Looking for the best London wine bars? The last few years have seen London’s wine scene blossom, with a crop of acclaimed bars opening across the city. Here’s a little taster of what to expect, from vermuterias in King’s Cross to Italian wine bars in Shoreditch and a wealth of friendly local outfits with meticulously curated wine lists.
Best wine bars in London
Noble Rot, Holborn
Noble Rot is unique in that it started out as a cult wine and food magazine, which then grew into a wine bar and restaurant in Lamb’s Conduit Street. Since it opened three years ago, it has won numerous awards (earlier this year it was the only UK winner in the World Restaurant Awards) for its wine but also its food, which is overseen by head chef Paul Weaver and consultant chef Stephen Harris (of the acclaimed Sportsman in Whitstable) who backed owners Dan Keeling and Mark Andrew.
The self-styled ‘Franglaise’ menu includes beef bourguignon with kale and mash; and braised turbot with fennel and saffron velouté, which can be matched with wines ranging in price from a £22 bottle of Portuguese vinho verde to a 1990 bottle of red burgundy at £4,500.
The Nook Deli & Wine Bar, Highbury
This cosy venue on St Paul’s Road in Highbury delivers quietly impressive small plates and a vibrant wine list in intimate, friendly surroundings spread over two compact floors. It’s a joint effort from husband-and-wife team Angus and Lale Oztek-Pook, who both worked at the likes of The Mash Inn and Arthur Hooper’s before opening their own place.
The wine list – Angus’s baby – is ever-changing and skips from exciting English wineries such as Renegade and Tillingham to wines from Austria, Turkey and Hungary, plus plenty in between, with a focus on organic, minimum intervention and biodynamic bottles. Highlights for us include Weninger Rozsa Petsovits, a deliciously funky Hungarian rosé, and La Fea Tambe, a tangy, floral orange wine. The petite cocktail list also impresses: try a lemony, herbaceous martini made with mastiha liqueur.
The food is Lale’s domain and seriously impresses, with masses of precise, vibrant flavours. Described as European with a Turkish twist, the menu, like the wine list, skips gaily across the continent. Try super-sized, golden, crisp pork schnitzel with fruity plum sauce; impeccably crisp, dainty seasonal salads; pillowy burrata with an umami garland of samphire, chilli and almonds; and hummus punchily spiked with naga chilli oil. Even the sides deliver, such as properly crispy potatoes with dips of piquant walnut ketchup and a ferocious yet moreish hot sauce made with Carolina Reaper chillies. Leave room for dessert: hazelnut parfait with miso caramel and cocoa nibs was as exactly as good as it sounds.
There’s also a chance to do some shopping before you leave, thanks to the restaurant’s little deli and small selection of records from indie labels.
Passione Vino, Shoreditch
Wine importers Luca Dusi and Federico Bruschetta have run this Shoreditch shop since 2013, supplying Italian wines from 75 different producers to top restaurants including Hélène Darroze at The Connaught and The River Café. Behind the shop itself is a ‘secret bar’ which also spills downstairs to the basement with small tables which can be booked. There’s no wine list or menu as customers are encouraged to discuss their tastes so the team can recommend something just a little out of their comfort zone.
P Franco, Clapton
P Franco opened on the site of a former Chinese takeaway in Clapton in 2014. Owners Liam Kelleher and James Noble are also directors of Noble Fine Liquor, a company which has retail-only shop on Broadway Market. Initially, P Franco was a simple takeaway shop that offered a small selection of hams and cheeses, although you could have a few glasses of wine while selecting a bottle.
The venue always had a lot of chefs and wine people visit, and over time it grew with resident chefs cooking down one end of the table, and there are no reservations, with walk-ins only. Anyone who cooks at P Franco has only two induction hobs to work with and they do six-month residencies with the seasonal menu changing daily. Residencies have included George Tomlin of The Clove Club and ex-Rochelle Canteen chef Anna Tobias.
Top Cuvée, Highbury
This friendly, understated neighbourhood wine bar and restaurant on Blackstock Road is a relaxed affair but there’s some serious drinks talent behind it, from owner Brodie Meah (ex-Heston Blumenthal drinks expert) to business partners Max and Noel Venning, owners of acclaimed cocktail bar Three Sheets in Dalston.
Their wine list changes regularly but focusses on interesting low-intervention bottles, with mostly light reds and textured whites on offer. The menu lists only a few options by the glass but this is deceptive – staff are happy to let you try most wines, depending on what’s open. Winners on our visit included Lucy M 3 Colours Red: a juicy, gluggable red made, unusually, with pinot noir and two white wine grapes – pinot gris and sauvignon blanc.
Another hit, Podere Pradarolo Vej 210, was a lovely malvasia with bold stone fruit notes. They also have a cocktail list courtesy of Three Sheets, featuring an elegantly tropical take on a G&T as well as a deliciously tannic margarita made with an orange wine reduction. Drinks are accompanied by an affordable, seasonal small-plates menu – try the likes of beef dripping potatoes with aïoli, charred leeks and smoked cream, and Blythburgh pork chop with burnt apple purée.
Do check out their online shop – Shop Cuvée – launched in 2020 to roaring success – for everything from natural subscriptions to superlative bottled cocktails.
The 10 Cases, Covent Garden
The name stems from the fact that this buzzy little Covent Garden bar and bistro only ever buys 10 cases of the wines on the concise list in a quest to offer customers new experiences each time they visit. It was opened in 2011 by Ian Campbell and Will Palmer, who were bored of overpriced wine lists that never changed.
Will says: “I think part of the success of 10 Cases is the constantly changing wine list and having more than 300 wines with very small cash mark-ups and small corkage charges. I think the ability to be able to drink really good and interesting wine in an unpretentious setting strikes a chord with many people.”
40 Maltby Street, Bermondsey
Located under the railway arches where the weekly Maltby Street food market takes place, this bar is owned by nearby Gergovie Wines, an importer of natural wines free from pesticides and fertilisers. The wines from the shop can be enjoyed in the bar with seasonal dishes such as crab quiche and lamb sweetbreads with creamed broad beans.
Sager + Wilde, Hackney
With its many wines by-the-glass, its adventurousness (bottles from the Balkans and beyond), and its legendary cheese toasties, this East End venue was the first of the Capital’s new-wave wine bars, and it’s still one of our favourites.
Quality Wines, Clerkenwell
Part of the neighbouring Quality Chop House restaurant, Quality Wines is run by wine expert Gus Gluck and chef Nick Bramham. By day a deli and wine shop, it morphs into Quality Wines from 4pm with 20 seats, a vintage record player and Nick cooking delicious dishes such as slow-braised squid and Roman-style braised globe artichokes.
There are around 200 bins at any one time and, since it opened in June 2018, almost 2,000 different wines have graced the shelves. Gus says: “We try to keep things interesting and ever-changing, with around 18 wines by the glass. Many of our customers end up talking to each other and sharing wine – that is a particular source of pride.”
Peckham Cellars, Peckham
Elegant floor-to-ceiling Crittal windows frame this breezy, laidback wine bar on Queen’s Road in Peckham. Start with a glass of lemony Gusbourne fizz from Kent before delving into a wine list defined by sustainably minded, small-scale producers, with plenty of affordable options by the glass. We try another Kentish stunner – Westwell’s Ortega Amphora 2019, fermented in terracotta jars – with fragrant apricot and honey suckle notes before moving onto summery, cherry-tinged chilled gamay, available on tap at the bar.
A quietly industrious open kitchen, led by chef Henry Freestone – garlanded with a Bib Gourmand in 2020 – amiably sends out plates of unfussy yet deceptively indulgent food. Highlights include springy sourdough with whipped lemon and rosemary butter, porchetta layered with crispy, salty shards of crackling and filo-wrapped asparagus with a soft-boiled duck egg for dipping. Save space for pudding – a decadent lemon meringue pie sundae is the childhood dessert of dreams.
Vermuteria, King’s Cross
Vermuteria opened at Coal Drops Yard, King’s Cross, in October 2018 and it’s the first café and bar created by chef Anthony Demetre and designer Michael Sodeau. As well as charcuterie and dishes combining European and British influences (think rabbit in mustard sauce, potato and kale; Galician octopus and chickpeas; or venison ragu and gnocchi), there are more than 70 vermouths on the list. The vermouth takes centre stage in the form of simple aperitifs and a base for cocktails such as the sbagliato (Cinzano Rosso, Campari and prosecco).
The Winemakers Club, Holborn
A shop and wine bar in the Victorian arches beneath the Holborn Viaduct, the site of this bar was a wine cellar for more than 150 years, including a spell as the Oddbins’ fine wine store. The bar offers wines from small organic and biodynamic producers from around the world, all them working with the same philosophy of focussing on the region and the grape varietal, and not using chemicals.
The short weekly-changing seasonal menu includes root vegetables with farro and yogurt, and pigeon, bread sauce and hazelnuts.
Elliot’s, Borough Market
Since opening in 2011 in the buzzing surroundings of Borough Market, Elliot’s has focussed on working with small-scale producers for both its drinks and produce, much of it sourced from the market itself. The bar adopted an all-natural or low-intervention wine list early on and has worked with Master of Wine Isabelle Legeron on its wine list.
All the wine producers share the same mindful approach to wine-making as chef-owner Brett Redman does to cooking simple dishes such as grilled sweet and sour squash with chicory and Tunworth cheese, or cauliflower caponata and flaked almonds. Elliot’s also makes its own soft drinks and seasonal infused spirits.
Terroirs, East Dulwich
A veteran of London’s wine bar ‘new wave’, the original Terroirs opened close to Trafalgar Square in 2008 and it has since been joined by a second restaurant in East Dulwich. Both sites offer the same range of natural wines, including amber (or ‘skin-macerated’ whites) and ‘oxidative’ wines – exposed to oxygen during the wine-making process to enhance their flavours. The wines are global but the food is more European: expect duck confit, quince, ginger and pangrattato, perhaps followed by halibut, kohlrabi, mussels and seaweed butter.
The Cellar, King’s Cross
Those hankering after a glass or two of natural wine before they catch their train at King’s Cross should head to this wine bar on Pentonville Road near the station. Inside, stripped-back interiors with rustic wooden floors and furniture, exposed brick and original Victorian tiling makes for a calm retreat from the busy road outside. It’s the second opening from friends Mike White and Michael O’Sullivan, who opened their first venue in Stow-on-the-Wold in the Cotswolds in 2020.
Low-intervention, sustainably produced bottles are the name of the game here, and the drinks list has plenty of well-priced options by the glass. Wines are winningly accessible: highlights include Finca Casa Balaguer Tragolargo Blanco, an orange wine fragrant with exotic fruit and citrus notes; Gran Cerdo tempranillo with lush brambly fruits and spice; and Free Run Juice’s Samurai Chardonnay, delightfully fresh and appley.
In keeping with the casual vibe of The Cellar, food comes in the form of generous charcuterie and cheese plates showcasing British cured meats, curds and breads from the likes of Saltpig Curing, Neal’s Yard Dairy and The Bread Station.
Le Bar a Vin, Blackheath
Parisian Jean-Philippe Tessier has created his own corner of France in this Blackheath wine bar, where cheese and meat platters are served alongside Gallic classics such as quiche lorraine, chicken chasseur and duck leg confit. What was once a neighbourhood Indian restaurant has been given the full French makeover, right down to the vintage belle époque posters.
Jean-Philippe runs his intimate, minimalist and relaxed bar almost single-handedly and is always willing to share his wine knowledge, whether it’s about his beloved natural and biodynamic wines or which French cheeses work best with them.