Most of the 55 wines on the List at Anthony Demetre and Will Smith's new Mayfair restaurant are available by the carafe - and customers reckon they're good value. Fiona Sims reports
Anthony Demetre and Will Smith can do no wrong at the moment. They gave Soho one of the most satisfying restaurants to hit the capital in years, and promptly won a Michelin star for their efforts a few months later. So of course they were going to repeat the Arbutus formula: Wild Honey opened on 6 July on the former Drones site in Mayfair.
One of the reasons for their success - apart from the best bargain lunch in town cooked expertly by Demetre (£15.50 for three courses) - is the wine list, put together by manager and co-owner Smith. His palate stood him in good stead when the pair were at Putney Bridge together, and is proving itself again at Arbutus and Wild Honey.
The list at Arbutus - and now Wild Honey - is packed full of interesting gems sourced from innovative suppliers. But that isn't the main story. It's how he sells the wines that has grabbed attention.
Cue the carafe. Most of the 55 wines on the list at Arbutus and Wild Honey are offered by the 250ml carafe (375ml for the most expensive wines). And get this: at least 70% of tables order at least one carafe, some many more.
"A couple come in here and will share a carafe of something white to start, then order a carafe of red, say, for their main, and order another carafe of dessert wine with their pudding - we've never sold so much dessert wine," says Smith.
He got the idea after a visit to the Lupo restaurant of celebrity New York chef Mario Batali, who also sells carafes. "Me and Anthony always thought a good selection by the glass was important - but when I tried to choose which wines I should sell by the glass, I couldn't make up my mind, so thought I'd try this," says Smith.
He asked Jackson's Glassware to source the carafes for him. "I didn't want anything too fancy I wanted rustic, basic - and fairly cheap. The list is supposed to be approachable and affordable - it's on a bit of paper. My wife, who isn't in the business, always says to me when we go out to eat, ‘You've got two minutes with the wine list, that's it,'" laughs Smith.
His mark-ups are average for the industry (about 70%), yet the carafes are perceived by customers as good value. "Mainly they can use them to try new things," he says.
But what's not to like? Among the whites are a delicious Viognier from Chile (Secreto, Viu Manent, £19.50 bottle/£6.50 carafe), an aromatic Verdejo from Rueda (Jose Pariente, £24/£8) and a spicy dry Riesling from Austria (Anton Bauer £30/£10).
The red wine highlights include a Tannat from Uruguay (Preludio Juanico, £20/£6.75), a Douro red (Prats Symington Post Scriptum, £29/£9.75) and a Teroldego from Trentino (Foradori, £36/£12).
Smith's biggest-selling whites are a Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc (Château les Bertrands, Cuvée Tradition, £23/£7.75) and an Albariño (from Torroxal, £31/£10.50), while best-selling reds include - amazingly - a Blauer Zweigelt from Austria (Anton Bauer, £28/£9.50) and a New Zealand Pinot Noir (from Forrest Estate in Marlborough £24.50/£8.25).
The majority of Smith's sales are wines priced between £20 and £30 a bottle, though the cheapest is £12.50, and there are 12 under £10 by the carafe. But he hopes that Wild Honey diners will spend a bit more - being in Mayfair and all.
So the plan is to introduce eight reds and six whites at the top end of the list, which at Arbutus stops at £95 a bottle (for an Aussie white, interestingly - Giaconda's Aeolia Roussanne). He has a handful of Burgundy and Bordeaux heavyweights at Wild Honey, topping out at £350 for a 1989 Pomerol from Château La Conseillante.
Smith has also listed the abv of each wine. "A few people have commented, but really we use it as a selling tool, pointing out when a wine is lighter and more summery, or meatier," explains Smith.
And yes, in case you were wondering, the wines in both restaurants are the same, pretty much. "We did that for two reasons. Firstly, it's easier to maintain, and secondly, I have a bit more buying power," admits Smith. He uses five suppliers mainly, including Les Caves de Pyrene and Adnams.
Wild Honey has the same designer as Arbutus, too - Linda Turner, of Inature - but this time oak paneling rules, with booth seating keeping the more privacy-minded Mayfair crowd happy. Though with these prices, and that wine list, it won't be difficult.
What's on the list
- 2004 Monte Velho, Alentejano, Portugal, £14.75/£5
- 2005 Bergerac Sec, Cuvée des Conti, Château Tour des Gendres, France, £22/£7.50
- 2005 Gewurztraminer, Andre Thomas, Alsace, France, £29/£9.75
- 2001 Bianco Breg Anfora, Gravner, Friuli, Italy, £75/£37.50 (375ml)
- 2004 Chardonnay Au Bon Climat, Santa Barbara, California, USA £36/12
- 1990 Alain Thienot, Grande Cuvée, £90
- 2005 Bandol, Domaine La Suffrene, Provence, France, £32/£10.75
- 2004 Juniper Crossing, Cabernet/Merlot, Margaret River, Australia, £18/£6
- 2005 Tannat, Preludio, Juanico, Uruguay, £20/£6.75
- 2005 Pic Sant Loup, Domaine de l'Hortus Classique, Languedoc, France, £22.50/£7.50
- 2003 Antiyal, Alvaro Espinosa, Maipo, Chile, £40/£13.50
- 2004 Carso Teran, Benjamin Zidarich, Friuli, Italy, £80/£40 (375ml)
- 1993 Clos de Vougeot, Domaine Meo-Camuset, Burgundy, France, £195
- 2003 Tokaji Szamorodni, Szepsy, Hungary (500ml) £55/£27.50
Wild Honey, 12 St George Street, London W1S 2FB. Tel: 020 7758 9160. Website: www.wildhoneyrestaurant.co.uk