Humble Grape has come a long way since it was founded as a wine importer in 2009. We loved its first permanent site on Battersea Rise which opened in 2015, so when the team flung open the doors of its second site just off Fleet Street earlier this summer, we couldn’t wait to see what they had done.
The space is cavernous, tucked away in the vaults under St Bride’s Passage, with some original arches still visable. The site has been empty for several years, but since Humble Grape took over, it has been transformed it into a 200-seat wine bar with natural wooden tables, blue leather banquette seating in the main bar, and a mixture of cork and brick covering the walls. There’s a shop on site with a small space where tastings with wine makers are hosted and, towards the back, a private dining room for more intimate affairs.
Choose to sit in and you can enjoy 30 wines by the glass and carafe, or more than 200 wines by the bottle. The team here gives a lot of attention to provenance, with each wine sourced from small, sustainable, independent vineyards across the world, meaning that they can offer fantastic, interesting wines at bargain prices.
Descriptions of wines don’t reveal much, giving you the opportunity to chat to the incredibly knowledgeable staff. Our waiter recommended a crisp sancerre which he described as “the Grace Kelly of wines”, and from the list we take a punt on a glass of Dr Deinhard Grauer Burgunder from Pfalz, Germany which is said to be “dangerously easy to drink, made by a doctor and prescribed by us”. It turns out to be a delicious, golden, expansive wine with notes of apple and honey without being cloying – we could drink this all day long.
The menu from head chef Anna Allan is made up of wine-friendly ‘humble plates’ made using ingredients sourced from independent suppliers. With meat platters, cheese and more substantial dishes including steak entrecôte and salmon tartare, it’s difficult not to order the whole menu. We resisted and instead opted for soft, charred Galician octopus with chargrilled leeks and triple-cooked new potatoes that sing with Spanish flavours, Iberico ham so rich it yielded to the warmth of our hands, and a whole baked rosemary garlic camembert with artisan bread drizzled in olive oil.
We couldn’t leave without taking Humble Grape’s advice to “strap on our skis and go off-piste” by trying Winzer Schup Vetus, 2011 from Austria – an orange wine available by the glass. Deep golden yellow, this is wine has a staggering intensity on the nose and, with smoky notes mixed with cooked fruits, honey and orange, it reminded us of a top-end Burgundy. Orange wine is set to be big this year, and this is a great way into the category.
With friendly, knowledgeable staff, well-executed food and an interesting, challenging wine list that does break the bank, Humble Grape goes a long way to break down the snobbishness surrounding wine and it’s a welcome addition to the area.
1 St Bride’s Passage, London EC4Y
Written by Sarah Kingsbury July 2016
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