There’s never been a better time to be a wine-lover in this city, whether you’re a connoisseur of grand crus or a born-again biodynamic wine geek. Recent years have seen a wave of new importers and bars: small-scale, independent operations, often favouring natural wines. Addresses like Hackney’s Sager + Wilde are as cool as any cocktail joint, persuading locals to forgo their usual gin in favour of a fino and tonic. Bar food, meanwhile, has improved beyond recognition, running from well-sourced cheese boards to restaurant-level small plates.
Set in Brixton’s buzzing market, this former pop-up now takes in a wine shop, bar and restaurant. It’s a great place to get better acquainted with organic and low-intervention wines – best sampled with a portion of its famed ’nduja croquettes. Head chef Nicholas Balfe is a talent to be reckoned with; if you haven’t booked ahead for the restaurant, the bar menu’s superb.
This blue-and-white tiled bar is a slice of Lisbon in South London (set in a converted railway arch, it’s five minutes’ walk from London Bridge). Its wine list showcases the best Portuguese tipples, from crisp vinho verde to ripe reds from the Alentejo. Pull up a stool at the marble counter and stay for dinner; the food’s superb, from salt-cod hash to slow-cooked pork with clams.
The clue’s in the name at this Covent Garden cave à vin; it only buys ten cases of each wine on its ever-changing list. It’s a bold approach, but one that means there’s always something new to try, whether it’s a heady Sicilian red or lesser-spotted Australian Riesling. A short, self-assured menu runs from tapas to proper mains, via a dangerously tempting array of cheese and charcuterie.
Every Londoner’s quaffed a glass or two in the city’s oldest wine bar, in situ since 1890. Set in a dimly-lit, vaulted cellar, it’s darkly atmospheric, with ports and sherries drawn from casks behind the bar. Too crowded for comfort? Pull up a plastic chair on the narrow terrace by Embankment Gardens, and prepare to meet a slightly tipsy cross-section of London life.
This low-lit, good-looking bar is a favourite with industry insiders, from wine importers to off-duty chefs. It’s also thronged with East London cool kids and couples on dates, flirting over glasses of fizz and deliciously oozy toasties. Its mission? To serve exceptional wines at a minimal mark-up, including around 20 options by the glass. Book ahead; it’s Hackney’s worst-kept secret.
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Image credits: © Joe Woodhouse; © Joe Woodhouse; © Joe Woodhouse; © Bar Douro; © Doculab; © Chio Photography; © Sager + Wild; © Kerb; © paul winch furness; © The Lamb