The best wine bars in London and beyond

The other crucial part of the equation here, however, is us: the drinkers, nibblers, and diners who have embraced this new (old) way of eating and drinking with such aplomb. As anyone who has tried to secure a table in a fashionable spot during peak hours will attest, bettors line up around the block for it.

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This will partly be the consequence of a hot summer; in part, it will be a release of some pent-up demand as we return to bars and restaurants after two years of uncertainty. But the pandemic has also shaped us as people: Amid much of the understandable concern about rising alcohol consumption since 2020, there are some interesting micro-trends buried in the data. We drink wine on a wider range of occasions than ever before; interest in fine wines is also on the rise.

More importantly, we also have more things delivered directly to our homes. Wine bars that turned to retail at the height of the lockdown were on hand to provide a ready supply from their shelves – notably the team at Highbury’s Top Cuvée, which garnered national media coverage for the success of their about-face (the team opened a new site in Bethnal Green earlier this year, with its own Cave downstairs). All of this means that the average consumer will find it easier than ever to explore wine as something not only enjoyed in a formal R-capital restaurant setting.

The new wave of bars offers exactly that kind of third space: not quite your kitchen table at home, but not as sophisticated, formal and taxing as a full restaurant either. This is, for me, why it marks such an exciting starting point: freed from all formality, punters now have the possibility of exploring wine at their leisure. Granted, many of these bars specialize in the younger, spicier styles that have been popularized under the totally misleading moniker “natural wine” – but labeling them with such a reductive label is insane. They offer light wines and heavy wines; rich and complex wines and crystalline and delicate wines; red wines and white wines and orange wines and rosé wines and wines in just about every other hue under the sun. There has never been a more inclusive and opportunity-rich time to enjoy a glass, or even a bottle, and we have never seen such a rich crop of wine lovers eager to share their passions with consumers. Even I can see the value of leaving your house for this.

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