The best wine bars in London
Chances are that when you think of wine bars, you think of French-style bistros, clad in wood and filled with cute little tables à deux. Take a trip to The 10 Cases to have your dreams fulfilled. There are 20-ish wines on the list each day, available by glass, carafe or bottle. Devour food from a modern European menu or head to the shop, where an enomatic machine keeps samples fresh. They’ve even developed Drop, a wine delivery app that brings the 10 Cases experience direct to your door.
There are three 28-50 wine bars to choose from around town, each pouring from a menu of around 15 different reds and 15 different whites. Work your way through the list if you like, with 75ml serves on offer. The list was put together by sommelier extraordinaire Xavier Rousset (who moved on from 28-50 in 2015). The Marylebone branch is a chic choice, with a gleaming island bar in the middle, light bouncing from glasses hanging above.
You can slurp wine in an art gallery (you sophisticated bastard), at the evening operation of the Whitechapel Gallery, from the team who brought you 10 Greek Street and 8 Hoxton Square. The list is arranged from light to heavy for ease of access, so you won’t embarrass yourself in front of a cool, arty crowd if you’re lacking wine know-how. Time your visit carefully, though; After Hours is open until 11pm, but only on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
This wine bar has been a Shepherd’s Bush institution for long enough to have inspired the setting for ‘EastEnders’: you know, Albert Square. It’s a charming, rustic space filled with locals young and old, and staff guide you through a selection of around 20 wines – predominantly Old World – by the glass. Pair with Parma ham and cheese for proper Continental vibes.
It’s a super-chic space for quaffing wine in the middle of Neal’s Yard. But you wouldn’t expect any less from the Parisian team who brought you Chinatown’s Experimental Cocktail Club. Cosy up on a plump-cushioned sofa and work through champagne, small plates and beaucoup fromage. It’s a pricey place, so save it for special date nights. The romantic setting should just about justify the price tag.
Furanxo doubles as a Spanish grocery store (or an abacería, to those acquainted with the concept), so you can pick up a tin of sardines before tucking into natural wine. They’re all very interesting tipples, sourced from across the Iberian Peninsula, with just four available at any given time by the glass. There’s not much room for sitting and sipping, so get up close and personal with other punters, as is the Spanish way.
There are 200 varieties by the bottle at the Fleet Street branch of Humble Grape. They’re easy enough to get your head around, though, thanks to an insightful menu serving up advice like ‘virtually unpronounceable, completely unforgettable’. Booze for your buck is strong here, with a flight of four wines costing £13 in total. Or visit on Mondays, when bottles are sold without the mark-up.
Wine shop down below, stunning restaurant and wine bar up above, The Laughing Heart has a wine list that begins with a Keats poem, such is its beauty. Wines are sourced from lesser-known vineyards, are all organic and are all fantastic. Small plates are adventurous and pair perfectly with these drops from around the world. Don’t be surprised to hear wine buffs chatting tannins and such all around the room.
This place’s name is wine-lovers’ slang for the streaks you get on the inside of your wine glass. But don’t expect this Hackney bar-restaurant to be packed with uptight wine snobs. It’s a cool, young crowd to match the punky staff, and they pore over bold, experimental dishes as well as wine from small producers across many up-and-coming growing regions.
If you’re bothered about wine, get along to this ‘bothy’. The Highbury wine bar is named after the huts Scots take shelter in when roaming around the Highlands, but the shelter you get at this bar is on a whole new level. Choose from peppy orange wine from New Zealand or reds from Slovenia, as well as more pedestrian choices from Tuscany and La Rioja. Or indulge in a bargain deal of a carafe of house red with a cheese plate for £20.
Natural wine is the name of the game at Naughty Piglets, so expect some very distinct flavours in your glass, selected expertly by French owner Margaux Aubry Sharratt. The wines – around 200 to choose from, and from small producers – are excellent for washing down steamed mussels and other classic French dishes, but interesting enough to swill around the mouth all on their own.
The rear restaurant at Noble Rot gets a lot of deserved praise. But the wine bar at the front of the room is a character-filled hangout with covers of the eponymous Noble Rot magazine framed on the walls. The full wine list is an epic tome, but the options by the glass are a joy to read, with wines from Burgundy and the Jura met with more distinctive grapes sourced from lesser-celebrated regions. Anyone for a tipple from Tenerife?
It’s time for a bit of skin contact at The Remedy, where orange wines are given a full page of the wine menu. You’ll also discover some harder to reach grapes, with many wines at the higher end of the minerality scale. It’s a small little space with a few cute alcoves if you’re looking to cosy up over your Côtes du Rhône. Sure to cure whatever ails you.
This wine bar was a bit of a game-changer when it first opened in 2013, and it’s still just as trendy a hangout on the Hackney Road. It broke down the barriers to hard-to-find wines by selling them by the glass without restaurant mark-ups. So sit up at a bar made from pavement lights and let attractive staff fill your glass with wines you’ll never be able to pronounce. Don’t miss their cheese toasties, either.
Terroirs is just by Trafalgar Square and the way it serves wine is as iconic as Nelson’s Column. The wines on the list are typically low intervention or natural wines and predominantly French, but you’ll also find bold reds, whites and rosés from Austria, the US and even Slovenia. A French bistro-style menu is not to be missed. Prices can creep up quickly, but visit at lunchtime for a plat du jour and glass of wine for just £10.
Rustic and ramshackle, Unwined sits inside Tooting Broadway Market and takes the ceremony out of chardonnay. Enjoy wine tastings or head along for a glass or two of the good stuff from a selection of bottles to fit a different theme each month. Pop-ups take up residency in the kitchen from Thursday to Sunday so you can scoff while you quaff – that way you won’t leave in an equally ramshackle state.
The wine chain stands tall with five branches. The licence is such that you’ll have to buy food to go with your wine at one or two of their outlets, but you can plump for just the plonk at King’s Cross’ Vinoteca. There’s also an outdoor terrace here where you can spy on stressed out commuters and feel awfully smug about what’s going on in your glass. There are 200-odd varieties to select from, but you can dive straight in on a list of staff picks.
Bag-in-box wine is made trendy at this wine-bar-meets-deli in Dalston – not only does it prove the point that you can get a fresher tipple by the glass, but this bar is also doing its bit for the environment (and for your wallet). Grab an orange, canteen-chic seat and choose a wine from the blackboard. Or ask genial staff for tasters (easier than ever) and guidance – they sure know their stuff. In fact, you could say they’re box clever.
Primarily a deli and wine shop, Yield also delivers as a cosy and down-to-earth hangout for the wine lovers of Newington Green and nearby. Explore the lesser-trodden vineyards of France, Spain and Portugal and indulge in cheese from Neal’s Yards Dairy and bruschetta from E5 Bakehouse on the side. They serve wine by the glass or go the whole hog with a bottle from the shop – corkage costs £7.