Sommelier Julia Oudill used to work in three-Michelin-star French restaurants where the service made guests squirm. Opening, decanting and pouring wine was a hushed ceremony, during which, she says: ‘nobody breathed.’
The vibe at Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels, a chic Neal’s Yard bolt-hole where Julia is now general manager, couldn’t be more different. ‘Whether the bottle is £30 or £3,000, I want to sit with the guests, open it and talk about the wine. We serve wines alongside great food, with hip hop on the sound system.’ Compagnie des Vins is determined to make wine appreciation fun and affordable. ‘Great wine,’ insists Julia, ‘doesn’t have to cost a month’s rent.’
Wine may be the primary focus here, but chef Ilaria Zamperlin’s food is a big draw, too. Platters of high-quality cheeses and charcuterie are augmented by small plates such as veal tartare and the legendary posh madame (a truffled ham and quail egg croque, try it with a glass of 2013 Albert Mann riesling). More substantial dishes include a rib-eye steak and the sharing lamb rack.
Each month, Julia’s all-female team focusses on different French wine regions (June is Provence and Corsica), hosting producers and tastings. It’s northeast Spain and Montsant, though, which she is currently most excited about. ‘I recently tasted some garnatxa (Catalan grenache) wines that made me think: if I had two hours left to live, that is what I’d want to drink.’
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