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The Penny Black Restaurant
This is a rarity: a 100-bin wine list where every single listing is available by the glass or half-bottle carafe, and has a decent tasting note to match. The prices aren’t especially cheap (this is Chelsea, after all), but the list is encouraging, welcoming and helpful.
Michelin-starred this lovely old Georgian country house hotel might be, but the pricing policy on the wine list is admirable. While traditionally presented by region, there are helpful (and personal) comments introducing each section, and the idea of marking a white wine’s sweetness (1-9) and a red wine’s body (A-E) is a neat one. ‘There’s a great selection of products, it’s well presented and the prices are good,’ said Ivo Stoyanov.
Porthminster Beach Café
As you would expect, this Cornish beachside restaurant majors on seafood (whites outnumber reds two to one on its list). Simple, helpful tasting notes for cheaper wines, more involved notes for pricier bottles, this list does the basics well and adds a good dollop of personality as well.
Rotunda Bar and Restaurant
Full marks to this Kings Cross bar/restaurant – its A3 layout manages to combine personal touches (such as showing where the Northumbrian meat is sourced and profiling the farmer) with clarity of thought, simplicity of use with choice and information. A terrific by-the-glass selection, decent tasting notes, and a main list split up by variety, which is not easy to do. ‘I like the way it doesn’t just tick boxes,’ approved Ronan Sayburn MS. And the description of Côtes du Rhônes ‘often tasting like bottled narcolepsy’ is worth the shortlisting alone…
Sous le Nez en Ville
A long list, with loads of personality, this does its job brilliantly. Tasting notes for every wine, and highly informative, sometimes funny, sometimes controversial musings on wine regions, people and wines in general. An extremely good selection of Bordeaux makes this a list for the serious wine lover and the novice alike. ‘For me, this has everything,’ said Olivier Marie. ‘Informative, serious vintages but not too expensive, and the descriptions are right.’
The Three Fishes
With all 50 wines visible on one (albeit sizable) sheet, the chance to take in the whole wine list at one glance is spot on for this newly refurbished Lancashire pub. What it lacks in pizzazz of contents it makes up for in clarity and approachability, and doubtless does its job brilliantly. ‘They are really trying to help the customer in,’ said Christine Parkinson.
The Wynnstay Hotel (pictured, right)
This is a really great example of a small middle-of-the-road business (owner Gareth Johns describes it as a ‘mid-market hotel, restaurant and pizzeria in a small Welsh market town’) really going the extra mile. Split up varietally, every wine has a helpful, personal tasting note and also a gauge of its weight or sweetness to help customers order in the absence of a sommelier. ‘They’ve done so many things to make the list approachable – the effort really leaps off the page,’ praised Christine Parkinson.
John Clevely MW, Geronimo Inns
Alessandro Marchesan, Zuma/Roka
Olivier Marie, Coq d’Argent
Christine Parkinson, Hakkasan
Ronan Sayburn MS, Hotel du Vin
Ivo Stoyanov, L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon
Note: none of the judges were able to judge their own list.