Restaurants with Good Wine Lists in London
Saturday, March 19th , 2016
The Harwood Arms is the only Michelin-starred pub in London. Part-owned by Mike Robinson of The Pot Kiln, the Harwood specialises in game, much of it shot by Mike in Berkshire. To balance what might be an overly meaty menu, the restaurant offers a fully vegetarian menu too. It almost single-handedly reinvented the Scotch egg when it launched its dazzling venison version, leading to the rehabilitation of the humble Scotch egg as a gourmet item on London restaurant menus. At this meal a board of fallow deer in various forms was the star dish, though stone bass was precisely cooked too, and Homer Simpson would approve of the excellent jam doughnuts here. There is even an excellent and fairly priced wine list.
Noble Rot is another place with a fine and tolerably priced wine list, which in London is about as rare as a unicorn sighting (others are at Bonhams and 110 des Taillevent). This is not unconnected with the fact that the owners run a wine magazine called Noble Rot in addition to the wine bar itself, and so are well connected in the wine trade. An example at this visit was the offering of “Sauternes 2” by Chateau d’Yquem, a wine I have never seen before and one not usually offered commercially. It is a non-vintage wine made from Chateau Yquem from grapes that don’t make the grade for their flagship sweet wine. Nonetheless it is terrific, and currently available by the glass. The food was a touch more erratic than at my first visit, with the slip soles again lovely, but a very ordinary chocolate dessert slightly letting the side down. Nonetheless the average standard was still high, and an Anjou pigeon dish with puy lentils and peas was excellent.
Royal China is the restaurant that raised the standards for Cantonese food in London. It is a barn of a place (with sister establishments in Baker Street) but serves consistently excellent food. At this visit I enjoyed honey-roast pork, and the gai lan here is superb, a dish to disprove the notion that vegetable dishes are somehow inherently inferior to meat. As so often in Chinese restaurants, service is not what you come for, and the waiting team tonight was having a particularly off night, with our resolutely unsmiling waitress hard to track down. Still, the food sets the standard in London, the only better Chinese cooking that you can find being at the much pricier and smarter Hakkasan group.