‘Wine is bottled poetry,’ wrote author Robert Louis Stevenson during his honeymoon in Napa Valley over 100 years ago. It’s a beautiful sentiment but one that’s hard to grasp for many of us who stare confusedly at wine lists, opting for the safe varietals and regions we’ve tried before. Hardly the stuff of poetry but then choosing the right wine to suit your palette is not just a skill; it’s an art. Just ask any of the staff at Social Wine & Tapas, a new bar and restaurant in central London where marvelously, all the waiters are sommeliers and rare wines are accessibly priced.
Tucked away near department store Selfridges, not far from Oxford Street, Social Wine & Tapas exists as both a wine shop and a tapas bar (you have to order at least some food with any drink). Set over two floors, the space is a maze of raised and sunken levels, with two wine tasting areas, intimate dining tables and counter seating by an open kitchen.
Opened by French sommelier Laure Patry and acclaimed chef Jason Atherton, who have worked together for over 10 years, Social Wine & Tapas champions small growers from around the world, with a wine list that looks more like a small briefcase and a Coravin system that enables fine wines to be poured by the glass without pulling the cork.
Head chef Frankie Van Loo, together with Atherton, has developed a menu of modern tapas that is every bit as flawless as the wines. But it is in combining the two that Social – and its sommeliers – truly shines. The heirloom tomato salad with burrata for example, deserves a cheese-loving Poulsard Cote de Feule, Domaine Hughes Beguet 2012, Patry points out. The pepper of a Pinot Noir Mc Forbes 2013 needs the salt of chargrilled carrots, miso and burnt aubergine.
Then there’s the dessert wines: some rich, some refreshing, and like every bottle on the menu, available for purchase from the shop to take home. With so much to choose from, you’ll be glad for a sommelier, and their selections are sure to bring out the poet in you.
39 James Street, W1U 1DL. T: 020 7993 3257. www.socialwineandtapas.com
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