Perfunctory Victorian decor is juxtaposed with the modernist building at this popular City wine bar-cum-restaurant. Having racked up over 150 years’ experience as wine merchants, Davy’s can be depended on to deliver. A selection of more than 50 by-the-glass tipples covers everything from frisky Chilean whites to sturdy French stalwarts – viscous, velvety Vacqueyras, say – as well as Champagne from £50 or so per bottle. Graze on tapas-sized savouries (black pudding Scotch egg, for instance, or mushrooms on toast with walnut pesto); alternatively, order sharing boards, burgers and steaks, fritto misto, or main course portions of bangers and mash with Madeira gravy, or mushroom and courgette risotto. There’s posset, tarts and cheeses for afters – and private rooms if a party’s on the cards.
Davy's at Plantation Place
Few localities suit a neighbourhood Champagne bar quite like Parsons Green. Burberry-clad couples, sharp-suited bankers and the odd Made in Chelsea cast member all gather here to be seen through large, concertina windows. With its stripped-back walls and low-hanging lights, Amuse Bouche also cuts it as an informal and upbeat spot to quaff high-class bubbly. The list starts with Mabis Prosecco and climbs all the way up to Louis Roederer Cristal, via the usual big-name Bollingers and Taittingers. A handful of rosés offer something different, as does a selection of classic Champagne cocktails. Red oysters and lobster nuggets are on hand to counteract all those bubbles – but the real foodie action takes place upstairs in Claude’s Kitchen.
This chic bar is a haven for budding oenophiles. The interior design spec is ‘industrial warehouse meets your favourite local bistro’, so let’s have a drink first. It’s quite a simple proposition: 15 reds and 15 whites by the glass, carafe or bottle, ever-changing and always interesting, plus a host of sweet wines, rums, Cognacs and – if you’re lucky – an English fizz giving the French a run for their money.There’s a ‘collector’s list’, too, where you’ll find some damn fine vintage bottles. To eat, an all-day bar menu serves up La Fromagerie cheeses and posh burgers, while the main line-up might take you from goose and mustard terrine to Eton Mess, via steaks cooked on the grill or sea bream with an Asian broth.
Chic 28°-50° is a haven for oenophiles who can sample over 30 wines by the glass or carafe as well as choosing from a bespoke ‘collector’s list’ gleaned from private cellars at greatly reduced mark-ups. Attention has been paid to details and service is excellent.To eat, try exemplary foie gras terrine or a punchy gazpacho served over an olive and cucumber salad, before tackling a meltingly tender onglet or a rich Icelandic fish stew with chunks of cod and potato in a velvety béarnaise sauce.Otherwise, sharing plates, rock oysters and La Fromagerie cheeses encourage more casual grazing. A striking central bar provides focus in the airy dining space, while the more intimate basement boasts an open kitchen.
Part of the dependable Davy’s stable, this sprawling basement bar in the arches beneath Charing Cross station features the group’s signature styling with sawdust floors, wood panelling, exposed brick & antiquarian knick-knacks. As the name suggests, there’s a range of fizz on the wine list – from reasonably priced Davy’s Célébration NV to Roederer’s Cristal at £200 – alongside interesting international reds & whites, bolstered by quality own-label bottles. Ports, sherries & Madeira feature too, while draft ales such as Old Wallop will please beer buffs. A revamped menu emphasises classic British dishes: think slow-cooked chicken leg in red wine, grilled chicken club or bangers & mash with Madeira gravy and homemade onion rings. Cooking doesn’t disappoint & swift service keeps local workers happy. ‘A cosy, reliable spot,’ concludes one reader.
Up a flight of stairs, Antidote’s sparse dining area feels far away from the bustling wine bar below, where aficionados can sup and swirl their way through an extensive array of natural and biodynamic bottles. The food is attention-grabbing stuff, driven by carefully sourced ingredients. Our crab and cucumber salad was enriched with a purée of brown crab meat and pointed up with green apples and fluffy cucumber mousse, while silky-soft brill fillet was paired with delectable smoked Jersey royals, before a rich chocolate moelleux hit the decadent high notes. Overall, big flavours make up for decidedly small portions, but we can’t help but feel that upstairs misses out on the more convivial fun of the bar area.
Following a refurb, this basement branch of the Davy’s stable has brightened up its image: a mirrored staircase now leads down to the spacious bar area, which sports a sympathetic mix of contemporary design and classic Davy’s features. Now billed as a ‘Bar & Grill’, Bangers also touts a revamped menu of updated British classics ranging from fish and triple cooked chips to slow-cooked chicken leg in red wine, shallots, bacon and mushrooms with roasted garlic and spring onion mash. Steaks and the eponymous bangers also feature, along with puds such as sticky toffee pudding. British real ales and continental lagers are alternatives to the beefed-up Davy’s wine list – a satisfying whistle-stop tour of the major growing regions, headed up by keenly priced own-label selections. Bangers also boasts four private spaces, including the aptly named Penguin Room.
Bangers Bar & Grill
Keenly priced but dripping with top-drawer sourcing, Noble Rot’s one-of-a-kind wine list stems from owners who are also responsible for the titular cult wine magazine of the same name. Its culinary credentials aren’t bad either, with Stephen Harris (of Whitstable’s Michelin-starred Sportsman) consulting on the ingredient-driven menu. Brilliant breads provided by The Sportsman and Mikael Jonsson’s Hedone are perfect as a pre-meal bite with Maldon rock oysters or pristine jamón Ibérico Bellota; then try smoked eel in a light gazpacho or grilled slip sole dressed with smoked butter (more memories of Whitstable). Elsewhere, guinea fowl breast in truffle cream with lettuce and broad beans or Swaledale lamb with spinach and fresh peas showcase serious ingredients for under £20 – pricing that’s in tune with the room’s black ceilings, papered walls and other shoestring trappings. The wine list is stuffed full of rarities and bargains, but staff seem reticent to make strong recommendations.
Wine merchants Chix & Buck is a magnet for those who prefer white Burgundy to White Lightning – or any other sub-£5 fix favoured by less discerning SW9 drinkers. Their jolly, compact, corner store doubles as a bar most days, and it gets packed at the weekend. Thanks to an Enomatic preservation system, at least 18 high-quality wines are always available by the glass and 500ml pichet – or you can pick a bottle from the shelf and enjoy it in the suntrap courtyard at retail price plus a £10 corkage fee. Delicious 2012 Grüner Veltliner tastes of lemon verbena, gooseberries, lime, pepper and pine, and there’s plenty to amuse fans of fizz and sherry too. Ale buffs can sup St. Reatham beer from the local Inkspot Brewery, while cheese and charcuterie boards plus bookable tutored sessions in the tasting room are enticing extras.
The Wine Parlour at Chix & Buck
Each of these attractive wine bars has its own distinct character and menu but the house style, which simply relies on great Italian ingredients and wines, should bring out the Latin lover in everyone. Dotted around the City with a further outpost in Mayfair, they’re ideal stop-off points for seriously tempting platters of antipasti and cheese, as well as beautifully prepared, tapas-sized sharing plates. Think octopus, chorizo and Jerusalem artichoke, or burrata with pickled beetroot and curly kale, embellished with a touch of honeycomb for sweetness. If you’re not one for sharing, don't despair: you can hog the slow-cooked pig cheeks with soft polenta and parmesan crisps for yourself, washing it down with a little Tignanello and leaving with a smile on your face.
Enoteca da Luca Guildhall
Named after an antiquated method of making port, the Crusting Pipe is part of the Davy’s portfolio, a group noted for its quality & value – especially where wines are concerned. In quasi-Dickensian surroundings, there’s plenty of oenophile interest around the £20 mark (Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc, Alsace Pinot & Castilian rosé) or you can trade up to vieilles vignes such as Châteauneuf du Pâpe. As ever, the by-the-glass selection is notable, & the boozy inventory extends to fortified wines, Meantime ales, & malts such as Glenkinchie 12 Year Old. Food is a familiar mix of brasserie, trattoria & country pub (think superfood salad with grilled halloumi or bangers & mash). A lighter menu is served in the courtyard where musicians & magicians complete ‘ye olde Nell Gwynne experience’ over afternoon tea.
Ousted from its Fenchurch Street home in 2014 to make way for yet another office block, The Flogger has now spawned a Mark II. Its look will be instantly familiar to fans of other Davy’s wine bars: an airy cellar with restrained neo-Georgian decor, wooden tun tables and vintage oenological paraphernalia. Choose from around three dozen wines, stickies, sherry and port by the glass. Around £7 secures a glass of summery southern French white, Picpoul de Pinet, or gutsy Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, from a list where most bottles cost around £30. Smoked salmon with dill, cucumber and cream cheese (fair value at £7.25) is one of many sandwiches and bar snacks. If lunching, start with soups, pâtés and salads before the likes of bangers and mash, crab linguine or wild mushroom risotto, followed by tarts and crumbles. At night, share mixed meze or charcuterie boards. Private parties can hire The Flogger’s ‘port cellar’.
The City Flogger
With its restrained, dark-hued ambience, this branch of the trusted Davy’s chain is a popular haunt for the pinstriped brigade. Despite its proximity to St James’s Palace, prices here are good enough to suit parsimonious republicans: around £25 bags a cracking Rioja Crianza or Davy’s own deeply sinkable Pinot Grigio from a cannily collated list that includes three dozen by the glass & peaks with a patrician Chassagne-Montrachet at £75. To eat, Davy’s egalitarian nosh includes duck liver pâté, followed by 28-day aged steak, for example. And there are tankards of Davy’s Old Wallop or Whitstable Oyster Ale, too.
Davy's at St James's
Lovers of all things Gallic should swing by Club Gascon's ‘annex' , a sophisticated cocktail bar offering French small plates. The menu is proudly regionalist, with a great line in charcuterie, artisan cheese and all manner of ‘piggy' and ‘ducky' delights: pick from snacks of pig’s trotter cake and truffled cheese baguette, or go for heartier options, such as oyster, mushroom and black pudding salad, or foie gras with mussels. The ‘express lunch’ menu remains a steal for a dish of the day, plus a starter, glass of wine and pudding such as baked brandy custard. Other deals, including monthly wine dinners and oyster evenings, are also well worth considering. “Great for date nights”, says a fan.
A traditionally styled Davy’s bar, Holborn’s Bunghole is a popular choice for lovers of decent wine & alpha-male British cooking. It takes particular pride in its steak, offering no fewer than seven cuts of grass-fed beef (each with its own detailed description), served with hand cut triple cooked chips. Elsewhere, expect king prawn and crab linguine with tomato, chilli and garlic – even hot beef sarnies. Open with duck liver pâté with toasted sourdough or smoked salmon; round off with a nursery treat – perhaps Bramley apple and blackberry crumble with custard. Tankards, ale casks & sawdust-strewn floors lend the space a warm, antiquated feel, & Davy’s can be relied upon to have a well-stocked wine cellar, with plenty from the Old & New Worlds, & almost everything available by the glass.
The Bunghole Cellars
There aren’t many Grade II-listed dining rooms in London, but this is one of them, with wooden booths and black-and-white tiled floors recalling its relatively humble Victorian origins. Of course, The Quality Chop House is now a thoroughly modern enterprise, with a second dining room, private facilities and an adjoining butcher’s/food store. The daily menu displays a touch of wanderlust – just like our Victorian forebears – so expect Gloucester Old Spot pork chops with rémoulade, or red mullet partnered by Tokyo turnip and bagna cauda. Mackerel crudo with crème fraîche and chickweed makes a feisty little starter, while desserts such as pear and apple crumble are just the sort of thing you’d hope to see on the menu. Service is perfectly paced thanks to staff who are “enthusiastic and knowledgeable”. The wine list is updated monthly (co-owner Will Lander is Jancis Robinson’s son, so no pressure), and it’s a “damn fine piece of work”.
The Quality Chop House
When Gordon’s first opened, talk over the claret or hock might have turned to Van Gogh’s death, Tchaikovsky’s new ballet or the opening of the Forth Bridge. More than 120 years down the line, it’s remarkable that this bar is still going strong. Crepuscular, candlelit cellars will appeal to those who value raffish character above clean-lined corporate clones. Good for a first date, a tête-à-tête or Merlot with your mates, the wine list offers great value at around £20: crisp Portuguese rosado, Muscat from Bulgaria, cava, Marlborough Sauvignon, sherries & ports aplenty. Gordon’s is open for breakfast, but its lunchtime spread is the big draw for office workers, tourists & nostalgia geeks: cold cuts, bakes, winter-warmer pies & summery salads have distinctly retro appeal at this sepia-toned charmer.
Gordon's Wine Bar
As the name suggests, Margaux is as much about wine as it is about food. Sixteen house selections come in four different sizes for easy matching and, boy, is there some matching to be done on this menu. From homemade pork terrine and tuna tartare with umami-rich miso dressing, via pappardelle with rabbit ragù or confit duck with cocoa, pear compote and blackberries, right through to tarte Tatin, you can almost taste the wine you're going to drink. Enthusiastic staff will guide you towards choice bottles from the 200-strong list, and there's plenty of interest below £50 – though you might be tempted to splash out on that namesake Bordeaux. The urban decor – all Brooklyn bare bricks and pendant lights – might not be the perfect fit for such classic food and wine, but the room is comfortable and atmospheric.