Put dry January behind you! Here are our top 5 wine bars in London to pass those cold February nights
You made it to the end of dry-January, congratulations! Ok, perhaps not (we won’t tell). But now it’s February and we have officially survived the longest month of the year. So, what better way to toast the end of January than with a glass of wine? In London, we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to wine bars, so we’ve handpicked our favourite five for you to work your way through. These bars are wine specialists, so they focus on the good stuff – no need for fancy cocktails or craft beers here, just the honest bottle of vino – although you might expect a cameo from a cheese board or two.
1. Cable Café, Oval
Deconstructed furniture from a bygone era, mid-century couches with exposed springs and stained lampshades much older than you are, Cable Café takes shabby to chic another level. Located just a few minutes’ walk from Oval tube station, Cable is a café during the day and transformed by night into a beautiful Parisienne style wine bar. The bar still sells coffee until midnight in true French fashion, creating that unmistakably comforting aroma of ground coffee and red wine – dreamy for those cold winter nights!
Cable Café is lit almost entirely by candles and on Friday and Saturday nights, expect live jazz music playing over the hum of the coffee machine and chattering customers. Carafes of house red start at £10 so you won’t be breaking the bank either. Cable is definitely a winner for date night, or a cosy catch up with friends on these dark chilly evenings.
2. Unwined, Tooting
Located in the uber cool Tooting Broadway Market, what Unwined lacks in spaciousness it makes up for in atmosphere. It’s buzzy and energetic throughout the week, no mean feat for a small bar in Tooting. Framed pictures, fridge magnets and abacuses adorning the walls and tables, Unwined has that south London quirk that we love about this part of town
Unwined take wine seriously. Waiters are expert sommeliers in their own right and will allow you a full tasting before you commit. The staff are masterful at taking the pomp and fuss out of wine and won’t make you feel stupid if you don’t know your Pinot Noir from your Pinotage. The kitchen also offers cheese boards and cooked food, however, the menu changes daily depending on the chef so don’t expect to find it online.
3. The Humble Grape, Fleet Street
Somewhat of an institution on the wine drinking scene, The Humble Grape now has four branches in London. Our favourite is Fleet Street, just a short walk into Covent Garden or the West End if your dancing feet are tapping post vino.
Inconspicuously located in a small alcove, step through the arches to an oasis of exposed brick, crushed velvet sofa and hanging lightbulbs. Offering a full-service a-la-carte to rival any restaurant (the burrata and the biltong are perfect with any red), the Humble Grape is wine barring writ-large. The crowd here is international, a good mix of visitors and locals and during the week, expect a healthy dose of after work winers.
If you really want to impress your friends with your wine knowledge, The Humble Grape also offers a full suite of events, from wine tasting to learning about the fermentation process, which are all pre-bookable online.
4. W.C., Clapham Common
W.C. takes its name from its beginnings as, you guessed it, a Victorian public toilet under Clapham Common tube station. Sounds weird but stay with us. Now renamed Wine & Charcuterie, W.C. is a tiny subterranean wonder worthy of spending a penny at.
Walk down a flight of stairs, pass through the black-out drapes and you’ll find a candlelit bustle of daters, friends and wine lovers sat up on high chairs, each with a cheese board in tow. Still maintaining a lot of the Victorian tiling and with original glass ceiling panels, look up to see busy Claphamites walking above your head. W.C can only accommodate around 40 people at a time and doesn’t take bookings so you might be put on a waiting list and called a table becomes available. Once you have your spot though, get settled in for the evening. The Cabernet Sauvignon (£34) is excellent paired with the Superior Cheese Board (£25) – a match made in heaven.
5. Gordon’s Wine Bar, Embankment
Gordon’s Wine Bar is an institution on the London wine bar scene. Fabled to be the oldest wine bar in London, established in 1890, it is said to be the haunt of the literary greats, including the poet Rudyard Kipling. The original building is older still and has associations with Samuel Pepys, stretching nearly 400 years back in time.
Today, Gordon’s is a wonder. It’s listing in the Lonely Planet guide book for London makes it very popular with tourists but even with its international crowd, it still feels like a hidden gem. At Gordon’s, you drink your wine in caves carved from the bedrock. That makes the ceilings extremely low which gives those real London dungeon vibes. If you prefer a little more breathing space, there is outdoor seating upstairs if alfresco is more your thing. The bar is lit entirely by candles (of course) and only serves wine. The food is old fashioned British fare and the buffet style roast dinner on a Sunday is a total winner. You may need to wait for a table as Gordon’s don’t accept advance bookings but believe us when we say it’s worth it.
Do you have a favourite wine bar in London? We’d love to hear about it – leave a comment or drop us a line!