Oranj started as an online bottle shop and wine delivery service in 2020, specialising in natural wines. At its first bar, off Brick Lane near Shoreditch, unmarked double doors lead into a warehouse space that ticks all the trendy east London boxes – dim lighting, concrete and stark industrial fittings galore – enlivened by splashes of orange, bottles dripping with wax on the tables and high ceilings. The mood is relaxed (founder Jasper Delamothe describes the bar as a “pub for wine drinkers”), and staff are friendly. While there’s a lengthy bottle list for natural wine nerds to plough through, a pithier list of wines by the glass (as well as cocktails including dry gin martinis and spicy margaritas) is a good place to start. Highlights include Domaine Pierre Frick Pinot Gris Fischbach Maceration, an incredible skin contact wine with notes of tangerine, apricot and raspberry; and Magna Carta Wines Uthando Syrah, fresh and zippy with crunchy red fruit. Oranj also has rotating kitchen residencies. Our visit saw Nigerian-Colombian fusion cooking from Ayo Collective (highlights include zingy prawn tartare with lime apple and tropical lulo fruit; and lamb cutlets with incredible crispy sweetbreads), while previous residencies have included New Orleans-inspired outfit Decatur, and cult Vietnamese pop up Ha’s Đặc Biệt from New York City. Check out @oranjwine for what’s up next. oranj.co.uk
Bottle + Rye, Brixton
This intimate wine bar and restaurant from Robin and Sarah Gill brings a slice of European café culture to Market Row in Brixton Village. The team behind Sorella, Bermondsey Larder, Darby’s and Rye by the Water took the classic Parisian bistro as their starting point for the interiors, dominated by an elegant marble, brass and walnut bar. Nab a seat here to watch the kitchen and bar team whip up cocktails and plate dishes.
A menu of simple, deftly executed Gallic classics delivers. Succulent, well-seasoned pig’s head brawn terrine comes with cornichons, delicate rings of pickled onion and hunks of sourdough, and a luscious dollop of creamy smoked eel brandade is served with Pink Fir crisps for scooping. Veggie dishes also shine – especially summery pea and broad bean ragu and a salad of green beans and leeks with crunchy hazelnut praline. Don’t miss out on dessert – a beautifully made blackcurrant and fig leaf choux éclair on our visit.
A mostly European list of minimal intervention wines includes plenty by the glass (try Judith Beck’s delicious Zweigelt and Blaufrankisch rosé) as well as natural ciders from the likes of Little Pomona, Brixton Brewery beers and a succinct cocktail list including a peach and jasmine americano.
Bedales of Borough, Borough
Located in the middle of Borough Market, Bedales of Borough is the labour of love of three childhood friends – Rob Dann, Jamie Watts and Mario Sposito – who took on a failing wine shop in 2012 and transformed it into one of London’s best-loved wine bars, with delicious food to match. With a wine list focussed on celebrating and supporting the diverse and colourful world of small, independent winemakers, and a menu where much of the produce is sourced from neighbouring shops within Borough Market itself, it’s little wonder that Bedales of Borough – affectionately known as ‘BoB’ to regulars – is still going strong a decade on.
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Rondo La Cave, Holborn
The team behind The Hoxton hotels is very much alive to trends across the world and always brings something new and exciting to London’s restaurant scene. Cue this gorgeous little basement bar in the Hoxton Holborn, with a regularly changing rota of world-class chefs, focus on natural wines, and commitment to careful sourcing. Clued-up staff can recommend low-intervention wines from British vineyards and beyond and if you want to stray from the concise wine list, visit the in-house shop (£20 corkage). Keep an eye on the website for the next residency, previous ones have included Dollars, Chet’s, Cantina Valentina and Four Corners.
Bar Crispin, Soho
With its stylish continental vibes, this poised bar on Soho’s Kingly Street serves lavish small plates ranging from native oysters, Neal’s Yard cheeses and Trealy Farm charcuterie, and elegant sharing dishes from head chef Brendan Lee. Make a beeline for the anchovy and potato focaccia; a decadent double-carb affair of bread topped with golden piped swirls of mashed potato, whole anchovies and salsa verde. We also loved the day-boat fish – sole on our visit – which arrived, soft and flaking, in a luscious pool of brown butter, topped with briny capers. Alongside this, a natural wine list focusses on indigenous, rare and old-world grapes, featuring smaller producers who use biodynamic, organic and sustainable practices. Expect to see wines from French regions such as the Loire, Jura, Savoie and Burgundy, as well as further afield, from Slovenian orange wine to Greek assyrtiko. The menu is ever-changing, with some wines only available in finite qualities so novelty is guaranteed. Staff are imaginative and generous with their recommendations, rustling up for us their last-ever bottle of Kiss Kiss Maddie’s Lips; a juicy yet elegant German pink fizz with creamy red fruit notes.
The Mulwray, Soho
This plushily intimate, grown-up wine bar is hidden away above the Blue Posts pub on the edge of Chinatown, a setting that inspired its name (that of Evelyn Mulwray, Faye Dunaway’s character in the classic 1970s noir film). In contrast to the bustling surrounds of the pub downstairs,The Mulwray exudes a sense of lush calm, with a pin-sharp décor that includes high ceilings garlanded by foliage, dusty pink stools and sweeping midnight blue banquettes framing a panoramic window. The seasonally changing natural wine list – created by sommeliers Honey Spencer (previously Noma Mexico) and Sarah Wright – is playfully divided into sections such as ‘Firm Favourites’, ‘The Path Less Trodden’ and ‘Wild + Free’ and accordingly there’s a wealth of interesting wines to try if you’re in the mood to explore, from crisp and crunchy Austrian rosé to funky Portuguese co-ferments. Adventurous wine drinkers should make a beeline for the Sortevera Taganana Blanco, a gorgeously smoky, stony Tenerife white.
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 in 2015 it has won numerous awards for its wine but also its food, which is overseen by executive chef Stephen Harris (of the acclaimed Sportsman in Whitstable) who backed owners Dan Keeling and Mark Andrew.
The self-styled ‘Franglaise’ menu includes the likes of 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 £24 bottle of Portuguese vinho verde to a 1985 bottle of red burgundy at £6,750.
Do visit their equally excellent Soho restaurant on Greek Street, opened in 2020. The choux buns filled with duck liver parfait are a must-order.
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.
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.
Read our full review of Sager + Wilde here…
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 5pm 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 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.
South-East Londoners looking for interesting wines to drink at home should also check out PC’s Club Del Vino, which delivers curated cases of wine, as well as discounts and offers on the bar’s online wine shop.
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.
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.
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