Food, wine and generosity

This article was also published in the Financial Times.   Three very closely related events have just taken, or are currently taking, place in the restaurant and wine worlds that reveal an aspect of both that is unique but rarely discussed. The first event was the 151st Hospices de Beaune wine auction organised in Burgundy in late November by Anthony Hanson MW of Christie’s. This raised over €5 million ($6.7 million) for the Hospices’ charitable beneficiaries. The second is the current iteration across the UK of StreetSmart, created by William…






How to be a sommelier

How to be a sommelier – 2011 For several very different reasons I recently accepted an invitation to be one of the five judges of the UK Sommelier of the Year 2011 Award. It was won by Frenchman Yohann Jousselin of The Vineyard at Stockcross, Berkshire, on his sixth attempt. The first had been a comment from a New York restaurateur that sommeliers are becoming restaurants’ new superstars but that there is currently an acute shortage of good ones in his city. Then there was the introduction from London restaurateur…






Chinese food and wine

Chinese food and wine – 2011 Christine Parkinson was a chemical analyst, with dreams of working in astrophysical research, before becoming a chef and then the wine buyer for the initial Hakkasan restaurant when it opened a decade ago off Tottenham Court Road. Today, her official title is Group Wine Buyer, responsible for the lists at both Hakkasans in London, the outpost in Mumbai due to open in mid-April, and their dim sum restaurant, yauatcha. That brings a lot of power to her wine-buying elbow. These three London restaurants can…






A Wine-Pricing Manifesto

A Wine-Pricing Manifesto – 2010 The wine element in any restaurant bill is the elephant in the room. Size is the most obvious comparable element in this analogy because any bottle of wine, other than the house wine, is invariably more expensive than any dish on the menu. But there are several other comparable elements too, most notably how little discussion there is about whether the wine prices charged can be justified. This is mainly because in almost every newspaper in the world this topic tends to fall between the…






Martine Saunier

Martine Saunier – 2009 As the waiter was clearing our excellent first course of house-cured salt cod with oyster tartare at the ever-popular Piperade restaurant in San Francisco, Gerald Hirigoyen, its Basque chef/proprietor, walked across from the bar to talk to my guest, Martine Saunier. ‘Look, Martine’, he said, ‘there’s a bottle of your wine going to the next table where those three young women are sitting. And there’s another one on the table just behind you.’ This situation is neither new nor confined to San Francisco. Over the past…






How to create a wine list

How to create a wine list – 2009 John Hutton reveals his hitherto secret career compiling many of London’s top restaurant wine lists. For the past 30 years John Hutton has led a professional double life at the heart of the London restaurant scene. As we met at Mark Hix’s Chop House in Smithfield, London, he revealed the secret side of his career for the very first time. Tall, full of enthusiasm for wine that has been his passion since his initial career in banking, but diffident in manner, Hutton…






Wine’s role in the modern restaurant

Wine’s role in the modern restaurant – 2006 Page 99 of Bibendum Wine Ltd’s 2006 Trade List reveals a vital, if unappetising, aspect of restaurant life Headed Gross Profit Table it lists down the left hand side the ex-VAT price points of many of the £25 million worth of wine the company sells to restaurants, hotels and increasingly to gastro-pubs. Across the top are the three percentage points most restaurateurs apply to the cost price, 60, 65 or 70%, and below these are the sales prices calculated to include VAT…






The art of wine at the Tate

The art of wine at the Tate – 2008 House wines used to be the most disappointing aspect of any visit to any restaurant. Often thin and acidic, a house wine’s only saving grace – at least until the following morning – was that it was inexpensive. The good news today is that not only is the overall quality of most wine lists vastly superior to what it used to be even a decade ago but also that the simple choice of either one house red or one house white…






Wine friendly restaurants in Paris

Wine friendly restaurants in Paris – 2002 On your way out of L’Angle du Faubourg in Paris’s smart 8th arrondissement something takes place which is highly unusual yet so highly indicative of an extremely well run restaurant. Without mentioning your name or handing over a piece of paper or a plastic token you are promptly reunited with your coat. This apparent sleight of hand is not of course operationally that difficult – it merely requires an attentive receptionist and sufficient, clearly defined, cloakroom space for each table – but it…






Beer in restaurants

Beer in restaurants – 2005 Brew Wharf, the recently opened restaurant with its own micro-brewery, seemed the most appropriate place to catch up with Rupert Ponsonby, the leading light behind the emergence of beer lists alongside wine lists in a growing number of restaurants in the UK, a movement that is simultaneously gathering force in the US. Brew Wharf is a particularly interesting place for food and beer lovers. One of its founders is Trevor Gulliver of St John and as a result, the restaurant’s approach is straightforward, direct and…