A candlelit wine bar is dreamy, but a candlelit wine bar with the soft glow of heaters and the freedom to chain-smoke like there’s no tomorrow - well that’s the dream. At least to us anyway. There’s no lack of places to drink wine in London, but to combine it with a comfortable outside space and a choice of excellent food? These are our absolute go-tos.
Diogenes The Dog is another quaint corner wine bar that, whisper it, could be mistaken for somewhere Elephant and Castle-looking in Paris if you squint your eyes and get to work on that second bottle of malbec, stat. 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 quite reasonably priced.
Part refined wine bar and part ginormous arch full of people unashamedly swilling glasses, Sager + Wilde is a fine choice for an intimate couple or a livelier group of grape lovers alike. There’s plenty of room and plenty of tables at their archway space in Bethnal Green, but you’ll have to book fast as this is very much a spot that people know about. Food-wise there’s handmade pasta, charcuterie, and all the things you’d want to politely fork at whilst putting the world (or something) to rights.
This female winemakers focused restaurant and wine bar in Covent Garden has plenty of exposed brick, rustic wooden tables, and shelves stacked to the brim with organic wines inside. Outside, in the middle of Covent Garden, it’s a cute spot where a handful of tables spill from the pavement onto the road - perfect for a cheeseboard, a slice of tart au citron, and some picks of a fantastic all-female wine list.
Ordinarily, Bright leans more restaurant than wine bar - though we’d always recommend swinging by the bar during the day for a glass of something funky - but in warmer months their front yard transforms into a brilliant space to lazily to explore their wine list and nibble on whatever’s on offer from their superb changing menu. Whether they’ll keep their now stalwart squid sandwiches going remains to be seen, but whatever happens, it’s a great place to start (and likely) end your evening at.
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 the outside space has the rain protection benefit of being one of those indoor/outdoor type numbers. The wine selection is good, as are the prices, and its a great spot to try something new. Not least their raclette toastie.
Quality Wines isn’t currently open for reservations
If you think that one of London’s best wine bars and restaurants - lead with whichever you see fit - would lose its lean-over-the-table-candlelit-appeal with tables outside then think again. Quality Wines manages to make a corner of the Farringdon Road feel quite transportive. To the extent that at some point after your mart-ilda (it’s a martini and a gilda!) and your oily focaccia, likely when you’re eyeing up the next table’s scallop with n’duja butter or whatever, you’ll forget that you’re in EC1, that there you’re five minutes from a Leyland, and that anything’s been wrong with the world at all.