With names like the Mug House, and the City Flogger, Davy’s branches might have been named by a second-string Victorian novelist. They look the part too: many basement venues have dark alcoves filled by men in suits, old prints on the wall and sawdust on the floor.
Most of the 35 outlets are in central London. Under James Davy, the fifth generation of the vintner family, there’s an effort to shift towards something lighter and more contemporary in feel; the estate has even elevated itself, and is now 40% above ground level. Food is by and large solid and traditional.
Davy’s at Plantation Place (off Mincing Lane, EC3) is one of the new generation of bar-restaurants, with no sawdust in sight. Catering to the demands of the City trade, this branch is also open for breakfast. The menu nods towards Mediterranean flavours; you can eat bangers and mash, but there’s also the likes of pesto lamb brochette served with wild rice.
The same basic list is available at all Davy’s outlets, with most wines also sold by the glass. As you’d expect, classic regions of the Old World predominate. Pricing is keen, especially towards the high end (at £65 Jean-Noël Gagnard’s Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru ‘Caillerets’ 2003 is barely above retail), but we tend to gravitate towards something fortified. Davy’s Finest Manzanilla is delicious and a snip at £1.85 for a 50ml glass.