On the table: Bonhams Restaurant
Author: Tom Cave
The reluctance of old to allow patrons to bring their own wines to a restaurant and pay a respectable “corkage” charge is gradually being chipped away as, perhaps due to the sheer number of good quality eateries in London, the canny restaurateur realises it is in fact a jolly good way to get bums on seats.
Still, there is an etiquette to be respected with corkage. It’s important to ask the house first and more than just polite to buy at least one wine off the restaurant’s own list. And it’s good form to offer the sommelier a glass.
The wine trade has of course been attracted to restaurants who are amenable to offering corkage and one such is the new, and very chic, dining room at the astute auction house of Bonhams where, at the encouragement of the urbane Richard Harvey MW who heads their thriving wine department, I dined mid-February.
The restaurant itself can be accessed via the Bonham’s showrooms or from Brook Street through the evocatively named Haunch of Venison Yard; one can almost see the 18th century bewhiskered butcher sharpening his knives over a deer’s carcass.
I took the precaution of delivering my chosen bottle, discreetly, earlier that day. This allows the wine to settle after travel and for the sommelier to decant and assess, and, should (groan) the bottle be corked, advise you of this sooner so a replacement can be made in good time.
The dining space at Bonhams is up a curl of stairs from what looked a congenial bar, sporting an Enomatic wine dispenser (always a good sign). Minimalist in décor, with some bright art-works on the walls, the environment is crisp and bright but by no means unwelcoming. As it happened, there was a solo diner already there who looked most at ease.
My companion and I elected mutually to take a glass of Hampshire’s Hambledon fizz while we perused the mercifully brief menu which featured a host of tempting dishes. Classic fare is the name of the game here: reassuringly there was fish to start, with red meat and game for mains.
My wine, a red, was sitting purposefully and brightly in a decanter on the side-board. A wine of enough age to have possibly been “OOC” (Out of Condition) but, thankfully, the charming sommelier smiled and it seemed all was well.
Our starters called for white so two decently-sized glasses of Franschoek’s 2014 Chamonix Reserve Chardonnay were bidden.
Our main courses (red meat both) were presented along with the leading star (my companion aside) of the show – and it was a joy, bringing a smile that only aged Claret can convey along with those meaty tones and wholesome textures that can only be fine St Julien.
Some well-selected cheese followed along with irresistible petits fours; the room now having filled but not at any expense to the ambience nor the elegant service of the staff.
And the wine? Well, it was older than my dining companion as was further impressed upon me when the waiter proffered a coat to her on leaving and asked “was it her dad’s”. The gift of a prized Atlanta-based customer it was a 1989 Ch. Léoville-Las Cases. All the better for 25 years careful ageing in our cellars, it drank very well and complimented a splendid evening.
What we drank:
- Hambledon Classic Cuvée, Hampshire, England
- 2014 Chamonix Reserve Chardonnay, Franschoek, South Africa
- 1989 Ch. Léoville-Las Cases, St Julien, Bordeaux
Bonhams is offering Berry Bros. & Rudd customers free corkage at lunch throughout March; to take advantage of this offer, please quote your account number when booking, or show a receipt upon arrival. Please note that this offer is limited to one bottle per table of two, please email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 020 7468 5868 to make your booking.
Bonhams Restaurant, 7 Haunch of Venison Yard, London W1K 5ES