Fiona Sims examines the wines at the Galvin brothers' new London eaterie, La Chapelle.
Galvin La Chapelle, 35 Spital Square, London E1 6DY, 020 7299 0404 galvinrestaurants.com
Because chef owners Chris and Jeff Galvin can do no wrong - such is the popularity of their venues: Galvin Bistrot de Luxe in Baker Street, and Galvin at Windows on top of the Hilton on Park Lane.
The wine list is managed by head sommelier Andrea Briccarello, fresh from Corrigan's restaurant in Mayfair. The Galvins are Rhône nuts - or to be precise, Hermitage La Chapelle nuts. It made sense to cosy up to Paul Jaboulet Aîné and its La Chapelle wine. The restaurant looks like a chapel, crowned by an elevated 12-seater private "room" on a raised balcony. Meanwhile, the café, separated by a handsome chrome bar the Galvins nicked off nearby restaurant Aurora, offers simpler cuisine and humbler wines, plucked off the main list.
What they're saying
OK, so Fay Maschler's review in the London Evening Standard was a tad lukewarm, but she rocked up a few days after opening. Rose Prince, in the Daily Telegraph, sums up their ventures more succinctly: "Chris and Jeff Galvin have revved up bistrot cuisine."
Think terrine of ham hock and foie gras; slow-cooked pork belly, Savoy cabbage and quince purée.
So were there lots of Rhône wines on the list, then?
Yup, it boasts the biggest line-up of La Chapelle outside, er, La Chapelle. There were 20 vintages at the last count, from the 1952, at £2,900, to the 2001 in magnum at £850, with the 1961 the most expensive, at £19,500 - rated by US publication Wine Spectator as one of the world's top 100 wines.
A tough sell in this climate?
"We have already sold a fair bit of the 1982, by the 175ml glass at £69. We also sell the 1988 by-the-glass, at £59," reports Briccarello.
Jaboulet donated an Enomatic system to keep the wines fresh, in exchange for some Galvins PR.
Each wine comes with a guarantee of provenance. "These wines suit the food well - rustic, with a hint of elegance. The bold flavours of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre sit very well," he says.
Organising the list
It's presented by region, and a bit by style. Around 70% of the wines are French, with 20% from Italy (Briccarello is from Piemonte), and 10% from the rest of the world, with just a smattering from the New World.
One section Briccarello is particularly proud of is "Orange Wines" - whites macerated for longer than normal, a particular trend from north eastern Italy, although this section also includes an amphorae-aged white from Sicilian producer, Cos.
A favourite is the superior, quirky Pinot Grigio from Dario Princic, and a Trebbiano from Valentini, says Briccarello. "We want to offer something a bit different," he says. That includes plenty of natural wines - those with no or little sulphites added, which Briccarello and his team chomp at the bit to sell.
Who's supplying the list?
You guessed it, Guildford-based suppliers Les Caves de Pyrene - aka Quirky Wine Central, plus seven others, from Liberty to Thorman Hunt, and Flint Wines. There are 250 wines on the list in all, in addition to the La Chapelle - nine whites, nine reds, a couple of rosés, a handful of bubbly, and five dessert wines.
Not much for under £30, then?
The majority of wines are priced between £30 and £60 - but the restaurant is situated on prime City land, in a swanky development just off Bishopsgate, packed with fat wallets. "I think we offer good value for money," insists Briccarello.
Currently flying out of the door is a Bourgogne Pinot Noir from Domaine Lignier-Michelot, at £9.50 a (175ml) glass and £39 a bottle; while the best-selling white is a Gaillac Sec from Château Clément Termes, at £5 a glass, and £19 a bottle. All the wines in the Café de Luxe are available by the 175ml glass, 250ml or 475ml "pot" and by the bottle.