The 28 best wine bars in London

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After spending decades as the butt of jokes about yuppies and pretentious urbanites, the wine bar is holding its own again amongst London’s best bars. Thanks to a more democratic approach to what’s in the glass, along with a rejection of the snobbery that’s often associated with wine, London has a thriving scene. From DIY East End joints to classic bars in Soho, here’s our pick of the best wine bars in London.

  • The 28 best wine bars in London

    Grays & Feather, Covent Garden

    According to the menu at Grays & Feather, ‘a bottle of wine is like a painting – the more you know about it, the more you see’. It’s a mantra this sparkling wine-focussed bar has embraced wholeheartedly. Founded by Andrew Gray, of the Southbank-based merchants of the same name, Grays & Feather offers the sort of inside-track experience that can be hard to come by in London – especially in busy Covent Garden. Information abounds here. There are menus full of evocative descriptions (a prosecco is characterised as ‘peaches on toast’; a vintage reserve as ‘biscuits dipped in honey’). Hold on to a copy tightly so you can refer to it throughout your visit. Alongside it is a map charting the origin of every bottle on offer – a simple but very useful visual tool. An evening here is a charming lesson in all things bubbly, in smart surroundings that neatly balance on-trend and classic, with white-washed walls, green-velvet seating, wrought-iron accents and splashes of bright feathery colour.


    DRINKS

    From traditional biscuity Champagnes to weirdly wonderful sparkling reds, there are eight pages of different types of fizz from around the world to be discovered, with a focus on unusual vintages from small and unknown experimental winemakers you’re unlikely to find anywhere else. The menu will change as Gray makes new discoveries, but favourites from our visit included a divinely dry and herbal New Zealand Pinot Gris and Sauvignon blend, and a festive sparkling Italian red with hints of cherry and coffee.


    FOOD

    Tuck into seasonal small plates with a heavy focus on cheese and fish, both of which work well to balance the acidity often found in sparkling wines. The ocean sharing platter is laden with fresh and salty mackerel, sardines and salmon, while the sticky miso-cured aubergine melts on the tongue. And for pudding, a rich chocolate brownie is just the thing to have alongside that sparkling red.


    VERDICT

    Much more than just another wine bar. You’ll leave fizzing with knowledge and with a bottle of your new favourite wine tucked under your arm.


    By Olivia Holborow

    Address: Grays & Feather, 26 Wellington St, London WC2E 7DD


    Telephone: +44 20 3948 4900


    Website: graysandfeather.com

  • The 28 best wine bars in London

    Bottles Wine Bar, Spitalfields.

    There’s something enigmatic about good wine bars. They manage to feel refined yet relaxed in a way that other types of drinking institutions can struggle to realise. London pubs can be raucous and grubby; cocktail bars can border on pretentious. But wine bars? They are effortlessly cool. And for the past few years a new wave has been sweeping its way through (predominantly East) London. The latest to join the tide is Bottles, an Italian wine bar from Franco Mancini and Daniele Marano on the fringes of Old Spitalfields Market. With Bottles & Battles in South London’s new foodie hotspot Mercato Metropolitano already under their belt, the pair know how to create a laid-back drinking environment. Bottles is an even sleeker take, all brass accents, exposed brickwork and stacks of reclaimed fruit crates. The space is dominated by two communal tables – one upstairs, one down – that feel sociable but are also big enough to give you some breathing room.

    DRINKS

    The focus of the many-paged menu is Italian wines from independent producers and small farms – wines you’re unlikely to find elsewhere (some from forgotten grapes), and at reasonable prices. It can feel daunting making a choice when you have 180 or so options, but staff are on hand and happy to make suggestions. We were particularly taken with a Trebbiano from Central Italy, which was curiously herbal, and a smooth French Chablis. Most restaurant menus match wine to food – but Bottles turns that on its head, suggesting dishes that will go with your choice of wine. It’s pretty clear that wine is the star here.


    BAR SNACKS

    Downstairs, Sood Family – an Italian pop-up restaurant by Michele Pompili (formerly of Chiltern Firehouse), Carlo Dehò and Nadine Martins Verissimo – has found a new home. Food is seasonal, with a zero-waste policy, and created specifically with the available wines in mind. Dishes include melt-in-your-mouth burrata in a tomato jus and crispy octopus that is the furthest thing from rubbery. Be sure to ask for a side of freshly baked sourdough too so you can mop up every last drop of the accompanying sauces.

    VERDICT

    A grown-up spot to broaden your Italian wine horizons. By Olivia Holborrow

    Address: Bottles Wine Bar, 67 Brushfield Street, Spitalfields, London E1 6AA


    Telephone: +44 20 3880 9002


    Website: bottleswine.bar

  • The 28 best wine bars in London

    Gordon’s Wine Bar

    Gordon’s Wine Bar opened in 1890 and is thought to be the oldest wine bar in London. Just like the contents of many of the bottles within its cellars, the family-owned bar has only got better with age. It wears its years with pride, curling newspaper cuttings of royal engagements and local events plastered onto curved walls in the vaults of an old Georgian house where Rudyard Kipling once lived. Candlelit and low-ceilinged, what Gordon’s lacks in space it more than makes up for with old-timer charm and romance. There are staircases that only accommodate one person at a time, arches you have to duck under and steps that must be concentrated on (especially after a couple of glasses), but nobody complains. On the contrary, many have tried hard to recreate this kind of atmosphere, borrowing details like the disused wine barrels and oak casks, rows of dusty bottles and blackboard menus. But Gordon’s calling card is its authenticity: the crooked photo frames, paper snippets and peeling pictures were all collected by or gifted to Luis Gordon, the character who took over the bar in 1972. As an ex-rear gunner in the RAF he amassed all manner of memorabilia, and a model Spitfire hung from the ceiling until it landed with a dusty thud onto a customer’s table. You can expect slightly improved health and safety these days, but the fundamentals haven’t changed – and thank goodness.

    DRINKS

    The drinks menu is long, but don’t try to order anything other than wine, port or sherry (they simply don’t serve it). It’s a great place to admit you know nothing whatsoever about the grape, because the bar staff know it all for you. They’ll even let you taste first, and they rarely get it wrong. Glasses are filled to the brim (making those stairs ever more challenging) and prices are incredibly good value: a gorgeous Viognier is £6.35, a fruity South African Pinotage £6.25 and the bar’s own-label house white is just £5.50.

    BAR SNACKS

    Order a cheese platter with your first round, or you’ll spend the rest of the evening wistfully watching everyone else slip into a dairy-induced coma. Many of the cheeses are sourced from the UK (Dambuster cheddar from Lincolnshire, smoky goat’s cheese from Wales) and are served with bread, butter and pickles. The Comté and Manchego are also perfect. Staff can recommend wine pairings, but no one will judge you if you simply order what you like.


    THE VERDICT

    There aren’t many places in London people are happy to stand outside even in winter – but here you’ll find huddles of loyal customers around the barrels on Watergate Walk (the outdoor overspill area), come rain or shine. By Anna Prendergast

    Address: Gordon’s Wine Bar, 47 Villiers St, London WC2N 6NE


    Telephone: +44 20 7930 1408


    Website: gordonswinebar.com

  • The 28 best wine bars in London

    THE DROP

    The Hart brothers are no strangers to some of the best restaurants in London. Their restaurant stable boasts Barrafina – the cult tapas chain that set off the capital’s no-bookings craze and then won a Michelin-star; cosy Soho members club Quo Vadis; and Borough Market restaurant El Pastor. And now they’re dominating Coal Drops Yard – the latest tranche of King’s Cross’s radical revitalisation – with not only two new restaurants, but a wine bar as well. The Drop, so called after both the bar’s location and the measure of wine, cleverly replicates a cosy French wine cellar; a cavernous space beneath three Victorian arches, with a terracotta floor, bare brick walls curving up to bare brick ceilings and row upon row of bottles on display. It’s small but doesn’t feel cramped; groups of friends and couples on dates gather around a communal, rickety wooden table in the centre or in candle-lit corners, but the best seats in the house are up at the bar counter. There’s no pomp and pretension about the place, no wine bible or a white-gloved sommelier, just a refreshingly simple menu and young, friendly staff.

    DRINKS

    There’s only one thing to order here: wine. The list is curated by Aimee Hartley, journalist turned wine expert on a mission to make the drink more accessible (take the wine and R&B night she founded, Genuwine). On the menu are around 20 reds and 20 whites (including a couple of bag in the box options), plus a handful of rosé, orange and fortified wines. The chances are you won’t recognise many names on the list; the brothers have chosen to focus on young, independent producers championing low-intervention production, many of whom they’ve met and forged friendships with on their travels. Their very own citrusy, crisp Albariño is a great place to start but treat this as an opportunity to try something new. Many wines come by the glass or carafe, so it’s easy to be adventurous.

    FOOD

    The kitchen is tiny (with just two induction rings and an oven), but chef Karan Ghosh(formerly of Thomas’s Café at Burberry) produces an impressive British menu. Ingredients are hearty; for a proper supper, order the guinea fowl and girolle pie, velvety chicken liver pâté or a slab of dense pork pie, or just graze on a few small plates -radishes are served with whipped butter and smoky aniseed salt, and gooey rarebit is a great accompaniment to sharing plates of meat and cheese. And it’s easy to spot The Drop by its retro wooden oyster cart parked up outside, where native, rock and cherrystone clams are shucked and served.

    VERDICT

    Another sure-fire hit from the Hart brothers – and a relaxed, cutesy spot to come and celebrate the next generation of wine-makers.


    By Teddy Wolstenholme

    Address: The Drop, Unit 22-24, Bagley Walk Arches, Coal Drops Yard, London N1C


    4DH


    Website: thedropwinebar.co.uk

    PRIMEUR

    On a very residential street in Islington, this neighbourhood secret makes the most of its unusual space – a former car garage – with clever statement lighting and sharing tables. See the Instagram page for a blackboard menu that changes every day and includes European-leaning plates and low-intervention wines, all of which come by the glass, carafe or bottle.

    Address: Primeur, 116 Petherton Road, N5 2RT


    Telephone: +44 207 226 5271


    Website: primeurn5.co.uk

  • The 28 best wine bars in London

    HUMBLE GRAPE

    Thanks to its guiding principle of buying mostly organic, biodynamic and sustainable wines direct from growers, Humble Grape has grown to be a proud mini-chain of five. The Barnsbury branch has a bright, casually stylish interior and a changing list of 400 bottles (including a monthly themed flight of four 50ml tasters).

    Address: Humble Grape, 11-13 Theberton Street, The Angel, N1 0QY


    Telephone: +44 20 3904 4480


    Website: humblegrape.co.uk

  • The 28 best wine bars in London

    AUTHENTIQUE

    This pleasant spot’s French owners bring the best of their homeland to this quaint little Tufnell Park wine bar and deli – namely, 650 wines by the bottle (plus a section on Francophone wines, which includes Algeria, Luxembourg and Lebanon). Look out for the monthly events focused on the wines of a particular region, which come paired with food from changing resident chefs.

    THE MOUNTGROVE BOTHY

    Personal service from the passionate owners and a focus on rare wines served by the glass make this a dinky local bar worth shouting about. No need to take the Tube to central London when you could be sipping the likes of an orange Liquid Skin Chenin Blanc by bold South African winemakers Mother Rock and snacking on specially imported cheese.

    Address: The Mountgrove Bothy, 90 Mountgrove Road, N5 2LT


    Telephone: +44 7591 206378


    Website: themountgrovebothy.com

  • The 28 best wine bars in London

    LAUGHING HEART

    There’s plenty to be cheerful about at this late-opening Hackney spot. The creative cooking here streaks way ahead of the typical cheese-and-meat boards (a tasting menu might include offal pancake or pumpkin tortelli with whey and raisins), and the organic wines come from small-scale farmers. Factor in the famed jolliness of the atmosphere and you’ve got a wine bar that beats many restaurants at their own game.

  • The 28 best wine bars in London

    WEINO BIB

    The initials in the name stand for ‘bag in box’ – yes, those much-mocked Eighties plonk-dispensers have the Dalston seal of approval, where this low-key bar sells it with pride. It’s no nostalgia gimmick, though: the proprietor points to the environmental benefits of this kind of packaging (an 80 per cent lower carbon footprint, apparently), and the low-impact, organic wines tick the green box too. Take away a box for your own fridge, or drink in with some simple deli dishes.

    Address: Weino BIB, 39 Balls Pond Road, N1 4BW


    Telephone: +44 20 7254 6123


    Website: weinobib.co.uk

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  • The 28 best wine bars in London

    P FRANCO

    A wine bar done the east London way – it’s super-trendy and super-casual (it still bears the name of the previous occupants of the building above the door) and a whole load of fun. It’s also tiny – no more than a few stools surrounded by shelves of takeaway bottles, although the food turned out on hotplates by guest chefs manages to be memorable.

    Address: P Franco, 107 Lower Clapton Road, E5 0NP


    Telephone: 20 8533 4660


    Website: pfranco.co.uk

  • The 28 best wine bars in London

    SAGER + WILDE

    Hackney cool and loads of interesting wines you probably won’t have heard of – that’s the order of the day at this pretension-free bar. The classic plates – superior olives, Neal’s Yard Dairy cheese, say, or tomato bruschetta – are unobtrusive partners for the particularly well chosen bottles. Just trust their judgement and you’ll be in for a treat.

  • The 28 best wine bars in London

    RENEGADE

    Since 2016, a railway arch in the East End has been the site of a radical London drinking experience: an urban winery. They buy grapes from all over Europeand, free from the ties of tradition, make them into unique wines such as Bethnal Bubbles, a dry-hopped English sparkler, or Ebony, a wild-fermented Rioja alta. The cosy on-site bar is the best place to experience the innovation for yourself.

    NEWCOMER WINES

    From the heart of Europe to the heart of Dalston, this friendly bar and shop imports a huge number of small-scale wines from under-the-radar Austrian producers, as well as a few from their neighbours in France and Germany. The clean-lined Scandi space fills with animated buzz in the evenings, and there’s a good-to-know-about outdoor space at the back.

    Address: Newcomer Wines, 5 Dalston Lane, E8 3DF


    Telephone: + 44 20 7249 2177


    Website: newcomerwines.com

  • The 28 best wine bars in London

    UNWINED IN TOOTING

    Ignore the rather awkward pun in the name – this is just about the most down-to-earth and relaxed wine bar you’ll find in London. It’s right at home in the old Tooting indoor market, where its knowledgeable but approachable staff pour offbeat wines with quirky themed tastings (‘Shine Like a Star’, say), and rotating resident chefs make proper restaurant food.

    Address: Unwined in Tooting, Unit 16A, Tooting Market, 21-23 Tooting High St, Tooting, London SW17 0SN


    Telephone: +44 20 3583 9136


    Website: unwinedbars.co.uk

  • The 28 best wine bars in London

    DIOGENES THE DOG

    The name comes from that of a Greek philosopher known for his inquiring mind; it refers to this Elephant & Castle bar’s attitude towards seeking out and serving lesser-seen grape varieties and styles. Poland, the Czech Republic, Texas, China – all these unusual regions and more get a look-in, but the esoteric approach is tempered by the informal attitude of the staff.

    Address: Diogenes the Dog, 96 Rodney Road, SE17 1BG


    Telephone: +44 20 7703 5570


    Website: diogenesthedog.co.uk

  • The 28 best wine bars in London

    BAR DOURO

    The wineries along Portugal’s huge Douro river are most famous for producing grapes for port, but there’s much more than fortified grapes being poured at this azelujo-tiled room in a Southwark railway arch. The all-Portuguese list takes in the length and breadth of this sometimes undervalued producing country, with many rare bottles. Bar Douro also happens to be an excellent ambassador for Iberian food too.

    Address: Bar Douro, Arch 35B, 85B Southwark Bridge Road, SE1 0NQ


    Telephone: +44 2073780524


    Website: bardouro.co.uk

    WINEMAKERS CLUB

    Proof that the natural-wine trend is invading every inch of London, this small shop and importer (with an original venue in Farringdon) is now serving organic and biodynamic expressions in deepest Deptford. In a comfortingly rustic room, chatty staff introduce locals to wines that might include orange wines from Slovenia, sparkling reds from Austria and 10-grape blends from Alsace.

    Address: Winemakers Club, 209 Deptford High Street, SE8 3NT


    Telephone: +44 20 8305 6852


    Website: thewinemakersclub.co.uk

    40 MALTBY STREET

    Opening early in the 2010s, this barebones operation was one of the first of a wave of London eateries to pair conversation-starting natural and organic wines with punchy and uncomplicated plates, all served in a no-frills space (the premises of wine importer Gergovie). A trailblazer then – and very much the leader of the pack today.

    WINE ROOMS

    The menu here is something you could easily get lost in – long, with dozens of wines by the glass, sorted into helpful categories like ‘Juicy & Bright’ or ‘Aromatic & Dry’. They’re all kept fresh by the banks of Enomatic wine-preservation machines that line the wall of this classy Kensington bar. Everything on the food menu comes with a suggestion for a matching wine.

    Address: Wine Rooms, 127-129 Kensington Church St, W8 7LP


    Website: winerooms.london

  • The 28 best wine bars in London

    VINOTECA

    Depending on how you look at it, Vinoteca is either a great restaurant with a superb wine list or a superb wine bar that just happens to do great food. Either way, this Chiswick branch (there are a few Vinotecas around London) is ideal for so many occasions, from a quick glass of wine and some olives to a celebration made more special by some rare wines. Because it’s a shop too, the bottle markups are transparent and decent.

    ALBERTINE

    In a city where restaurants start up and close down every day, here’s one with heritage. It was opened by the mother of the current owner – well-known chef Allegra McEvedy – in 1978, and now her daughter runs it as a wine-led haven just off the Shepherd’s Bush gyratory. There’s a modern European restaurant upstairs and a bar downstairs that blends Seventiess Francophile tradition with eclectic contemporary grape flair.

    Address: Albertine, 1 Wood Lane, W12


    Telephone: +44 20 8743 9593


    Website: albertine.london

  • The 28 best wine bars in London

    VAGABOND

    The seven outposts of this indie group follow the same winning format as this, the original – loads of wine by the glass (100 in this case), kept in tip-top condition by Enomatics, drinkable in small volumes and accessed via a pre-loaded card. The new Battersea branch houses a winery too.

  • The 28 best wine bars in London

    NOBLE ROT

    A contender for the most romantic wine bar in London, Noble Rot has a plum position on the adorably Dickensian Lamb’s Conduit Street in Bloomsbury and a rickety, lived-in feel to go with it. Beautiful cooking, horizon-expanding wines and a jovial atmosphere (plus the fact it’s the birthplace of the iconoclastic wine magazine of the same name) make this a place to return to again and again.

    Address: Noble Rot, 51 Lamb’s Conduit Street, WC1N 3NB


    Telephone: +44 207 242 8963


    Website: noblerot.co.uk

    TERROIRS

    Back when small plates and natural wines were eccentric rather than accepted menu items, Terroirs was doing both without fuss or pomposity. Since 2009, this tucked-away Covent Garden bar has been serving up its own take on classic French bistro food (the charcuterie is notably good) and also has a connoisseur’s list that has sections for ‘Amber’ and ‘Oxidative’ among all the intriguing whites, reds, rosés and bubbles.

  • The 28 best wine bars in London

    10 GREEK STREET

    In the ever-changing Soho dining scene, one place has defined what it means to have a good night out in this area – 10 Greek Street, whose no-nonsense approach to its name continues on the blackboard menu (ingredient-led, bold and gutsy) and the short-but-stimulating wine list (apparently there’s a handwritten list of rare bottles – all you have to do to see it is ask). A classic in the making.

    Address: 10 Greek Street, W1D 4DH


    Telephone: +44 20 7734 4677


    Website: 10greekstreet.com

  • The 28 best wine bars in London

    67 PALL MALL

    A club for people who have no qualms about calling themselves oenophiles, 67 Pall Mall is as serious about wine as it’s possible to get. It’s set in swish St James’s lodgings and members get an iPad menu to browse through the 4,000 bottles from 42 countries, including 800 available by the glass – the biggest selection in the world, the club claims. Get chummy with a member to visit, or stop by one of the non-members’ educational events. It’s how the other half quaffs.

    Address: 67 Pall Mall, SW1Y 5ES


    Telephone: +44 20 3000 6767


    Website: 67pallmall.com

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