Londoners, according to Londoners, are experts at everything. Sorry about that. But there is one thing we’re legitimately accomplished at, and that’s drinking. It makes sense then that London is full of wine bars and restaurants where you can leisurely drink wine and get something to eat if you want to. It’s something that people always want to do: pop in for a glass, or a couple of hours, or for an entire evening. These are the best places to go to casually drink wine and maybe eat something if you want to.
Noble Rot is London’s best wine bar. Aside from the super comfortable atmosphere and a bar menu that features the best bread in the city, it’s the staff that make Noble Rot. Whether you know anything about wine or not, the staff are friendly, helpful, and won’t say a thing about skin contact unless you ask them to. This shows on the wine list, which ranges from half glasses at a few quid, to crazy once in a lifetime bottles worth a lot more.
The name of this wine shop and bar translates to ‘wine passion’ which, like everything, sounds much more sordid in English. Nonetheless, this all-Italian wine spot is one of the best places in Shoreditch to have a few glasses of excellent wine before moving on elsewhere, or upstairs via a kind-of-secret hidden door up to a sort of 1920s living room with a bottle picked out from the shop, and a load of cheese and charcuterie.
As well as being an affectionate family nickname for mothers all over the UK, Lady Of The Grapes is also a lovely wine bar in Covent Garden. Everything here is a celebration of women working in the wine industry, and it’s a place you’ll generally feel celebratory in. Whether you’ve got good reason to or not. There’s a large selection of organic, biodynamic or natural wines to choose from, as well cheese, charcuterie, and other snacky things like croquettes and crispy squid.
Wine vault is a bit much, isn’t it? It’s a bit chill the eff out, George Clooney and Don Cheadle aren’t gonna try and break in here any time soon. What The Grocery is though is an ideal venue for a quiet glass. Once you get over its slightly OTT name, this wine bar attached to a hip supermarket is one of Shoreditch’s most lowkey bars, plus you can drink anything from the ‘vault’ for just £10 corkage.
Quality Wines would be our only rider request if we were megastars. We’re not though. So we just go to the wine bar attached to Quality Chop House instead. This candlelit Farringdon spot is one of our favourites for a couple of glasses and some lardo crostini. That’s how things always start here - leaning and nibbling - before you slowly descend, mentally and physically, to one of the three tables. Then it’s meatball, braised leeks, and pig fat cannolo time.
It makes sense that some of the best places in London to drink wine are in wine shops, doesn’t it? That said, we don’t know anyone that eats a bacon sandwich from their butchers, but life’s funny like that. P. Franco is a cupboard-like wine shop in Clapton where you should go if you want to try something new in your glass. And, Thursday through Sunday, you want to get here early (it’s no reservations) and nab a couple of spots on the coveted kitchen island, where a person with a couple of hob rings serves up some of the best and most simple dishes in town.
Provisions comes from the P. Franco school of wine shops and bars. Meaning, you’ll lean, stand, or perch, on the big central table, drinking funky wines and having a chat (or listening in to the juicy chat across the table). This Holloway Road spot often has a lot of things on the go, both bottles and cheese-wise, and the staff are as unpretentious as they are knowledgeable, so it’s a great place to try a few new things, be it day or night.
Every area in London should have somewhere like The Mountgrove Bothy. This cute Highbury wine bar is the kind of place locals will coo about. It’s friendly and comfortable - though sit up front, the back is dominated by quite a bright bit Mickey Mouse piece of ‘art’ - and wine ranges between around £20-odd to £80-odd quid. Food-wise there are always some tasty and fresh small plates on offer, as well as rotating pop-ups on weekends featuring chefs from some great London restaurants.
Across the road from The Mountgrove Bothy is Top Cuvée, a small plates restaurant that’s best used as a wine bar. It’s big and airy, and perfect for a pre or post dinner glass/bottle of something. The list is all natural and works well with the menu’s more snackable bits, like burrata, terrine, or carpaccio. And although the food isn’t anything to shout about, it’s the kind spot every neighbourhood would be glad to have.
If you’re looking for a late night glass, or a load of glasses that lead to a late night, then you want to go to The Laughing Heart on Hackney Road: this wine bar serves until 2am (the kitchen until 1am). It’s both trendy and friendly, and the staff are very helpful, ready to find out what you like and what you’d like to spend. The small plates menu is sometimes great and sometimes fine, but for the atmosphere and list, there are few places better.
Authentique in Tufnell Park is a Francophone wine shop and bar that’s a perfect spot for a glass of something before moving on elsewhere. The regional wines on offer change periodically, and although wines by the glass are a little expensive, it’s a very good place for a couple of drinks. There is a small plates menu with things like tartiflette, but you should use it for the bar where you can get a glass of something red and some cheese which will come with probably the best baguette you’ve eaten in London.
A lot of restaurants in London forget that there’s value in being comfortable, but Linden Stores pretty much puts comfort front and centre. This Highbury wine shop and restaurant just knows how to do it. A little £5 glass of fizz here, a bit of toasted bread and marmite butter there. Before you know it, it’ll be dark outside and you’ll be very much involved with their fairly short and sweet wine list. Just make sure you save room for bourbon biscuits for dessert as well.
Diogenes The Dog is in Elephant and Castle, which is a combination of animals you wouldn’t necessarily expect to see in south London. You’ll want to check out this wine bar and café though, as it’s one of the most comfortable we’ve been to in London. It specialises in smaller producers, and the staff can tell you as much or as little as you want to know. Also, the snacks - from terrine of the week to burratina - are both excellent and fairly reasonably priced.
This Hackney Road spot can be a little bit beard-strokey, let me tell you something about wine-y, but it’s a cool and comfortable place to grab a couple of drinks later on, as it’s open till 1am Thursday to Saturday. There’s a huge wine list, but the by the glass list is also pretty big and accessibly priced. Prices here range from between £5 - £15 a glass, with everything from natural to fortified wine covered. They also do cheese toasties if you fancy a snack.
If you close your eyes whilst sitting outside at the Ten Cases and smell the smoke in the air, taste the wine in your mouth, and blindly fumble for a bit of ham on the table, you might think you were in Paris. Only you aren’t. This Covent Garden spot is about as close to that lively Parisian wine bar feeling as we’re going to get. The wine list is extensive, and the charcuterie decent. Be aware that lots of other people will have the same idea, so expect a wait.
Underneath Holborn Viaduct is the Winemakers Club, a candle-lit wine bar in a couple of 150-year-old arches that looks like the kind of place Hannibal Lector would drink a nice chianti. Winemakers is best suited for the evening thanks to its underground setting, and it’s intimate and relaxed enough to go a casual date, or even on your own. The wine selection is good, as are the prices, and its a great spot to try something new. Not least their raclette toastie.
A wine shop with an extremely don’t-tell-anyone patio out back, Newcomer Wines is a nice spot to escape the crowds around Dalston. It’s deceptively roomy inside, and combined with its secret outside space, makes for good spot if there are a few of you. The wine is mostly Austrian which, unless you have a particularly niche interest, probably won’t matter to you. What matters more is that glasses start at £6.50.