I found my friend deep in conversation with one of the staff when I walked into Diogenes the Dog – an Elephant & Castle wine bar with a poncey name it doesn’t deserve – so deep, in fact, that I assumed they were friends from another place and time. They’d actually only just met, but this exchange seemed symbolic of the kind of service we received all evening and which ended with a firm handshake at the door (that may sound transactional, but it genuinely made me smile).
Better still was the fact that our waiter backed up this likeable style with formidable wine recommendations that didn’t feel rehearsed. The bar comes from Sunny Hodge, a former restaurant manager who’s made sure almost all the team are sommeliers by trade. He’s also buying direct from vineyards to champion lesser-known producers from emerging regions while keeping costs low for punters. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not talking bargain bin – the cheapest glass was a £6 riesling from Croatia. But these were all very unique drops, particularly an orange pinot gris from the Czech Republic and a surprisingly light-bodied French malbec.
It’s refreshing to find a hip wine bar that’s not hellbent on pouring solely natural wine, but that’s not staid in its choices either. Bar snacks followed a similar vibe, from pickles and burrata to a ‘boozy cheeseboard’. And yes, the bar is hip, set on a sleepy Walworth street, and with plants and a green paint job creating a natural, low-key look.
As for that name, it may make sense – the philosopher was known for doing things a little differently. But after that service, I prefer to think of here as Sunny by name, sunny by nature.