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Sypped is the official website for wine and spirits journalist and personality, Adrian Smith. For your dose of wine, spirits, food and lifestyle inspiration, look no further!

Filtering by Category: London

Try Before You Buy: London Retailers That Help You Explore The Wine Scene

Getting into wine can be daunting. With countless styles, varieties, and producers, navigating even the most basic wine list, or picking the right bottle from an unending sea of wines on a supermarket shelf can seem an impossible task. Of course there are a wealth of different ways to start learning about wine but it simply doesn't get any better than rolling up your sleeves, bracing yourself for action and trying as many wines as you can.

Wine tastings are usually the most informative and fun way to get started. They usually follow a theme (California old vine wines, Killer Cabs, Strictly Sangiovese and so on) and give you exposure to experts and other wine lovers - it’s a brilliant way to learn. Wine tasting offers one of the few opportunities to try before you buy so you don't have to commit to anything before knowing that you enjoy the style or the specific bottle.

London, in my opinion, now the culinary and wine capital of Europe, offers a vast range of informal and friendly tastings at no or low cost. The London-based retailers listed below do a good job at helping you get started on your journey into wine.

However, before you let yourself loose, here are some simple tips to help you along the way; 1) always approach wine with an open mind (you never know what you will find), 2) bring a notepad or use your phone to take note of your preferences, and 3) have fun; few people are truly experts and it’s ultimately about what tickles your fancy.


Retailers with free tastings:


Majestic

With shops nationwide, Majestic is one of the more accessible retailers with a wide selection of wine at all price points.

Majestic always have a few bottles retailing around £10-20 of red, white and rosé open for you to taste. The styles on offer range quite a bit so it’s always worthwhile to pop in and see what they have open - to the point where I was pleasantly surprised one Saturday to find a bottle of La Rioja Alta 904 2007 (RRP £40) sitting in a decanter waiting to be tasted.

Majestic also run well-priced tutored tastings focussing on different themes. Visit their website to see what’s coming up near you: https://www.majestic.co.uk/events

The Winery

The Winery is a small boutique wine shop in Maida Vale W9 that specialises in German Rieslings and Spätburgunders (also known as Pinot Noir) but also stock French, Italian, Spanish and Californian wines. They host free and informal monthly tastings that usually fill the shop to the point that people spill out into the street – during summer this can be quite fun!

It’s a great opportunity to sample six or seven different wines always guided by their friendly and knowledgeable staff and sometimes the producers themselves. The tastings run from 17.00-21.00 and you can drop in at any time – no need to register beforehand.

Check out their website for upcoming tastings: www.thewineryuk.com/tastings

Retailers with enomatic machines:
 

The Sampler


The Sampler has two branches in London, one in Wimbledon and one in Islington. Their goal is to offer 80 wines in each shop ranging from inexpensive party wines to the world’s finest bottles through enomatic machines.

Enomatic machines dispense small tasting quantities and preserve the bottle using state of the art inert gas. This means that you can pay £4-5 for a small glass of a wine that would otherwise set you back £100+ a bottle. This is one of the best ways around to try premium and rare wines at very low cost.

To see what is sampling now in Wimbledon and Islington, visit http://www.thesampler.co.uk/130/Sampling-Now/

Bottle Apostle

Bottle Apostle has five branches scattered around London in Victoria Park, Crouch End, Clapham, East Village and Primrose Hill. The concept here is the same as The Sampler, however Bottle Apostle stocks smaller and organic/biodynamic producers from across the world. All five locations have wine dispensing machines carrying a broad range of wines at very low price points, some as low as under £1 for a tasting.

Every Friday between 4-8pm they run free tastings highlighting unique wines and new additions to their range.

Retailers with guided tastings less than £30:


The Winemakers Club

The Winemakers Club can be found in the atmospheric vaults under the Holborn Viaduct in the City of London. They specialize in stocking small producers that embrace organic and biodynamic practices in their vineyards and cellars.

The Winemakers Club experienced staff run guided tastings usually focusing on specific regions or producers. With examples of previous tastings including “Natural Wine vs. Craft Beer” and “I’m not drinking any f***ing Merlot! A Merlot Tasting” – they really are as much fun as they sound.

The staff manages to take you through the story of the wines while making you forget that you are sitting around a table with a bunch of strangers swirling delicious wine in your glass.

Tastings, which are usually around £25, are held in an intimate private dining room and includes a shared plate of delicious charcuterie and cheese.

Check out their website for upcoming tastings: thewinemakersclub.co.uk/events

Cellar door wines

Cellar Door Wines is based in St Albans (ok, this isn’t technically London but it’s close enough) and specializes in wines from small, boutique vineyards.

Their selection of guided tastings is truly impressive, including masterclasses from top producers, all fairly priced between £10-15, including light snacks.

Check out their website for upcoming tastings: cellardoorwines.co.uk

These are only some examples of merchants; it is always worth asking your local wine retailer if they run tastings, you never know. Other retailers that are worth checking out are Highbury Vintners, Lay and Wheeler and Vagabond Wines.

Hopefully you found these fun, accessible and affordable ways to explore the world of wine useful. Perhaps the next time you reach for that wine list in your local restaurant, or select a wine from Waitrose, you’ll know exactly what you want to try. There is a world of wine waiting to be discovered so get out there and have fun.

Chai Wu, London

Chinese food is a favorite of many. Chai Wu will not be an exception of favoritism but an exception of presentation and taste. The contemporary restaurant is located at the iconic department store Harrods in Knightsbridge in South West London. Now Chinese philosophy holds five elements dear: wood, metal, water, earth and fire. The new modern restaurant incorporates the five into its design with a result of an elegant dining setting in an opulent space. This creative display is a fusion of traditional and contemporary Chinese culture.

 

Pan-Asian dishes such as black truffle sour soup, Chilean sea bass dumpling, Beijing Duck and Alaskan king crab portray the luxury and a menu that will suit every taste. The tasty, exotic and colorful dishes reflect the finest of modern Chinese cuisine. A dining experience is created by the dining bar from which you can view the chefs at work and as expected at Harrods, the service is first class. Be one of the 90 guests that can be accommodated at the restaurant by reserving a table here.

 

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The Cavendish, Marylebone

There’s not much better than a fantastic dining establishment. When such a place is committed to quality and a luxurious customer experience, magical things happen. The team at The Cavendish decided this was nice and all but that they wanted to push their own limits. 

 

The Cavendish is styled after a classic English pub but serves Italian cuisine in its most mouth-watering forms. The kitchen is led by executive chef Douglas Santi who personally oversaw the creation of the new menu. New items range from light and healthy bites such as a salad of quinoa, roasted sweet potato, feta, mint, and baby spinach to much more decadent fare such as rabbit ravioli with pickled beetroot and parmesan cream or the veal chop with Cavendish potato gratin. There is also a brand new Sunday Roast menu which features Cotswold chicken and 35 day aged rib of beef.

 

No matter what you decide to eat, there is a new cocktail menu along with finely-curated wine and cigar lists to accompany your meal. The Cavendish has thought of it all and defied the odds by taking a wonderful place and somehow making it even better.

 

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Brunello Bar & Restaurant At Baglioni Hotel

Chef Alberto Rossetti has a deep love and appreciation for pastas and risottos ingrained in him by his mother’s cooking back in Parma, Italy. Now he wants to share that love with the rest of the world at the reopened Brunello Bar & Restaurant at the Baglioni Hotel in London. With a gorgeous view of the Kensington Gardens chef Rossetti wants to bring simple and sophisticated dishes to the hotel.

 

The lunch menu is more informal fare featuring classic Italian dishes while the dinner menu is more sophisticated with more contemporary variations on the classics. Lobster risotto, tuna steak with sesame seeds and peppers, and pumpkin veloute are all among Rossetti’s signature dishes. 

 

Afternoon tea is available daily between 1:00 PM and 5:30 PM and features a fantastic selection of herbal and traditional teas, accompanied by delicious savoury dishes or a selection of cakes and pastries such as the famous “Sicilian cannoli with ricotta” and “Neapolitan sfogliatelle”.

The Coral Room

The Doyle Collection is a group of luxury hotels around the world that focuses on bespoke and stylish design. The Coral Room exemplifies this concept. Find respite from busy city life in this country-home inspired lounge in the heart of Bloomsbury. You’ll know you’re in the right place when you see the namesake coral walls and enchanting Martin Brudnizki inspired interior design, complete with chandeliers and marble topped bar mirrors. The walls are lined with 36 original pieces by illustrator Luke Edward Hall.

 

The English sparkling wine list emphasis selections from local vineyards. If you want something a little sweeter, opt for a spritz-style cocktail with a name celebrating the country-city fusion that inspires the restaurant. If you’re craving something smokier, step outside to the cigar terrace, aptly named The Coral Garden, and enjoy a quite drink under the foliage. If you’re feeling peckish dine on the restaurant’s novel menu, featuring an acai bowl, spiced baked eggs, turmeric yogurt, and other innovative culinary fusions. Enjoy the fresh air, or soak up the rustic décor and picturesque atmosphere, and return to city-life rejuvenated.

 

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Cartel

Every year seems like it’s going to be mezcal’s year to break into the mainstream, yet this diverse and often misunderstood spirit continues to hover just below the surface of London’s cocktail scene.  It’s there if you know where to find it; but it doesn’t like to make a fuss.

 

Now, in the midst of winter, it’s fair to say we all need a little more Mexican spirit in our lives, and as luck would have it, Cartel on Battersea Park Road is bringing just that to a small corner of SW London.

 

Since opening in April 2017, owner Andy and barman Josh (formerly of Soho’s El Camion) have been making the most of their Mexican contacts and have built a dazzling collection of mezcal on the box-shelving behind this colourful bar.

 

If heading straight for the sipping mezcal isn’t your thing, there’s also a detailed list of 16 mainly mezcal or tequila-based cocktails (from £8.50-£11), a menu of tacos and quesadillas to soak up all that agave spirit, and a Tequila Brunch every Saturday.  Who doesn’t want to start their weekend with bottomless margaritas and a three course Mexican feast?

 

Finally, since mid-November, their authentically tin-roofed Mezcaleria became home to around 100 different bottles of tequila’s older more rustic relative.  So that’s where you’ll find us this winter.  After all, there’s a 21-year-old Tepeztate we’re dying to try. Never heard of it?  You will soon.

 

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Gabeto

Retro-style furniture, modern art, and a killer menu have transformed the historic Long Stable in Camden Market, London into an all-day restaurant and bar.  Leaving the Victorian architecture intact, Gabeto (meaning “our house” in Spanish) provides the perfect place for eating, drinking, working, and lounging under its brick and timber roof.

 

Guests are invited to work on the outdoor terrace by day or mix and mingle at the cocktail bar by night.  The venue, which can be booked for large events, offers formal and informal eating spaces that accommodate a quick lunch at a zinc-topped table or a long dinner in a large booth.  The menu is a British-Latin fusion from Head Chef Lee Andrews that includes entrées such as Scottish lobster tail and smoked cauliflower steak, while bar manager Tony Safqi has concocted a unique sampling of wines and a longer selection of cocktails that features Central and Latin American flavors.  This innovative eatery can be accessed every day of the week via Stables Gate off Chalk Farm Road.

 

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8 Hoxton Square

If you have ever had a simultaneous craving for homey and high-end provisions, a scroll through 8 Hoxton Square’s Instagram will be a feast for your eyeballs. If you score a table at this instant hotspot, it is a feast for your taste buds as well. The unpretentious décor boasts exposed brick, pleated vinyl counter covers, and unfinished wood.

 

Picky eaters and adventurous palettes can finally dine together without tension because this restaurant’s wide-ranging menu serves classics like cornbread, fries, and chocolate ice-cream, as well as daring combinations like scorched octopus served over potatoes.

 

The unassuming vibe of the restaurant feels intentionally underdone- even trendy- but it serves a superior purpose. 8 Hoxton Square doesn’t splurge on expensive decorations or social media influencers. Their Instagram features clear, direct shots of their food and behind-the-scenes snapshots that appear to be taken by a layman with an iPhone rather than by a professional food photographer. They channel these savings into producing delicacies without inflating the cost. Nearly any glass of wine from their extensive drink list will only lighten your wallet by about €4.00.

 

London locals should book a reservation for 8 Hoxton Square’s Sunday Lunch menu, so they can enjoy a feast at the discretion of the chef. Delicious food should fill your belly, not empty your wallet.

 

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Diptyque Afternoon Tea at Hotel Café Royal

Tie your silk scarf and brush up on your French. French perfumer diptyque has teamed up with Hotel Café Royal in London to serve an exclusive afternoon tea inspired by the brand’s most popular fragrances. The Paris-based brand, which was founded in 1961, is traveling across borders to serve up a chic café experience.

 

At the Oscar Wilde Bar, guests will taste four pastries created by Executive Pastry Chef, Sarah Barber, inspired by flavors and ingredients. Sponge cakes, buttery pastry tarts, rich creams, and shortbread are given a sweet twist of French luxury. Rose Victoria, Lemon Verbena, Tahitian Vanilla Bar, and Violent and Cassis Tart will be placed at the center of the table next to each of diptyque’s corresponding fragrances. Pinkies up!

 

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The Clifton

Steeped in history a bar in London has metamorphosed again but retaining its essential character. The Clifton has been a landmark of the local community for centuries, and now brothers Ben and Ed Robson have reinstated this incredible pub with a new look and a refreshed attitude to pub drinking and dining. After its sudden closure in 2013, which left it empty for four years, the Robson brothers transformed it into their vision of a contemporary pub with homely sofas, original fireplaces, traditional loose furniture and a well-stocked bar. Situated on a tree-lined residential street, The Clifton opens at 9 a.m. on weekdays, making it a great spot to pick up coffee and pastries. During the day, the pub has a relaxed and welcoming feel for those who want a café-like atmosphere and at night, it comes alive with the re-imagination for the open plan room.

The menu features crisp and punchy ingredients alongside inventive staples. With laid-back weekend brunch, mouth-watering midweek suppers and hearty Sunday roast, The Clifton offers an evolved definition of pub food. The menu is split in two: “Drinking House” and “Eating House”. While the former features smaller plates that are perfect with drinks, the latter is a full all-day menu. The diverse array of local and craft beers on tap, there is talk about Ben and Ed brewing their own Clifton beer! Throw in wine expert Raul Diaz and monthly “Wine Club” showcases and you’ve got yourself a new hangout spot.

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The Grosvenor House Bourbon Bar

You are a red-blooded American taking a trip abroad. You land in London and after a few days you begin to feel a little homesick. You have a strong desire to reconnect with your country if only for a brief moment. So, you walk inside of the acclaimed London restaurant JW Steak House, sit down at the bar and lo and behold: Bourbon.

 

The nectar of the gods finely crafted in the USA and plenty of it. JW boasts a selection of over 150 different bourbons including single barrel, small batch, and pre-prohibition. As if that were not enough they even have their own variety of single barrel Jim Beam, handpicked from the distillery, that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. If your desires swing more to the cocktail end of the spectrum JW has you covered with a cocktail menu that includes several bourbon classics as well as special seasonal drinks. Visit this little slice of America the beautiful if you ever find yourself in London.

 

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Les 110 de Taillevent

Elaborate French dining has arrived in Marylebone London. Les 110 de Taillevent is a descendent of the two-Michelin star restaurant, Le Taillevent. So you already know you are getting a bang for your buck.

 

High quality, seasonal and contemporary French dishes are paired with perfect wines to ensure the best tasting notes are brought out of each dish. Every course is matched with a wine out of their extensive wine list. Les 110 de Taillevent has accumulated a 1,100+ wine list that is one of the most to offer in London. The chicly designed restaurant has 110 wines to choose from by the glass and these glasses pair extraordinarily well with whatever you are having, whether it is the Wild Sea Bass main course or the Wild Pigeon main course.

 

Dine luxuriously like the French overlooking Cavendish Square in London.

 

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