In this first in a series of reports from Prague, drinks consultant Harry Crowther finds that if you scratch beneath the surface of ‘Stag Party central’ you will find a buzzing drinks scene with awesome bars and a new wine scene heavily influenced by Austrian and Hungarian vignerons. In this post, Crowther meets up with Milos Danihelka bartender from the L’Fleur whose love of Champagne has started his very own grower revolution. Listed as one of the world’s Top 50 Discovery bars, L’Fleur has an exciting range of cocktails but it is the wine list that now boasts 120 Champagnes with over 70 lines coming from the grower circuit, that has really got tongues wagging, and helped him set up his own on-trade importing business Terroirs Champagne.
Saturday night saw the final service at The Harrow at Little Bedwyn, the Wiltshire-based restaurant run by Roger and Sue Jones for 21 years, which had become a favourite haunt for the wine industry – tickets for final sittings were selling faster than hand sanitiser. One of the final lunches was a classic, hosted by Vranken Pommery, keen to pair its top cuvées from the 2002 vintage with Jones’ faultless eye for culinary detail. David Kermode was there for The Buyer who reports that even with the disaster of the Coronavirus looming ever closer, it could not detract from a meal of truly epic proportions.
“The rituals of eating and drinking together are at the heart of our civilisation, of our very humanity, yet now they are what make us all most vulnerable.” In just one sentence Kate Hawkings, a former restaurant owner herself, captures the dilemma we are now faced with. The desire on one hand to support our local on-trade, but the knowledge we might be putting each other risk if we do go out eating and drinking. Here she shares her personal feelings towards coping with Covid-19 and talks to her contacts and friends in the restaurant trade about what impact it is having on their businesses.
As we named this platform The Buyer, clearly what goes into being a good drinks buyer is a topic very close to our hearts. Which is why we not only welcomed the new Wine Buyers Awards from the London Wine Fair but were very pleased to be the media partner for its Restaurant and Wine Bar category. Now the judging has been completed it’s time to announce the shortlist in each of the categories. The winners will be announced on May 19 at a special session at the London Wine Fair itself.
There are no hard or fast rules when it comes to buying wine for a restaurant wine list, but there are arguably more ways in which you can get it wrong, than if you play it safe with well known varieties from established regions and countries. To stand out in the new London Wine Fair Wine Buyers Awards you are going to have to do a lot more than that. One of the judges for the Restaurant and Wine Bar category, Martin Lam, explains what he thinks makes a good wine buyer.
As there is no formal training or professional qualification for wine buying it can be hard to know if you are actually any good at it. Yes, you might have a wine list that seems to do the business, but how good are you compared to the wine buyer working for the restaurant group, wholesaler or wine merchant across the road. That’s what the new London Wine Fair Wine Buyer Awards are all about. The chance to go toe to toe with your peers to find out who actually is tippety top of the wine buying world. Christine Parkinson, so long the head of wine at the worldwide Hakkasan restaurant group, is pretty well placed to know what makes a good wine buyer or not. It’s why she is one of the judges in the Restaurant and Wine Bar category, sponsored by The Buyer. Here she explains what she thinks it takes to be a good – and award-winning wine buyer.
Roger and Sue Jones are always full of surprises with their latest amazing scheme to wow the trade and guests alike with another wonderful food and wine experience at their multi-award winning restaurant, The Harrow at Little Bedwyn. But they have kept their biggest surprise for the end, at least for the future of The Harrow, as they have announced they are to close their much-loved, and highly respected restaurant in order to move into the slightly less stressful world of consultancy, wine judging – and (hopefully) writing for The Buyer.
The high street is full of restaurant chains that look like they have been created by committee with their quickly forgettable, formulaic offers that makes you wonder how they ever got to be opened in the first place. Then there are restaurateurs like Martin Williams. The man who after a successful career making his name at Gaucho, set up his new vision for premium restaurants, the multi faceted M Restaurants that is part premium steak restaurant, part cocktail, wine bar, part events space and part private dining club. He has now been brought in as the new chief executive of Gaucho with the mission of re-launching a famous, and once much loved restaurant brand that had fallen so badly off the rails that it even slipped into administration late year. Here, in his first major business interview since unveiling his new look for Gaucho at the re-opened and re-designed Charlotte Street branch in London, Williams sits down with Richard Siddle to take him through his vision for Gaucho and how he wants it to re-gain its crown as not just the best premium steak restaurant chain in the country, but an inspirational place to work and further your career in hospitality.
Look for a good grower, look for a top vintage and look out especially for Bourgogne Côte d’Or and Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Nuits as they offer impressive value for money, says Flint Wines. Many more good tipsin this second part of a series in which The Buyer is interviewing a number of leading fine wine merchants to get their feel on how this vital region is doing and what the 2020 has in store when the annual Bourgogne campaign comes to a head with Bourgogne Week.
We hear a lot about the importance of long term relationships when it comes to restaurants, hotels, bars and their drinks suppliers. Which is why it is particularly refreshing to see one such partnership blossoming as well as the one between Corney & Barrow and premium Lake District hotel, The Forest Side, thanks, in part, to the close personal relations its general manager Alasdair Elwick has forged with C&B over his career. Here Richard Siddle talks to Elwick to find out what aspects of that relationship are so important.
If you are keen to learn more about the latest styles of Italian and Mediterranean wine and how they can particularly work with different types of cuisine in the premium on-trade then next month’s Bellavita Expo really is a must. For the two day show has put together a highly impressive range of wine seminars, masterclasses and panel debates featuring a roll call of top experts and Masters of Wine. Here’s our highlights of what is a packed agenda of talks.
“It is a celebration, a chance for every sommelier at different stages of their career to show their appreciation and knowledge of wines from the Occitanie region”. This is how Sud de France’s executive director, Isabelle Kanaan, describes the challenge of taking part in what was the 10th edition of the Sud de France Sommelier Competition. Richard Siddle was also there not just to report, but act as one of the judges in this prestigious event. He was also in the ideal place to feel the tension, appreciate the talents of the finalists and join in the congratulations to the overall winner, Andrés Rangel, assistant head sommelier at Gymkhana.
Last time Richelle van Gemert travelled to South Africa it was with a group of fellow sommeliers in the search for good food, great wine and to discover for themselves what the fuss is all about South African wines. She has this weekend come out top in the latest Wines of South Africa Sommelier Cup competition that has been taking place this week in Cape Wine. Having won the UK competition she was there to represent the country against other finalists from around the world. Here we look back on this interview we ran in the summer where she explains what she was most looking forward to returning to South Africa and taking part in the Sommelier Cup.
If you are a sommelier or work in the hospitality sector and are keen to find out how to make your German wine offer really sing, then the Wines of Germany Somm sessions will definitely be of interest. After the success of its inaugural event at Hide restaurant in London and second session at Silo in Brighton, Wines of Germany is holding its third Somm Sessions at 20 Stories in Manchester on September 25. Hosted by award-winning sommelier Jan Konetzki, director of wine at Ten Trinity Square, and all round go-to expert when it comes to German wines, Helen Arnold caught up with him before the next event to talk about what’s happening in German wines.
It’s not every day you get to be driven around some of London’s finest dining venues in specially hired Land Rovers, meeting different South African winemakers in each restaurant, getting the chance to not only taste their wines, but have them matched with food from that particular outlet. Welcome to The Buyer and Wines of South Africa’s restaurant safari which took a team of restaurateurs, wine merchants and sommeliers on a tasting tour of four London restaurants.
It’s not easy setting up a winemakers event at the best of times. But if you are based at the very tip of Cornwall, persuading a group of winemakers with busy schedules to make time for an entire weekend of events, and to get there in the first place, takes a very special kind of dedication. But for Ben Prior, whose restaurant Ben’s Cornish Kitchen is in Marazion and Portminster, the two events he’s organised this weekend – Riding the Third Wave and a winemakers dinner featuring five star chefs – are all part of his passion for South African wines. Fellow chef and wine expert Roger Jones talks to him about the weekend and how he has gone about expanding into online sales.
Ranald Macdonald must be one of the best customers a wine or drinks supplier could have. For he is always looking to do something new and different at any of his four Boisdale restaurants across London. So if you are equally ambitious, creative and have a good idea to share then his door is always open. Which is how E&J Gallo has started to work with him and his restaurant group by introducing its super premium Californian Collection of producers and winemakers. Wines that are particularly well placed to not only work well with the classic British and Scottish Boisdale cuisine, but fit in so well with the adventurous spirit that Macdonald and his Boisdale group is all about.
It’s one thing entering a cocktail competition when you know the spirits involved inside out. It’s quite a challenge when you only have really heard of the hero product in question. But for Andrea Dionori, head mixologist at Crazy Bear in London, the first UK baijiu competition, organised by Fenjiu, was also an opportunity to discover the style of drink as well as compete. Whatever his approach it worked as he was the stand out winner in the event. Here he explains his winning cocktail and what he has learnt about premium Chinese baijiu.
A man of many hats, The Buyer contributing editor and chef at large, Roger Jones was once again a judge at the Champagne Taittinger UK Sommelier of the Year 2019 finals. Jones was sitting on a panel that included previous winners of the award such as Clement Robert MS, Kathrine Larsen, Laura Rhys MS, Xavier Rousset MS and Ronan Rayburn MS, and saw Vineyard Hotel head sommelier Romain Bourger deliver a faultless display to land himself the crown of Champagne Taittinger UK Sommelier of the Year award on his sixth time of asking. For the Vineyard Hotel this is the fourth winner that they have nurtured.
With a history dating back to 1270, Frapin Cognac might not seem the most obvious candidate for a cutting edge re-invention of the cocktail but, thanks to a pioneering partnership with an importer of fine teas, that’s just what’s taking shape at the world-famous Brown’s Hotel in London’s Mayfair. ‘Aperi-TEAvo’ is a new initiative from Frapin’s importer Louis Latour Agencies with Lalani and Co, supported by an elegant tasting menu. Cognac fan and cocktail lover David Kermode, aka Mr Vinosaurus, took a tea for the team.