Is it their energy and dynamism that helps us fall in love with the best restaurants in London? A commanding view? Or a historic setting? Whatever it is, we flock to these places for special occaions, be it for a notable birthday, a new job or even a job well done. And we toast the occasion with the world’s ultimate celebratory drink: Champagne. Here we round up our favourite restaurants with great Champagne lists.
Additional words: Giles Fallowfield
It doesn’t matter what day of the week or what time of year, this evergreen restaurant is permanently busy. Its electric atmosphere, fostered by a glitzy audience of regulars and friendly staff, lifts the mood, but it’s what’s served on the plate or in the glass which really elevates the whole experience. For food, think classic chargrilled squid with fresh red chilli and rocket or veal shin slow-roasted in Barolo with risotto and gremolata.
Wine: As you’d expect the wine list is a Ferrari chauffeured tour around Italy’s big names except for the sparklers where there’s just one Prosecco and Bellavista’s high quality vintage Franciacorta. This is a big occasion restaurant, so expect heavy-weight fizz from Krug, Charles Heidsieck (1995), Dom Ruinart (2004) and Salon (2004), but it’s the extensive range of cuvées from Billecart-Salmon, which has been the pouring champagne since River Café opened, that really catches the eye.
TOP TIP: Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Nicolas François 2002 (£280): Developed but still fresh with impressive, chalky, mid-palate intensity and a long complex finish. Great wine from what many see as the top vintage of the decade.
Bob Bob Cité
With more bling than Caesar’s Palace, Bob Bob Cité may have found its perfect home in the glitzy surrounds of the Cheesegrater, where it is suspended within the giant atrium. Expect French country cooking classics, courtesy of Eric Chavot, alongside retro-leather booths, vintage styling and stock market tickers. It’s a resolutely snazzy offering aimed squarely at the City zeitgeist.
Wine: Champagne is taken seriously here on a list replete with big names. By the glass is offered but many will be looking for something a little more conspicuous – hence the magnums (1.5l), jeroboams (3l) and even Methuselahs (6l).
TOP TIP: The very elegant Ayala Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru, 2012, served by the glass, and the Louis Roederer Brut Vintage 2012 are good choices. If you’ve got money to burn, why not have some fun with the Moet & Chandon Grand Vintage Collection: 1990 for something recent, or push the boat out with the 1978, 1962 or 1959.
This revered City fish parlour continues to hit all the right notes for a certain breed of customer despite being a delightful anachronism, and quite right too when century-old quirkiness comes this good. Marble counters, no-frills shellfish and a sense of solemn proprietary dispensed by deferential old retainers all add up to a glass or two of fizz being de rigueur.
Wine: Sweetings has a simple list despite it being a restaurant that is synonymous with Champagne. While Laurent Perrier is known for its elegant floral style, Bollinger mixes refreshment with power while stylistically Louis Roederer falls somewhere in between the two. For the ultimate treat try the Louis Roederer Cristal at £360.
TOP TIP: The Laurent Perrier Brut NV Rose is not bad value at £115 and goes brilliantly with some of the meatier fish dishes. Lanson, Reims NV Père et Fils Brut (disgorged March 2015) 90.00.
Helene Darroze at the Connaught
Arguably the grandest dining-room in London where the exquisite craftsmanship of chef Hélène Darroze is matched by an august cellar. Service, orchestrated with extraordinary precision, is an elaborate ceremony of almost forgotten rituals that never fail to leave you feeling indulged, and the food is light, elegant and beautiful. All at a requisite cost, of course.
Wine: This list, which has always been one of London’s most dazzling, is laden with Champagne jewels from the best houses. But what stands out to us, is the number of great older vintages on offer. Take, for example, the number of vintages dating back to the 70s and 80s from houses like Krug, Pol Roger and Dom Perignon.
TOP TIP: Henriot has a well-deserved reputation for top-flight fizz, but here you can find their Cuvée Enchantaleurs from the classic vintages of 1990, 1995 and 1996, as well as the excellent 1988. These wines will go as superbly with food as white Burgundy, but you rarely find white Burgundy this old or at the value being offered here.
Ranald MacDonald’s enduring tartan indulgence and triumphant melding of convivial bar, conservatory restaurant and jazz club, creates a quirky Scottish extravaganza with great food to match. The excellent atmosphere at Boisdale's, that bizarrely manages to evoke both the jazz era and the bonny Highlands sets just the right one while the wine list continues to excel. The latter is expansively annotated, we believe by Mr Macdonald himself, and boasts some fabulous big name vintages as well as big format bottles designed to attract the party crowd.
Wine: What’s not to like about a fizz list packed with big names such as Veuve Clicquot (currently on at under £80), Ruinart, Dom Perignon and Krug as well as less bubbling-under brands like Deutz Rosé NV, and Pommery Grand Cru 2004, not to mention English rising stars Jenkyn Place and Hoffmann & Rathbone Classic Cuvee 2013.
TOP TIP: Regular special offers are displayed at knock-down prices. Current bargains include Bollinger Special Cuvee Brut NV at £75, Dom Perignon 2009 at £149.50 and Piper-Heidsieck Rare Vintage 2002 at £195.
The capital’s most beautiful fin de siècle dining-room and one of central London’s most lovely gardens are the crowning glories of this ultimate special occasion pit-stop. The Ritz has been feeding, watering and cossetting the great and the good ever since it opened its doors in 1906. No wonder the Champagne list is taken seriously here.
Wine: Running to 85 pages, this is a serious, wallet-emptying tome, including blow-outs like Clos de Tart 2009, Sassicaia, but not all bottles will break the bank – there's a Trimbach Pinot Blanc or Austrain Gruner for around £50. Champagne runs from Bollinger to Billecart-Salmon, with Barons de Rothschild Réserve Ritz kicking things off at £88 a bottle.
TOP TIP: For a treat wine, pop the cork on the multi-vintage Laurent Perrier Grand Siècle (£280) with all its creamy finesse, nutty complexity and remarkable versatility with food.
Set in the ultra-cool Edition hotel, Jason Atherton’s palatial gastronomic haven remains one of the capital’s hot tickets. The sparkling baroque ballroom with its epic chandeliers, wall-to-wall gilt-framed paintings and well-groomed people watching simply begs Champagne drinking.
Wine: It’s a stonker of a list at Berners Tavern, from grower Champagnes to classic names – not to mention sparklers from England and other countries across the globe. You’ll find classic but less known cuvées like Philipponnat Blanc de Noirs 2009 (£155) or Drappier Quattor Bland de Blancs NV (£199) as well as an impressive range of older vintage prestige cuvées.
TOP TIP: Try the Dom Pérignon "P2" 2000 (£499). Described as being a second plenitude Dom Pérignon, it will show evolved flavours of nuts and mushrooms which give umami flavours that go brilliantly with food.
Oblix at The Shard
Rainer Becker’s slick eyrie high up in The Shard sets the benchmark for dazzling penthouse-chic experiences courtesy of chef Marcus Eaves. The quixotic views across the capital shout Champagne on arrival.
Wine: The Sommelier Station at Oblix brings something different to the prelims here, giving you the chance to enjoy a good selection of wines by the glass, including Billecart-Salmon Rosé, Ruinart Blanc de Blancs or Dom Pérignon, or a choice of handy half bottle sizes (for singletons) or magnums (for larger parties).
TOP TIP: Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve NV (bottle and magnum, £65/£130). Based on the 2008 harvest, with lots or reserve wine in the blend, this has a taste profile more like that of a fine vintage champagne with developed nutty and stone fruit aromas, lovely textural richness and mid-palate creaminess, plus a gorgeous finish.
This aristocrat of a restaurant in the heart of the SquareMile is a winning choice, be it Summer or Winter. Bundles of natural daylight, the sine qua non of rooftop gardens and a menu packed with French classics are all trump cards, but it’s the award-winning wine list which elevates the Coq d'Argent experience to special heights.
Wine: The wine list is a feast of interest for Champagne lovers with plenty of large format bottles and top names, from Bruno Paillard to Laurent Perrier and vintage aristocrats like Dom Pérignon 09 or Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 90.
TOP TIP: Moet & Chandon Impérial Rosé NV (£95) – floral notes of roses and hawthorn on the nose and red summer berries and a hint of spice on the palate. Perfect.
Wright Brothers restaurant
Fried whelks and clams and brimming bowlfuls of mussels, might precede sparkling fresh seafood ‘au naturel’, such as oysters from the Channel Islands, the west coast of Scotland or Waterford in Ireland. All of which will put you in the mood for a dry beer, a raft-load of seafood-friendly wines or, of course, Champagne at this split-level, ever-green Soho oyster house.
Wine: The drinks list at Wright Brothers, ranging from cocktails to draught Asahi Dry beer, is packed with bubbly. Alongside high quality English fizz like Ridgeview, you’ll find fine savvy choices like Palmer & Co Blanc de Blancs, Billecart-Salmon Rose and Dom Perignon 2009.
TOP TIP: Bookended at either end of the list is Piper-Heidsieck Cuvee Brut (good value at £60) and Piper-Heidsieck Rare Millesime (£220), the house’s super smart and very elegant prestige cuvée.
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