August 2004
  Arts
MICHAEL BARNETT 

THIS WINE LIST WILL LEAVE YOU IN A PURPLE HAZE AND A BIT TIPSY

I don’t know why in London it has to be so very, very, very expensive to imbibe an enjoyable bottle of plonk with a meal in a restaurant.

I’ve just come back from Rouen, in Northern France, where I strolled along the cobblestones and popped into a guide-book recommended restaurant. The menu was great fresh local fare (even with my minute grasp French, when trying to order!), and the wine list had a superb range, sensibly priced. So as I sipped a tasty Saint-Emilion I wondered, how come within one hour's across the Channel that same bottle’s worth could be bumped up twice or maybe more in Blighty.

Drinking in London just makes you feel like shouting, come on, fleece me, please rip-me-off, I’m an extremely thirsty arty man!

Most of us who appreciate the therapeutic benefits to a little wine with our nourishment, know the approximate cost of purchasing a typical bottle or two at the local Oddbins or Nicolas or have succumbed to one of the broadsheet newspapers appetising wine promotions (are they all run by the same company? Seems like it).

Those restaurateurs who do the loathsome alcohol mark-up must think most of us punters are groggy even before they have started to order their culinary delights.

One highly-regarded chain restaurant I went to the last month had numerous bottles on its wine list. But I noticed that all the bottles described were not listed by vintage, just type eg. Chardonnay, Chianti, Fleurie, Bordeaux, and so on. When I questioned the waiter on this, he said,in a matter of fact way, "most restaurants I've worked in operate the wine list in this way".

I don’t know which organic planet this gentleman had arrived from, but I duly informed him, that the pricing of wines depends on the year and there is an enormous difference between the vintages and this should be reflected in the amount charged.

Needless to say, he did not have a prudent answer. this elephantine response and sleight of hand did leave a bad taste on the palate at the end of the meal.

And before any of London restaurateurs email in with a missive from hell's kitchen. I know there is a thin line between profit and going under. There's a high price to running a restaurant, rates, insurance, chef and staff plus all those miscellaneous extras. But just visualise the merry look on your custmor's faces, when they glimpse the wine list and take in that for once they can order the wine they want without compromising! It may even gain the staff much more in tips, and you will be delighted to know O providers of excellence service and goodwill, repeat custom again and again.

I’m sure we all have our favourite eating and drinking boltholes, an epicurean sanctuary where the service, atmosphere, outstanding food, and, yes, yes, yes one can purchase a bottle of wine where the mark-up is realistic.

I beseech you, O arty internet reader, please email the heavenly venue's name and address to me*, at once so I can have a little light drinking with my food and not have to push the boat out, only to discover I have no lifejacket and I’m sinking in my own vat. Well, that is 17.5% and on top of that there is 12.5 per cent service charge to pay!

Cheers! and artyregards

Michael

Michael's email:michael.barnett6@virgin.net

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