Fiona Beckett finds top wine lists in unlikely places...
London BBQ restaurants: Fired up by fine wine
As you walk into London’s latest barbecue restaurant Temper you can smell the smoke. Behind the bar lie great mounds of grilled and roasted meat. On the other side of the open kitchen, tacos are being endlessly flipped on the griddle. Beer and cocktail territory, surely but surprisingly Temper has its own sommelier and a serious wine list.
The punchy flavours of Neil Rankin’s food don’t phase sommelier Donald Edwards, who has worked his way round some of London’s hippest restaurants. He suggests a glass of Hambledon fizz (one of 29 wines available by the glass) to go with the tacos, it stands up remarkably well to the unorthodox topping of aged cheese burger. But, it’s the breadth and depth of the still wine list that impresses, as it features many of Australia and South Africa’s best new producers.
‘There’s still this perception that new world wines are not “fine”,’ says Edwards. ‘But they’re the main focus of the list. I’m looking for whites with bright minerality and acidity, and some good primary fruit and perfume in the reds. There’s not much oak going on except for a few posh Chardonnays.’ (The list includes Bindi, Cullen and Sorrenberg)
My rich, soft 2014 Jauma Like Raindrops Grenache from Blewitt Springs (£60 on the list) sails through the spicy sauces and sprinkles (watch out for those as a 2017 restaurant trend) without a hiccup.
Edwards is not the only experienced sommelier to be brought on board by this new wave of BBQ joints. Zeren Wilson, who has already worked with the Smoking Goat team, has put together the list for their new venture Kiln. On the face of it Kiln is a nightmare for wine, combining grilling with hot zingy Thai flavours.
Although there is a wheat beer on the menu, Wilson’s regularly changing list is hard to resist with its high-end German wines (Fritz Haag’s 2013 ‘Brauneberger’ Riesling Kabinett was recently on at £10 a glass). As well as a selection of skin contact wines, which he reckons work particularly well with chef Ben Chapman’s food.
Chapman made the decision to accept a fixed £17 mark-up on all wines except the cheapest on the list, making the restaurant a destination for bargain hunters.
‘We’ve just taken delivery of a a couple of Rieslings from Pichler in the Wachau, which are normally only available in Michelin-starred restaurants,’ says Wilson. ‘The Loibner Burgstall Smaragd 2015 will be on at £44, in most restaurants it’s around £80. I think we will probably be the only Thai restaurant to have ever listed these.’
Pittcue used to serve bourbon with pickle back chasers in its shoebox sized premises just off Carnaby Street. Now, they serve wines up to £350 (for Sine Qua Non Syrah) at their smart new premises in the City. ‘We sold one the other day at lunch which made me very happy,’ says wine buyer Crispin Sugden.
As well as the smokey flavours of the grill, there are sharp and sour elements in the dishes for Sugden to contend with. ‘We do have a lot of minerally whites, but basically the list is set up for pork – just like a steakhouse.’
The message from these three restaurants seems to be that they aim to attract the customers who want to drink well, as well as the meat lovers. Looks like now you can be both.
Fiona Beckett is Decanter‘s restaurant reviewer. Subscribe to Decanter here.
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