gibbs-Maragoni effect (i.e. the legs that form around a wine glass when you swirl the liquid inside), luckily you don’t need a degree in fluid dynamics to enjoy the the menu of small plates and curated wine list on offer here. What you’re drinking is simple – it’s what the team would drink and comes from small, independent producers who don’t put a foot wrong in representing their terroir. The interior is inviting in a neutral, stripped back kind of way and the vibe is eminently friendly. A place to kick back and enjoy.

Weino BIB

A quirky Dalston wine bar/bottle shop/taproom/deli serving up box wine by the glass or by carafe, accompanied by a small food sample menu from the richly stocked deli on site. There’s more to it than just selling wine, however – their self-proclaimed mission is to: “Do all we can to change the landscape of commodities, showcasing how we can effectively change the way we consume, while never compromising on quality”. So aside from the artisanal produce, you can also buy most of the wines on offer in environmentally sustainable large-format packaging, whether it’s 1.5 litre “bagnums” or three and five litre boxes. Frankly, it’s an excellent excuse to buy after you try and stock up on wine which is far superior and better for the environment than what’s in your local supermarket.

40 Maltby Street

This excellent wine bar from Gergovie Wines, tucked under a railway arch in Bermondsey, was once subject to rear-guard action by locals desperate not to let anyone else in on the secret. Well, it’s out now. Gergovie work with winemakers from Italy, France, Spain and Slovenia who eschew chemical pesticides and fertilisers, producing wines reflecting the grape, place and even the personality of the winemaker. Wines are available by the glass or bottle at the bar, as well as to to take home. A seasonal menu reflects the produce available to the kitchen. No reservations taken but it’s worth getting in early, as it gets very busy at peak times.

Furanxo

A charcuterie and Spanish produce shop by day, apertivo and wine bar at night, Furanxo is basically a oenophilic bodega superhero from deepest Dalston who has arrived to rescue you from a bad night out. Backed by Manuel de los Santos from the Spanish artisanal food supplier bearing his name, and Xabier Alvarez of Trangallan London fame, this abacería is an ideal place to drop by in the evening for tapas plates made up of the produce on sale (think raw milk cheeses and charcuterie) and a glass of something fab. Cold plates only, as it is a shop after all – but then again you’ve got the warm glow of good company and fine wine…

  • 85 Dalston Lane
    E8 2NG

Andrew Edmunds

34 Mayfair

Medlar

Terroirs

Vini Italiani

Cork & Bottle

Noble Fine Liquor

Naughty Piglets

P Franco

Primeur

Sager + Wilder

Legs

Weino BIB

40 Maltby Street

Furanxo

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