Since owner and chef patron Agnar Sverrisson opened 28°-50° Wine Workshop & Kitchen with former co-owner and sommelier Xavier Rousset in 2010, it’s only a slight exaggeration to say that they have assisted in revolutionizing the wine bar concept in London.
The idea—now applied to three venues across the city after the success of the original site in Fetter Lane—is simple: a concise, two-page list, with each wine served by the glass, carafe, or bottle, and matched with an affordable menu of simple, well-cooked modern bistro dishes. What makes it work so well is the skill on show—both in the quality of the cooking and the imagination put into the short selection of wine choices.
WFW caught up with Clement Robert MS, Group Food and Beverage Director at 28°-50° Wine Workshop & Kitchen, following the restaurant being named Best Micro Wine List in the World at the World’s Best Wine List Awards 2018.
Congratulations! What does it mean to you to win this award?
It is a great achievement and we are all very proud and happy to have contributed towards winning. We put so much hard work and energy into making the list as exciting as possible, so awards like this make it all worthwhile.
Describe your wine list
I think the best way to describe our list is approachable, I think this is a very important trait for a wine list to have. Value for money is also key for us, you can have a lovely glass of wine for as little as £4.
We always try to have the right balance of well-known names and appellations as well as having some more quirky and unique wines for people to try. The selection is constantly changing and evolving as we want to make sure that there is always something new to taste on the list.
What inspires you and your team
In this day and age you have to be connected and take inspiration from everywhere; it is important to follow trends, but you also have to be ambitious and try to create new trends yourself. We mainly get inspiration from our guests, the seasons and the food cooked at 28°-50° but also from travelling to different vineyards, going to wine tastings, chatting with other sommeliers, reading wine magazines, following social media and even checking out wine shops and supermarket selections.
What are some of your newest discoveries or inspirations?
I love the Piedmont wine region in Italy, it feels so modern but also so traditional at the same time. Over the last 20 years the region has dramatically improved in producing world class wines, even some of the biggest names are experimenting so much in both wine making and viticulture techniques. It feels like a new world region in terms of the mindset and the willingness to experiment.
What would you say to encourage others to enter the World’s Best Wine Lists Awards?
It is not about having the biggest budget or the largest collection of vintages from each winery in the world, it is about trying to give the best offer you can in terms of varieties, styles, provenance and prices.
London is an ever-changing, ever-growing, competitive market. How do you stay ahead of the competition?
By always trying to improve in every department whether it is the food, the wines, the service, they all contribute to the atmosphere. This is how we try to stay ahead of the competition.
Is the size of your list a conscious one and if so, how do you tackle the challenge of achieving depth with a micro list?
It takes a more relaxed concept, we want an ever changing and concise wine list which still offers a great variety of wines. Each wine has to be carefully selected and they have to fit the general vision of the list. For instance, we don’t have three Spanish wines or four French wines but one or two of each at any one time and we rotate the popular choices and guest favourites. For example, I would inter-change a Sancerre or Chablis, as I consider these relatively similar in style and value for money.
Go-to wine or drink to relax after work?
I always love to try new craft beers but you also can’t go wrong with a glass of Chardonnay from France or Australia.
Top tip for a local drinking spot?
The Palomar, it has a great atmosphere, great wine and drinks selection and superb service.