Tate Britain contains many great treasures. The finest for the oenophile are on the list in the Rex Whistler restaurant which is open for lunch daily. Those responsible for buying wine here have invested wisely and the mark ups are slight. If you want to taste great wine, be it burgundy, Bordeaux, from the Rhone or the new world then this is the place to come. The staff are passionate and will give great advice. Old champagne and stunning white burgundy are well represented.
Ransomes Dock is just over the river in Battersea. You can read the list on the website. It is cleverly divided into categories of style rather than geographically so if you want aromatic white or big red then you will find navigation a doddle. What is remarkable here is the breadth of choice and the fact that bottles we rarely see are held. The chef/owner Martin Lam worked at L’Escargot in the 1980s which was then owned by Mr Jancis Robinson (Nick Lander).We see her guiding hand in this wise selection.
Our next suggestion is not in the same league for value as the other venues suggested but Bibendum in the Fulham Road is one of the loveliest, light-filled rooms in London and offers a fixed price three course lunch that is a steal. Identical items cost more than double in the evening. The wine list is massive and some bottles are far from cheap but the sommelier really knows her stuff and recently selected a big Argentinian red that was just £27. Incidentally, the staff here will gladly serve you tap water, again cutting the cost of an outing.
Bob Bob Ricard
Next, the wild card. Bob Bob Ricard is not for the faint hearted. It is lively and loud but it guarantees that the mark up will not exceed £50 and so it offers bottles which are double or treble the cost elsewhere. If you want to push the boat out and drink great red Bordeaux then this is the place to come. Their website gives specific examples showing what they charge compared to, for example, Gordon Ramsey.
Fortnum & Mason
Fortnum & Mason houses several restaurants. You can pick any bottle from the superb wine department to consume in their restaurants and will pay just £10 for the privilege. The department has a vast array of wines from all over the world. Champagne and classic Bordeaux are well represented. Incidentally, we swear by their own label wines which are sourced from the best producers. Not one has ever been a disappointment. The Australian shiraz is a joy.
The Hotel Du Vin group
Our top choice outside London is the Hotel Du Vin group. Both their hotels and restaurants within are superb. Each hotel has a list of its own. York, which is the jewel in the crown of the empire, and Birmingham are tremendous. Brighton is the weakest link in the chain but a new sommelier has been appointed and is beefing up what was a dreadful, lightweight list.
All of the above are good across the board. We have generally avoided saying drink this or that for the very reason that each list contains several gems and it would be invidious to start itemising them.
The Bleeding Heart
Finally, for those close to the Royal Courts, The Bleeding Heart empire of bar, bistro and restaurant is wondrous. They employ the man we regard as the best sommelier in the country today, Monsieur Lepin, who came from the three star Michelin Ducasse restaurant in the Dorchester hotel. His knowledge is only matched by his genuine charm. He has revamped the list and it is a thing of fair valued beauty.
Dominic Regan, Professor of Law, City University, London. Seán Jones, 11 KBW