London’s ever so popular West End contains a vast and concentrated assortment of wine bars many of which are tucked away within the busy atmosphere or tiny streets. Here’s some favorites; ideal for Christmas drinks to bring in the cheer!Terriors
If you have a weakness for wine (much like myself) there is great satisfaction in the discovery of new wine bars in the West End – particularly one with a difference. In the vicinity of Charing Cross if you want something a little less crowded and a little more bistro chic, head a few steps in the other direction to Terriors wine bar on William Street. Provenance and purity define the philosophy of this diamond in the rough. Terroirs takes quality very seriously, serving food and drink raised ‘with sensitivity and compassion’. A worldly selection of natural, handmade wines await, as well as artisan ciders, eaux de vie and liqueurs. This place has a fantastically French ambience; a casual sway that hides a deeper sophistication. A delightful English tapas menu boasts delectable treats such as smoked duck, herrings, pork and pistachio terrine and devilish duck scratchings that are to die for. Perch at the bar and the knowledgeable staff cannot resist the urge to impart their wisdom and offer a tasting or two. Otherwise book a table in the restaurant for something altogether more intimate.
5 William IV St, WC2N 4DW. Nearest Tube: Charing Cross
Cork and Bottle
Leicester Square; a West End whirlwind of tourist traps – caricature artists, overpriced ODEONS, innumerable chain restaurants and raucous, boozy bars. Not the place your average wine buff frequents on an evening out… Or is it? For, unbeknownst to many, tucked away from this world of holidaymaker hell is some semblance of sophisticated charm. For those who prefer a decent wine to a Wetherspoons 2-4-1, seek you out the Cork and Bottle. This wondrous, well-concealed cellar sits inconspicuously on Cranbourn Street, welcoming all appreciators and connoisseurs that discover its narrow doorway. Down the steps and inside the cramped but atmospheric bar you can forget a mere wine list. Here you get a book, and an education, with detailed descriptions of every grape and flavour. The menu has been as carefully considered as the wine, and makes a perfect accompaniment to your carafe (or in my case, bottle). Cork and Bottle has a simple philosophy – legendary wines accompanied by fresh, innovative food. Dinner is served until 11:30pm (making it particularly popular with the peckish post-theatre crowd) and with a cellar reserve of over 40,000 bottles, you will never run dry.
44-46 Cranbourn St, WC2H 7AN. Nearest Station: Leicester Square Underground
Gordon’s Wine Bar
If you love wine and you live in London, then you must have at least heard of Gordon’s wine bar. This is probably, if not definitely, London’s most popular wine bar, and has well earned its reputation since opening in 1890. I first encountered this wine lover’s retreat several years ago when, with forty minutes to spare until my train from Charing Cross, I thought it the perfect opportunity to sample Gordon’s much talked of vinous (it is a word, I checked) delights. Three hours and two and a half bottles later, I didn’t know when my next train was, let alone where it was going, and didn’t much care.
The main attraction of Gordon’s – besides world-class wines ranging from the affordable to the downright decadent – is the buzzing atmosphere. It boasts the best outdoor seating of any central London winery, with a merry crowd sipping, supping and sermonising in the long alleyway throughout the year, plus a sizzling summer BBQ in the warmer months to boot.
Inside, descend into the rustic cellar, where you will find a spread of delicious, light food and cheeses, before making your way to the bustling bar to choose your top tipple from the regional wine menu or daily specials on offer.
47 Villiers St, WC2N 6NE. Nearest Station: Charing Cross
For one who claims to be an oracle of Wine Bar London, it took me an embarrassingly long time to discover Le Beajolais. My dear father, from whence came my vinous passion, introduced me to it one afternoon , and this cosy hideaway welcomed me with unrelenting charm and fine glass of Viogner. Tucked away on the outskirts of Covent Garden, it is just as well that Le Beaujolais is concealed, for it could never cope with the after work haulage of wine swigging city slickers. This is a place for intimacy, philosophy and, well…Frenchness, where good food and good times come together. A delightful wine list is matched by a delicious Bistro menu of simple, traditional French fare serving charcuterie and pates to cassoulet. However the star of the show is the magnificent cheese platter. Add a touch of Jazz and Blues and you could be anywhere in the back streets of Paris rather than plonked off the busy Charing Cross Road. Owner Pascal creates a magnificent atmosphere that has earned a plethora of lunchtime and evening regulars. A true taste of France. My advice…arrive with a bon appetite.
Le Beaujolais, 25 Litchfield Street, Leicester Square, London, WC2H 9NJ
Nearest Station: Leicester Square or Covent Garden Underground
Planet Of The Grapes
If you’re into wine, you will love the 450 varieties to choose from , not to mention the delicious nibbles to accompany your tipple
The name says it all. With a stock of more than 450 wines from around the world, this is the place where wine lovers go to die. The vast selection displayed with individual tasting notes guide you to your favoured flavours. Alternatively,head to the tasting cellar and try for yourself. Delicious meats and cheeses are served up alongside other suitable nibbles that change weekly. Keep an eye out for their new bar opening soon on Bow Lane, EC4.
9 New Oxford Street, WC1A 1BA. Nearest Tube: Holborn
Bedford and Strand
Gordon’s wine bar is without doubt the summer vino magnet. However during those cold, dark and wintery months, when after-work wine lovers want somewhere to snuggle up to a Sauvignon or Shiraz, Bedford and Strand makes a worthy adversary. The welcoming warmth of this underground bistro attracts a steady flow of city clickers, descending into the cosy depths from the corner of Bedford Street, minutes from the West End and miles from the bland tourist-town bar scene. You are greeted at once by a list of some twenty recommendations, each available by the glass and all considerately categorised into sections of ‘Honest’, ‘Good’ and ‘Decent’. This is particularly helpful for the indecisive, like my honest, good and decent self. Further wines are available by the bottle, including flavours of the month and staff picks. The traditional bistro serves perfect wine and waffling accompaniments such as charcuterie and cheese boards, meats, pates and other yummy-yet-sophisticated nibbles. My particular favourites are the potted crab, chicken liver pate and less sophisticated but divine hand-cut chips. The restaurant serves an English and French inspired a la carte menu, and its low lighting and sense of worldly escape make it ideal for a touch of romance.
1A Bedford Street, WC2E 9HH. Nearest Station: Charing Cross