The List: The Pig's Ear
With its zinc-topped bar, high-quality snacks (oysters, charcuterie) and good selection of wines by the glass, the Pig's Ear - which opened quietly this summer on Old Church Street in Chelsea - is many people's idea of the perfect pub.
The critics nosed it out nonetheless, and have been enthusing about its daily-changing Franco-Italian fare ever since. Braised lamb shanks sit alongside confit rabbit, smoked eel salad alongside seared scallops with spiced lentils. The more refined dishes are available in the upstairs dining room, with simpler versions to be had in the buzzy pub bar, while the same 40-bin wine list, with 10 wines by the glass, is available throughout.
The Pig's Ear was set up by three friends - Ollie Daniaud (co-owner of the Westbourne, London W2, which opened nine years ago), Simon Cherry (a fashion photographer) and Jamie Prudom (who formerly ran Catch and then the Water Rat). Daniaud is the creator of the Pig's Ear's wine list.
As his name suggests, Daniaud is a Frenchman. He has a house in Bordeaux and a passion for his country's wines and, rather confusingly, an impeccable English accent. French produce, then, makes up the vast majority of the list at the Pig's Ear.
Funnily enough, Daniaud is not a big fan of Bordeaux wines - especially really expensive Bordeaux. He says: "They're not worth the money, especially if you're buying them in restaurants."
Instead, he is a Burgundy nut - and there are a handful of wines from the more economical Burgundy appellations on the list (Petit Chablis, St V‚ran, Santenay), with the odd blockbuster (a 2001 Meursault from Girardin, Les Narvaux, £55).
Daniaud also loves the Loire, and perseveres with the likes of Saumur-Champigny (2003 Domaines des Roches, £21) in the hope that his customers will eventually start buying it. "It's not a massive list," he says. "There are all sorts we could put on. What we want is a happy balance between the esoteric and the regions people recognise."
The Westbourne, with its younger, hipper clientele, has many more New World wines on its list (Daniaud spent some time in Australia, so he knows the wines well - Margaret River is a favourite). "But I think that the European market does get palmed off with a lot of crap from the New World," he declares. He works with four suppliers, including Jascots, Berkmann Wine Cellars and Les Caves de PyrŠne, his favourite.
Although it is in the heart of residential Chelsea, Prudom is confident that the clientele at the Pig's Ear is drawn from a cross-section of society. However, Daniaud adds: "There are basically two types of Chelsea customer. The young, nifty, well-dressed, groovy type who knows a bit about wine, and the ghastly Hooray Henry, who just drinks lager and cheap wine, and watches rugby. Thankfully, we don't get a lot of the latter."
This must be why they can shift cases of vin de Savoie (from Domaine Genoux, £25). The eastern French Alpine region, on the border with Switzerland, is far from mainstream, yet its intriguing, peppery, juicy reds - made from Mondeuse, one of the oldest and most distinctive red grape varieties of the Savoie - have proved a perfect match for many of the dishes at the Pig's Ear (even the pig's ear itself, which comes crunchily breadcrumbed with a mustard mayonnaise).
Do they get the sort of customer, then, who might be comfortable with screwcaps? "Ugh, I think screwcaps are hideous," Daniaud says, shuddering. He does, though, list one - Yalumba Riesling, which, he admits, sells pretty well.
What's on the list
Jean-Paul Delville NV Champagne, France, £25/£6
2003, Le Lesc, Vin de Pays du Gers, France, £12/£2.85
2003 Angelo Rocca, Pinot Grigio, Pavia, Italy, £13/£3.20
2002 Yalumba Riesling, South Australia, £18
2003 Blenheim Point, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, £22
2003 Serge Dagueneau Pouilly Fumé, France, £24
2003 Bergerie de la Bastide, Vins de Pays d'Oc, France, £12/£2.85
2001 Terra del Noce, Dolomite, Italy, £13.50/£3.50
2002 Vina Muriel Rioja Seleccion, Spain, £14.50
2002 Masi Bardolino Classico, Italy, £17
2003 Domaine des Roches Saumur-Champigny, France, £21
2002 Domaine Genoux Mondeuse, Vin de Savoie, France, £25
2003 St Roches les Vignes, Côtes de Provence, France, £14/£3.50
2002 Domaine de L'Ancienne, Monbazillac, France, £17 (375ml)
Prices quoted are per bottle and per 175ml glass