I’m going through a phase these day, hence the silence on the blog. This May has been a particularly crazy month for me, involving frequent trips up and down. I’m glad it’s almost over and I’m looking forward to relaxing with good wines and food in June.
This time of the year is the best time for wine enthusiasts to be in London. The London Wine Fair ended 3 days ago and the London Wine Week will kick off on Jun 5.
When I was in London in March, I was surprised by the rising wine and culinary scene. There were so many new wine bars opened in the last 3-4 years and I felt sad to leave for the first time.
So I thought I’d share some places I’d discovered for both visitors and locals. You could probably soak up the festive atmosphere in your own style by visiting these places if you can’t be bothered to follow up the event calendar. Or if you want something different.
#1. Bottle Apostle
As my primary focus was trying as many wines as possible, this new wine shop I stumbled upon already served my needs well. Surprisingly, my London friends had never heard of it!
Whether you’re a visitor or a local, I recommend getting a tasting card at Bottle Apostle and discovering good and interesting wines. This happened to be just around the corner from where I was staying in Primrose Hill, so I was stopping by for a sip on the way in and out of the house.
Though my favourite was the East Village shop because of the bigger space and the friendly knowledgeable staff. She answered all my questions and helped to pick a great wine for the lamb roast I was going to have at a friend’s.
I tasted some great wines from the Enomatic machine over a several days and just to name a few I liked,
Knez Winery, Demuth Vineyard, Pinot Noir,
Notre Histoire Xavier Courant,
Rosso di Montalcino Verbena, and
Daniel Ramos 2015 Kπ Amphorae
Gosh, all of them were so delicious! They do have a great selection of distinct and rare wines, organic or non-organic, at all price ranges and have helpful tasting notes marked in different colours. I took advantage and bought a few bottles there to take home. Whether you’re a novice or serious wine or craft beer drinker, you should definitely check out this place.
If you have one day to spend in London and want to experience a modern British, precisely Welsh, cuisine, try Odette’s. Having dined at a prestigious restaurant in Mayfair a couple days before, I thought how much I’d preferred this place to the other.
Elegant but not pretentious, fine dining but not over the top, it’s an excellent place for those who appreciate fresh, locally sourced and honest food without breaking the bank. Scanning the menu, which is simple and seasonal, I could feel the soul of the chef.
Every dish was so fresh and natural, and had a perfect balance of flavours, nothing missing or overdone. The entrees of veal and salmon were good but the beef cheek was phenomenal.
And the apricot souffle was just ‘wow’… divine decadence….
After the meal, you can take a stroll in the charming neighbourhood and up the hill. To be reassured, read the interview with the chef, Bryn Williams and the menu from 1980s!
Located in Primrose Hill, it can be easily overlooked but it was the best I’d eaten around that neighbourhood.
#3. Maltby Street Market
Bye bye Borough Market. You’ve served me well for a long time but now I’m moving on.
Maltby Street Market seemed more intimate, less commercial and less touristic, and therefore, it’s an excellent place for foodies who want to have a good day out with friends or family. It’s far smaller than Borough Market but what’s on offer is just all you need and is done to perfection.
What I liked the most about the market is the convivial atmosphere and the unconventional setting. Along the narrow street, you have a range of wine bars and craft beers on one side and food-stalls on the other. So you basically eat, drink, drink, and eat as you walk along.
Everything looked so delectable and I wanted to try every one of them, and that’s the downside of the market. If you go there alone, you might feel left out like I did. Another thing to note is that this is not a place for grocery shopping unlike Borough Market so don’t expect to buy fresh produce or cheese, etc.
Here, you can do fine dining like a grown-up but in a shed surrounded by the timber and tools. It feels more like a pop up restaurant, which is quite cool.
While weaving my way through the crowd, I noticed many people were eating this incredible looking burger.
So I looked for the stall and here he is!! The Master Chef behind this Dirty Burger, The African Volcano!
Pulled pork, yes, please!!! But the queue was insanely long. Also, I hadn’t had a sip of wine yet. Always a sip first and a bite later. So I went to 40 Maltby street for a glass to earn my appetite before tucking into the giant burger.
I ordered a glass of Mylene Bru ‘Karm’, Tempranillo from Languedoc, very interesting, while watching the plates of a sweet couple sitting next to me. I caught a glimpse of the plates they were eating and they all looked good, but my mind was set on the burger.
A jolly good looking burger, isn’t it? It was a bit chilly outside so I ate at the back of the food-stall, feeling like a naughty little girl eating an illicit food, hiding in a shed. Perhaps because of the pork crackling?
Honestly, I didn’t think I could eat it all when I started but soon I caught myself mopping up the last bit of sauce with the soft bun.
If you want to try The African Volcano, get there very early or very late. When I returned there after the wine, around 4.30pm, there was no queue. I might have just got lucky. I think you just have to be determined and catch the magic moment like I did.
Don’t forget to grab one of those brownies. They’re awesome, too. I can’t wait to visit there again, next time with friends.
#4. Best Wine Bars
One of the biggest changes I noticed was the number of wine bars compared to 5 years ago, so many, enough to do a wine bar crawl instead of a pub crawl in one night. Of all, I picked two to share with you.
It’s one of my favourites. Down the stairs of Holborn Viaduct is a hidden-gem, Winemaker’s Club.
The moment I walked in, the image of Gordon’s Wine Bar sprang to my mind; the dark, musty and quirky atmosphere. But its concept is very different. It’s more personal, more accessible, and the wines, though quite a small collection, are very unique.
The friendly staff let you try several wines on tasting until you find something you like. Once you have your wine, you can chill out at the romantic candle-lit table.
Allegracore Etna Rosso 2014 was chosen to entertain the evening and was good. I have a soft spot for Nerello Mascalese and since it’s rare, I take every chance to taste it. Speaking of rarity, they do have a collection of rare wines from lesser-known wine regions. Being there felt like being invited to a secret club.
Tucked away in a very unlikely neighbourhood, The Remedy is a charming little place where you can unwind after work or have a cosy evening out for good wine and tapas. It actually had the ambience of European tapas bars, casual and lively.
Though I didn’t eat there, I glanced at other tables and the food looked delicious and I can’t wait to try some on my next visit.
Now I have a new favourite hangout in London and it looks like I’ll bid my farewell to my old wine spots.
I also had a sip at Shepherd Market Wine House but wasn’t very impressed even though the place itself was lovely. If you want to taste some Grand Crus through the Coravin, well, why not? But not for me, thanks.
Are you adventurous?
Then, head to Chiswick. Why? There are two reasons.
One is The Good Wine Shop. I listened to an interview with the founder on UK Wine Show a couple weeks ago – unfortunately it was after I got back! – and it sounded like my kind of place. Why don’t you go and taste wines on the Enomatic machine and chat with the friendly passionate staff?
While you’re there and perhaps you had a few sips of wine, you might feel like some food? What about some Italian? A little Tuscan, Villa di Geggiano is right next door! It seemed very authentic, and especially the wines were exceptional. I’d probably go again just to taste the delicious Chianti DOCG (organic&biodynamic). The owner and the staff are very likeable and genuine, and their energy seems to be transferred to the food and the wine.