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Tim Atkin

The Wine-List Inspector

Going, going, glugged: the London auction house that knows its wine

Tim Atkin | September/October 2015

If you can judge a restaurant by the company it keeps, Bonhams in Mayfair is as stylish as it gets. Before settling down in the dining room, you can browse at Ralph Lauren, Louis Vuitton and Graff Diamonds before having a look at the pictures that are coming up for auction.

If this isn’t your natural habitat, it’s worth a detour just to eat Tom Kemble’s food, which subjects English ingredients such as Cornish turbot and saddleback pork to the Scandinavian flair that rubbed off on him at Faviken in Sweden. And there’s another, equally enticing reason to come: the wine, selected by the head of Bonhams’ wine department (and Master of Wine), Richard Harvey, and his talented sommelier, Charlotte Edgecombe. It’s a long time since I’ve been to a restaurant with such a palate-watering list.

The 150 bins here are drawn from two sources: British merchants and Bonhams’ own auctions. In case this smacks of an inside job, it’s particularly well-priced and features older bottles from Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhône. Where else in London can you drink 1990 Château Pontet-Canet for £130, or 1995 Château de Beaucastel for £95?

Traditional European wine areas are not the only strength. There are good line-ups from Germany, Italy, Spain and America, as well as bits and pieces from Hungary, New Zealand, Australia, Austria and regional France. You can bring your own, and pay £20 corkage, but you’d be missing out on the cosmopolitan list of wines by the glass, which we plundered with delight. A slow-cooked duck-egg starter was well matched by the broad, spicy 2012 Côtes de Tablas Blanc, Paso Robles (£11.50 by the glass, £52 by the bottle), while the courgette flowers went deliciously with the smoky, saline 2010 Le Soula, Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes (£12/£53).

With our mains – turbot and lamb neck – we chose two reds: the refreshing, savoury 2012 Castello di Luzzano Vena Rossa Gutturnio, (£7.50/£33) and the bolder, denser, sun-kissed 2011 Alvaro Palacios Les Terrasses Velles Vinyes Priorat (£13/£56). Both of them also worked well with the cheese platter.

We saved the best match for last, thanks to Charlotte Edgecombe. To end a memorable meal, an exceptional chocolate sabayon tart was served with a smaller (70ml) glass of figgy, balsamic NV Les Vignerons de Maury 1928 Solera Cask 908 (£6), a fortified wine that’s somewhere between a Tawny Port and a Vin Santo. It’s a shame that, other than a Thursday-evening “supper club”, the restaurant is open only for weekday breakfasts and lunch – but I suspect it won’t be long before that changes.

Bonhams.com; around £40pp for three courses

 

Where else to go and what to drink


The Wallace
An organic-focused list, in the Wallace Collection courtyard.

Best white: 2011 Toques et Clochers Chardonnay, Sieur d’Arques, Limoux One of the best non-Burgundian French Chardonnays, this barrel-fermented white is creamy, toasty and focused, with attractively honeyed, bottle-matured flavours. £8.50/£35
Best red: 2012 Domaine Roc des Anges, Segna de Cor, Côtes du Roussillon A blend of Grenache, Carignan and Syrah that’s robust and mildly meaty, with plush textures of black cherry, blackberry and wild Mediterranean herbs. £38
peytonandbyrne.co.uk/the-wallace-restaurant; around £34pp


Tate Modern
Suitably tasteful modern bistro with a front-row view of St Paul’s.

Best white: 2014 A.A. Badenhorst, Secateurs White, Swartland This old-vine, unirrigated Chenin Blanc is one of South Africa’s best-value whites. Ripe, textured and exotic, with notes of pear and stone fruit and a touch of oak. £4.50/£26
Best red: 2013 Domaine Thymiopoulos, Jeunes Vignes de Xinomavro, Naoussa Xinomavro can be a little firm at times – you need food to soften its rough edges – but this young-vine example is juicy, plummy and refreshing, with plenty of berry fruit, a sweet core and just a nip of tannins. £4.90/£28
tate.org.uk; around £36pp

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