As any teeming metropolis, London, England, boasts a fine array of vinous watering holes—from time-worn establishments to edgier outposts. We’ve donned our favorite deerstalker to find the best wine bars and hangouts. Here’s where you need to go.
The Ten Cases
The owners of this small, unpretentious wine bar buy just 10 cases of a wine, and once it’s gone, it’s gone. You’ll never come across the same wine twice here, and you’ll always find something interesting, eclectic and delicious. This welcome oasis is just feet from the perpetually busy Covent Garden, making it perfect for a pick-me-up after shopping. The hot and cold tapas-style plates like octopus carpaccio and salt cod are very good. You can also buy bottles in the adjacent shop, and, for a small corkage fee, drink them right there.
Searcys St Pancras Champagne Bar
Probably the most stylish way to arrive or depart from London is via the Champagne bar located on the upper concourse of the newly revived St Pancras Station. Watch the trains from Paris roll in while sipping your favorite Champagne or one of England’s own distinguished sparkling wines. At 320 feet, this is Europe’s longest Champagne bar. Within walking distance from the British Library, this is the perfect excuse to get your head out of the books. Hot and cold snacks, oysters and pints of unshelled prawns are available.
Gordon’s Wine Bar
No London compilation would be complete without this historical stalwart, which boasts Rudyard Kipling as a regular patron and former tenant. Gordon’s atmosphere is unmatched with its vaulted cellar setting. It’s also convenient, just minutes from the National Gallery and Trafalgar Square. You can order Port, Sherry and Madeira by the schooner (120ml) or the beaker (150ml) straight from the cask, and the wine selection here is broad. Gordon’s is the place to go for atmosphere, people and cheese—the only food that’s served here.
28–50 Wine Workshop and Kitchen
The name refers to the latitudes between which wine grapes thrive, and the wines available here are as wide-ranging as the concept suggests. Everything is well-curated: the wines, space, food and staff, all with a relaxed approach. The food is influenced by Europe’s numerous cuisines, all executed to a very high level. Outdoor seating is available, if London’s unpredictable weather allows. There are several locations, but visit the intimate space on Marylebone Lane, a convenient stop after shopping at Wallace Collection and Selfridges, both around the corner.
Nobel Rot is the latest opening on bijou Lamb’s Conduit Street—a classy destination lined with quirky shops patronized by locals. And it fits the area’s independent, eclectic vibe, miles away from some of London’s overdeveloped commercial districts. Noble Rot got its start as an irreverent publication dedicated to contemporary wine coverage, but it’s now a wine bar that captures that same spirit. You’ll find old vintages of claret, iconic Burgundy and hand-picked favorites from around the globe. If you’ve had enough of the mummies and marbles at the nearby British Museum, you can return to the land of the living over some pigeon terrine and rolled pig’s head.
Sager + Wilde
Sager + Wilde has two sites on the city’s east side: a wine bar in trendy Shoreditch and a restaurant in a beautiful space underneath a railway arch in Bethnal Green. The wine lists read like a wine lover’s dream and are worth the trip. You’ll find unusual but lovely stuff here, including some natural wines, enjoyed by a young, hipsterish crowd. The food is in the modern, no-nonsense British vein. The wine bar is a few minutes’ walk from the Geffrye Museum, and the restaurant is a little hike from Sunday’s vibrant Columbia Road Flower Market.
Fortnum & Mason’s 1707 Wine Bar
As holder of a royal warrant, Fortnum & Mason is a bastion of Englishness and does a brisk trade in fine teas, candied fruits, chocolates, preserves and biscuits—all weighed out and wrapped with great care. But you should delve inside the packaging to discover all that this time-honored purveyor of the finest foodstuffs has to offer. While it’s the perfect place to stock up for a picnic in Green Park or a proper afternoon tea, the basement hides the calm, quiet 1707 Wine Bar (the year when F&M was founded). Enticingly themed wine flights are a great value, including one that consists entirely of English sparkling wines. Most are also available by the glass. Needless to say, the service is impeccable. You can find this gem just across the street from the Royal Academy.
With a refreshingly unstuffy approach and innovative drive, this mini-chain is a sound bet for a good glass of wine. Riesling on tap may be just what you need after climbing nearby St. Paul Cathedral’s Whispering Gallery and making your way to the original location in Farringdron via one of London’s oldest and most beautiful churches, St. Bartholomew the Great. The seasonal food is fresh and modern, and there are additional locations in Soho, King’s Cross, Marylebone and Chiswick.
Pall Mall Fine Wine
This is the type of wine bar that Woody Allen would use as the location of a fateful romantic encounter in London. Under the fine arches of the Royal Opera Arcade, this wine shop/bar offers selections you really want to drink, friendly service and barrels in place of tables. Despite being a fairly new arrival to downtown London, this bar is a bit of a welcome throwback. Drop in after strolling over through St. James’s Park from Buckingham Palace, or an art binge in the National Gallery.
The Boot & Flogger
“Labyrinthine” is the only way to describe this south-of-the-river gem, with its series of interconnected wood-paneled rooms and bricked cellars. It has all the markings of a traditional Victorian pub, sporting a classic wine list and pub-style menu. Try the Bramdean pudding, a digestive biscuit soaked in amontillado Sherry and covered with sultanas, custard and cream. It’s perfect after sampling the produce from nearby foodie destination Borough Market. While there, take a moment opposite the entrance to spare a thought for the less fortunate, at a kitsch but heartfelt memorial to “fallen women” on a former burial ground for Victorian prostitutes.
This small restaurant chain has built its reputation with impeccable steaks. However, all five restaurants come with elegant bars that offer a fine selection of cocktails and comprehensive wine lists. A must is the tart and potent Marmalade cocktail, based on a 1920 recipe from the Savoy Hotel that contains fine-cut English marmalade. It goes perfectly with the Art Deco surroundings of the Air Street branch in Piccadilly, right in the middle of town, not too far from the Royal Academy.