Wine Workshop. Two words that seem like they belong in a parallel universe for most people, particularly in the context of a rainy Thursday night in the City, where the former is priority and the latter is exactly the opposite. Which is why it is such a relief to find they cohabitate peacefully at 28°-50° Wine Workshop & Kitchen, the cosy bar and restaurant below Fetter Lane.
The name – taken from the latitudes within which most of the world’s vineyards are located – suggests pomp and circumstance, as do the dusty big-name bottles lining the entrance. But 28°-50° remains a place where you can come knowing absolutely nothing about wine, except that you like it.
Certainly, connoisseurs will feel among friends; sniffing, swirling and talking tannins with the knowledgeable staff to their hearts’ content. Novices, meanwhile, will find themselves un-judged, but gently led around the list of over 30 wines by the glass, or nudged in the direction of a decent drop to make their meals.
It needn’t feel like school, although the passion with which the sommelier explained how the fruitiness of a Domaine Mas Bahourat Viognier from Rhone would complement the Thai flavours of cod swimming in lemongrass and coconut sauce was rather infectious. Kind of like listening to an English teacher discussing a particularly juicy theme from the reading list.
Chef Julien Baris has created his menu in collaboration with 28°-50°’s team of sommeliers; neither food nor drink gets priority over the other, rather they are designed to match. That’s perhaps why his menu eschews the traditionally simplistic (bland, if we’re being unkind) dishes of many wine bars, which are often just there to soak up the drink. Here, punchy flavours have much to say; salmon ceviche with chilli, ginger and cucumber; lamb rump with ratatouille and pistou; plaice with fennel and preserved lemon.
The well priced wine list draws most heavily from France, Spain and Italy, though there is representation from south of the equator on the part of a Chilean Chardonnay, an Argentinian Malbec and several from the Antipodean regions, including one delicious Shiraz from the Barossa Valley.
Those with the nose (and deep pockets) for the finer things in life would do well to ask for a peek at the ‘Collectors List’; a selection of rare fine wines from respected merchants and private collectors. But if you’re just after a bottle of decent plonk (and a good meal to go with it) stick to the main menu – you might even learn something.
28°-50° Wine Workshop & Kitchen, 140 Fetter Lane, London EC4A 1BT