Different glass: bring your own wine restaurants
Ben Grosvenor drinks to restaurants that let you bring your own bottle
There are few things more disappointing than finding a great new restaurant, only to have the experience ruined by an ill-judged wine menu, stuffed with mediocre offerings at hugely inflated prices.
Consequently, the majority of good food and wine lovers will no doubt share my enthusiasm for the phenomenon of BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle) restaurants. Usually one-off independents, these places provide the comfortable reassurance that, for a reasonable corkage charge, your chosen dishes will be accompanied by the wines that you and all your guests most enjoy.
While some diners will be satisfied with a Jacobs Creek Shiraz or a Hardy’s Chardonnay, the BYO option offers the considerable opportunity of bringing atrue favourite from home, or picking up a cracking vintage at your local retailer.
If your attention has been drawn to that mouthwatering arrabiata displayed on the menu outside your local BYO restaurant, how much more satisfying to arrive clutching a fine Chianti or Gavi di Gavi which, even if the proprietor offered it, would come with a whopping price tag.
Given the very average wine lists of most chain restaurants, it’s easy to forget that their mark-up on wines is normally far higher than for the food. I for one resent paying up to three times the supermarket cost of a very ordinary bottle of house plonk, just because it’s the only offering below £20 on an unimaginative, overpriced wine list.
That Pinot Grigio you enjoy at the local pizza chain might set you back £16 or more – but you could have picked it up in Sainsbury’s or Tesco for little more than a fiver!
Against this backdrop, taking your own wines with you to dinner can really add to the dining experience. That’s why I am always delighted to support a newly arrived BYO in my local community. Somewhere that offers you the chance to be a little more adventurous in terms of food – and a lot more certain about the wines that end up accompanying it.
As a Twickenham resident, my current favourite BYOs in the area include the wonderful Ches’s Trattoria, a children-friendly pizzeria in St Margarets; Strawberry Hill’s Sopa, which offers magnificent Thai food in a cosy, relaxed atmosphere; and Fanoos in East Sheen, where they serve delicious Persian kebabs and home-made breads.
Down the hatch!
Ben’s recommended restaurants and wines:
Ches’ – 48 Crown Road, St Margarets; (020) 8892 4615
Red wine: The superb 2007 Collerosso Negroamaro IGT Masseria Celentano, from the South of Italy, is a wonderful match for an oily and spicy pizza – boasting rich red and black fruits, a hint of vanilla, and a lively acidity, giving this moderately full-bodied red a brilliant balance. £7.99/ bottle Lea & Sandeman, Barnes
White wine: Villa Tonino Grillo 2010 – Wow, what a wine! The grape here is the little known Grillo, and complements a pasta or risotto dish perfectly – lots of fresh stone fruit, but a great backbone of minerality despite the ripeness of the wine. £7.65/ bottle, Philglas & Swiggot, Richmond
Sopa – 4-6 Wellesley Parade, Wellesely Road, Twickenham; (020) 8894 6111
Red: Matching red wine to Thai cuisine is always a tricky one, and avoiding the obvious Pinot Noir pairing, I’d opt for properly built Beaujolais – the Pizay Regnie 2009 is perfect – brilliant crisp and fresh, and a lot of hedgerow fruit make it a great partner to spicier dishes. £8.69/ bottle, Waitrose
White: Jean Victor Senner’s Cave d’Ingersheim Pinot Blanc is one of the best examples of this varietal under £10 – fresh, slightly floral, but a complex savoury class to it, coupled with elderflower and apple which add an extra something to Thai food! £9.90/ bottle, Nicolas, Twickenham/Richmond
Fanoos – 481 Upper Richmond Road West, East Sheen; (020) 8878 5738
Red: I’m a fan of a bold red when eating kebabs! The St Hallett Gamekeeper’s Reserve from Barossa, Australia has been one of my favourites for a long time, consistent year on year. This has everything from fruit, to oak and spice, and is deliciously complex and great value. £7.49/ bottle, Waitrose
White: This has to be the La Voute 2010 – in essence a “baby Meursault.” So much going on, lovely rich fruit, pineapple and apricot – with layers of toasty oak and fascinating acidity. £9.99/ bottle, Laithwaites
I hope you’ll give one of these local BYOs your patronage and look forward to hearing your views. Meanwhile, I’m off to try the latest addition to our local BYO scene – ‘Pho Saigon’, the new Vietnamese on York Street, Twickenham. Cheers!
Ben Grosvenor is the Fine Wine Sales Manager for Ditton Wine Traders of Surbiton, and a former wine broker at Fine & Rare Wines, London. Currently studying the Wine & Spirit Education Trust Diploma, he is passionate about sharing the hidden gems that await your discovery at local wine retailers
Speaking of wine…
Ashtead based chef David Gillott has linked up with Bodegas Faustino wines to produce a new recipe book. David, who has worked at numerous prestigious restaurants – including the Michelin starred 1 Lombard Street – now runs Four Gables Fine Dining and Food Academy in Ashtead.
The first 20 readers to email David via email@example.com will find a free copy arriving in the post!