There are few things I love more than meeting a girlfriend for “dinner’ midweek for two hours of intense catch up. And when I say “dinner”, I mean wine and snacks.
There are plenty of places in the capital that serve as the perfect base for this, from cosy wine bars to pubs with seriously chic interiors and restaurants where you can sit at the bar and chat over small plates and a bottle.
Read on for our favourites…
With exposed bricks, low lights, comfy velvet sofas and over 400 wines to choose from, Compagnie Des Vins Surnaturels is the type of place you can spend hours in.
Snack-wise they offer great cheeses – from comté to morbier and delicious charcuterie including Iberian ham and cooked ham with truffle. Plus a selection of great wines by the glass.
Greek Street institution Lina Stores has been serving relaxed Italian fair to Londoners since 1944 in its famous pistachio-hued deli. In recent years, they opened a restaurant serving classic pasta dishes and antipasti, from the Slow Roasted Pork Belly Sandwich to the Truffle Mortadella.
Finish the evening off with one of their much-loved, sweet ricotta-stuffed cannoli.
We’ve waxed lyrical about this place before but it really is an East London gem. The wine bar serves up cracking cheese toasties on sourdough (it’s Hackney after all), oozing with a choice of cheddar and spring onion; goat’s cheese, thyme and apricot; or cheddar, jalapeno and speck.
The best way to mop up all those glasses of wine.
193 HACKNEY ROAD, LONDON E2 8JL AND 250 PARADISE ROW, LONDON E2 9LE
There are some restaurants that I actually prefer stopping by for a glass of wine and snack rather than a full on meal and Richard Corrigan’s ostentatious Selfridge’s offering is one.
Grab a table for two below the crystal encrusted 30ft Pegasus and order the only three things you need to accompany a catch up: the wild mushroom and truffle rice balls, zucchini fries and a chilled glass of Riesling.
Selfridges, 400 Oxford Street, Marylebone, W1A 1AB
Hackney’s Laughing Heart is a real gem of a neighbourhood bar. The late night wine bar and dining room specialises in artisan wines for a whole range of budgets, including biodynamic and organic wines and a list of creative fizz choices you’d be hard pushed to find elsewhere that go far beyond cheap Prosecco and expensive champagne.
In the kitchen, Head Chef Tom Anglesea draws inspiration from around the globe using the finest British produce. Favourites from the snack menu include the hot and numbing chicken wings and the Sichuan cream brûlée
The bar also moonlights as an off licence, a seriously hip, posh off license, so if you’ve tried a wine you like or want to continue to conversation elsewhere, you can pick one up for the road.
The Laughing Heart, 277 Hackney Road, London, E2 8NA
From the outside it may look like one of those awful faux Tudor pubs, but step inside and Clarettte is a gorgeous, French-heavy wine bar with pastel-hued interiors that looked plucked from Pinterest.
Favourite from the modern bar menu include: the trio of Scotch quail eggs, comté and truffle beignets and dressed crab on sourdough. Plus a great selection of wines available by the glass and carafe.
Nuno Mendes’ crab doughnuts at celebrity favourite Chiltern Firehouse are the perfect accompaniment to a glass of wine. When the restaurant first opened in 2012, foodies went nuts for the things and to this day they still feature on the lunch menu.
The savoury puffs are stuffed with white crab meat and crème fraiche and dusted with shaved cauliflower that looks like a scattering of snow.
Chiltern Firehouse, 1 Chiltern Street, London W1U 7PA