As any London wine-lover will tell you, there’s plenty of choice when it comes to the capital’s wine bar scene. From popular city centre haunts to off-the-beaten-track local venues, there’s plenty to explore – whether you want high-end French classics or new-wave natural bottles. With more and more venues offering by-the-glass options, as well as bottles to enjoy on-site or take home, there’s never been a better time to taste what London has to offer. So pull up a chair and relax with a glass or two in one of our top venues.
Originally a single site in Holborn, 28°-50° is now a chain of five chic bars/restaurants across London. There’s Marylebone; its neighbouring jazz-centric venue 28°-50° by Night; Chelsea; South Kensington; and latest addition Oxford Circus. With the wine programme overseen by group head sommelier Jules Bensacq, each site has a decent selection of wines available by the glass or bottle, including a small collection of pricier drops by Coravin. This is supplemented by a ‘Collector’s List’ of reasonably priced fine and rare bottles with a focus on France, supplemented by a decent showing of other wines from around the world.
This tiny pocket rocket of a Sherry bar is brought to you from the team behind the Camino restaurant chain. Bar Pepito may be situated in Kings Cross but you’re transported to Andalucía as soon as you step through the door. The list of Sherries is relatively short, with two or three wines offered for every style, but there’s enough variety for new Sherry drinkers and experts alike. It runs the gamut from big names such as Tio Pepe Fino to more esoteric drops like Equipo Navazos’ La Bota ‘I Think’ En Rama Manzanilla. Numerous flights and a paired tasting menu of wines and tapitas help to encourage experimentation. Settle in with a flight and tableful of tapas, then pretend you’re in Jerez.
Take a quick wander from Covent Garden to Charing Cross and you’ll find yourself in a piece of wine bar history. Gordon’s has been serving patrons for over 130 years, and you certainly feel the history oozing out of the walls lined with pictures and newspaper-clippings. The interior is all vaulted cellars and candlelight. While the bar is covered in blackboards and Sherry-filled barrels. The eminently affordable wine list is an exercise in excellent editing, focusing on key regions from the Old World, with the odd addition from Mendoza, Marlborough or Maipo Valley. Food is available in the form of chunky meze platters, cheese and baguettes. Those who fail to get a table inside have a much better chance on the large outdoor terrace.
The first venue to fully dissolve the boundaries between shop, bar and restaurant, this fairly small space is smartly designed. Choose a bottle from the well-stocked New Street Wine Shop shelves to take away or drink in for a very reasonable £8 corkage. You can also buy by the glass or sample top-end wines from the Enomatics. The range concentrates on European classics. A playground for wine lovers.
When Noble Rot’s first venue opened its doors on Lamb’s Conduit Street in Holborn, oenophiles fell over themselves in their enthusiasm for its cooler-than-thou interiors, delicious food and adventurous wine list. A second site, taking over former institution The Gay Hussar in Soho, has followed to perhaps even greater acclaim. At both restaurants, most wines by the glass are offered in 75ml ‘taster’ or 125ml servings, with a decent, ever-changing range also available by Coravin. Those with deep pockets might be tempted by a glass of Trimbach Riesling Cuvée Frédéric Emile 1996 or a Château d’Yquem from the same decade. But there are plenty more eminently affordable options too. The wider list has a notable bent towards France, with plenty of representation from around the globe. The lunch set menu is ridiculously reasonable, and invariably delicious.
Sager + Wilde is a small, urban venue in Hackney that changed perceptions of what a wine bar could be when it opened in 2012. There’s little under £40 a bottle, but strength and depth in a list that focuses on natural, organic and biodynamic wines from the Old World. Small plates, toasties, cheeses and charcuterie are also available. A second branch, Sager + Wilde on Paradise Row, is a short hop from its older sister. A restaurant-cum-wine-bar situated in a railway arch with space for larger groups and an outdoor terrace, it’s the perfect spot to while away a Sunday afternoon.
The clue is in the name of this French bistro-inspired take on a wine bar in Covent Garden. In order to keep the list fresh and exciting, wines are only bought in 10 case purchases, leading to a constantly rotating choice of 10 whites, 10 reds and a sprinkling of sparkling, rosé and sweet wine to boot. Those looking for more of a deep dive wine experience should plump for The 10 Cases’ Cave à Vin venue just next door. Here a list of over 300 wines awaits, available to buy and take away, or enjoy on site for a very reasonable £12 corkage fee. The same monthly-changing bistro food menu is available in both sites, or simply order some cheese and charcuterie in the Cave à Vin. One company, neighbouring sites, very different yet equally brilliant approaches.
This understated bar is located just 15 minutes’ walk from Oxford Circus. The focus here is on small producers – ‘say no to the wine industrial complex!’ is the wine philosophy of The Remedy’s owners – with huge variation squeezed onto its well-edited list. It’s packed with the interesting, the characterful and the curious; both natural and conventional, mainly Old World, with a small smattering of New World. A solid selection of fine and rare treats is priced from upwards of £50. But there is also a decent amount to choose from between £30 and £50. The list of wines by the glass is a brilliant calling card, with Sherries and a short yet exciting selection of Madeira from Pereira d’Oliveira, alongside a handful of reds and whites. The Remedy also offers a short menu of delicious modern European cuisine small plates.
While Vagabond boasts nine wine bars across London, the Battersea Power Station outpost with its urban winery should be top of any oenophile’s visit list. Winemaking equipment butts up against the industrial-chic wine bar interiors, all situated in the shadow of the iconic London landmark. Grab your wine from one of the many Enomatic machines lining the walls, order some small plates and charcuterie, then settle in for a delicious evening.
Vinoteca changed the landscape of London wine bars when it opened its first branch in Farringdon in 2005. It was the first to offer wines to take away as well as to drink in, just like an Italian enoteca. The original outpost is a small, simply decorated square room, always busy thanks to the inclusive atmosphere and quality of the wine list – not to mention the bistro-style food. There are over 200 wines here, ranging from £22 to £212 to drink in. There are also a few wines available to buy in cans, plus 20 available by the glass. Try the Crittenden Estate Peninsula Chardonnay 2020 for £47.50, or Benanti’s Etna Rosso 2019 for £48. There are now five smart, bright and airy branches across London.
Have we missed your favourite? Share your own top London wine bars @Decanter