Alexandra Fraser extols the wonders of her favourite flavour of city escape, while sampling London’s latest rendition: Bottles, on Draycott Avenue.
If there’s one thing (there are many, so there must be one) that I will forever laud, no matter the time or prescribed order of business, it’s the advantages of the tactically-placed wine bar.
This is the small pocket away from reality, decked in rack-upon-rack of shining bottles, which you stumble upon while trying to wile away the hour before your dinner reservation, or prolong a successful first date, or desperately escape the rain because you more-than-slightly resemble a drowned rat.
Where, you ask, is this oasis from the storms of a big city or the trials of a long day?
That’s the best thing: it’s everywhere. It’s a corner of the Mercato Centrale, near-buried under leather goods stands and mini Venus de Milos. It’s at the end of a cobbled street in the quiet Évian-les-Bains, where you can perch on ever-so-slightly unstable bar stools and sip rosé while the sun sets. And now, it’s on a pretty street in South Kensington, far enough from the hustle and bustle to be a world of its own.
This is Bottles. It’s a picturesque spot gracing Draycott Avenue, whose quiet music and grotto-like feel is accented by its cork walls and quirky copper cutlery. Oh yes – this is more than just a spot to whet your whistle on the way to dinner down the road: there’s a selectively-delicious food menu, too.
You can take anyone to a tactically-placed wine bar. That’s the beauty of it. A long-time partner who knows your order before you do, your boyfriend’s charming sister who is in town for a few days and loves a good time, a best friend who’ll never turn down a glass of Prosecco.
For this, the first visit, I opted for the latter.
I’ll always be the first to admit that I don’t retain pairing information very well, so I tend to leave it up to the experts. At Bottles, we found staff invested in offering us the best wining and dining experience possible.
To start with, we enjoyed delicious Cornish scallops in a ‘mentsuyu sauce roe with topinambur’. Although we were too busy eating to enquire into what exactly those exotic flavours were, they were presented in a shell like a gift from the ocean, and paired perfectly with a crisp Prosecco – try the Fantinel One & Old Prosecco Brut D.O.C for the true Italian experience. If you’re looking for a warmer start, opt for the whole-wheat squid taco with a crisp Riesling. Absolutely delicious.
After trying one of their ‘bites’, it was all too tempting to stay for something more substantial. Everything we tried was, frankly, a delight for the tastebuds, but it’d be remiss not to give special mention to the pasta. Truffle tagliolini was the highlight of the night, dressed in anchovy-infused butter and topped with fine nero pregiato truffle. It was a complete experience of sensational flavour, of earthy truffle and perfect pasta, one that I’ll undoubtedly drag my boyfriend, his sister and many a friend to in the future. Pair it with a rich red to accentuate the flavours.
We also tried the gorgeous langoustine fusillione, with smoked butter and eryngii mushrooms, paired with an equally-gorgeous orange wine. There’s no copious sauce disguising pasta sins at Bottles; everything is clean cut, simple and absolutely spot on.
Having consumed an elegant sufficiency, we were nevertheless tempted by the cumin wholewheat tartlet. From our corner of the bar we could see the care and attention that went into assembling this artwork of a dessert – a diligence that came through wholeheartedly in the beautiful flavours. It was exactly what we needed after an excellent meal; not too sweet, not too rich. Just perfect.
The beauty of a tactically-placed wine bar, instantly available the minute ones thoughts turn to an evening’s entertainment, cannot be overstated. Bottles in Chelsea has added its cosy corner to this legacy with undeniable style, improving, if it were possible, on an old-world institution with its carefully-curated menu and erudite staff. I look forward to the next time the wind blows me its way.
Glasses of wine at Bottles start at £6, bites start at £5, pasta from £14 and other mains from £18 — www.bottleswine.bar, 020 3880 9002.
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