If you get menu envy, or have menu fatigue, then take a gastronomic tour of the best places in London to enjoy Sherry – and surprise, surprise, they are not all Spanish.
Now, don’t shy away – you are about to have a taste revelation. If you’re new to Sherry then you may think the idea of enjoying Sherry throughout a meal is a bit of a stretch. However, some of the best chef’s in London, including Heston Blumenthal and Jason Atherton, have long known the gastronomic versatility of these wines from Jerez. Perhaps it is the sheer variety of styles and flavours these wines offer or that they are aged to develop complex flavours, either way, the depth and diversity they provide make them one of London’s best-kept secrets… until now.
Try something new
If you think Sherry is the preserve of Spanish restaurants, think again. Across the capital, there are loads of places you can root out that offer some of the best wine and food matches with Jerez at heart. It is easy to stick to the classics like jamon and fino; shellfish and manzanilla… but far more rewarding to go off-piste and try something new.
To begin, let’s talk about steaks.
Big, juicy, meaty: steaks. However you like yours cooked there can be no better wine to enjoy it with than a glass of Oloroso sherry. Yes, that’s right, Oloroso! This is not as crazy as it sounds because Oloroso is a dry sherry that has a savoury, umami flavour, complex from ageing and robust enough to handle the intense beef flavours. Accompanied with crispy, salty chips (cooked in beef dripping too) this is a pairing that will surprise you so much you’ll be telling everyone. And, as every well-heeled Londoner knows, the best place to get top-notch steaks these days is Hawksmoor – which happens to also be one of the best places to enjoy Sherry, as its bartenders have championed Sherry, notably with an impressive selection of Sherry cocktails.
Another surprise option may be to have a glass of Sherry with a curry. But not just any Sherry, and not just any curry. The food at The Cinnamon Club has redefined modern Indian cooking and offers a masterclass in balancing flavours of the ingredients used with the spices added to create delicate flavours on the plate, each of which are beautifully presented. There are few wines that can handle this complex combination but Sherry, whilst not the obvious choice, has the strength to match and elevate the complex flavours. Palo Cortado, Amontillado and Oloroso wines will be exceptional choices.
Two of London’s most acclaimed and internationally renowned chefs also appreciate Sherry, not just as a something to enjoy with food, but an ingredient that can elevate dishes to their exacting standards. Visit chef patron Jason Atherton’s Pollen Street Social to try a special bottling of 12-year-old Palo Cortado and request the sommeliers explain the Sherry list and dishes that best accompany them – that’s if you can’t travel to Hong Kong for Atherton’s iconic Ham&Sherry bar.
Whether in his eponymous books, on his menus, or on the wine list, Heston Blumenthal has extolled the opportunities for Sherry in his cooking for some time. And, at Dinner by Heston in London, you can indulge in selecting from the wide range of Sherries available.
For occasions where you haven’t booked a table, stroll into a traditional, old-fashioned London wine bar and where better than the Boot and Flogger, tucked away in a side street behind London’s bustling foodie destination, Borough Market. This discreet bar has been visited by the great and good of London’s elite over the years, and it’s said many deals and political agreements have been struck here over a good lunch. The menu includes classic English dishes, all prepared to a high standard and the wine list is equally smart – the clientele expect the best from the bar offering and the selection will not disappoint. You can enjoy wines from the barrel at the Boot and Flogger and one of the best pairings for lunch is battered cod and chips with a glass of fino. If time permits then don’t miss the mini puddings which will be a delicious lunchtime sweet treat with a glass of cream Sherry.
An afternoon stroll down Regent Street, one of London’s most iconic shopping districts, can also provide an unexpected Sherry moment. Opened in November 2018 at the foot of the Café Royal is Cakes & Bubbles – a destination for afternoon tea, exquisite patisserie and fine wines, including, of course, Sherry. Opened by world renowned chef Albert Adria of El Bulli fame, Cakes & Bubbles is your ticket to enjoy a hedonistic and indulgent treat that will surprise and delight. The house speciality is a cheesecake, which sounds humble enough, but it is the quite possibly the best cheesecake in the world and elevated even higher when enjoyed with a rare and aged premium Palo Cortado sherry. This pairing is so rewarding it should be slowly appreciated in little bites and little sips because there are so many flavours you won’t want to miss any of them.
London’s Sherry scene is not all formal, fine-dining, it is as diverse and interesting as the wines. To really make your mark on London’s trendy Sherry scene then get down to Sack bar in the city. Where you can enjoy its innovative Sherry slushies and add your own Sherry-inspired graffiti to the plastered walls, or, to really join in the fun, ask them to put one of the barrels into the street so you can practice the art of the venenciador.
For a quick Sherry kick try the newly opened (Nov 2018) The Drop at Kings Cross. Here you can get fresh Oysters with a glass of the Manzanilla en rama exclusively bottled for Barrafina (a sister venue).
And, If you’re starting to think that choosing a sherry to go with your food is getting a bit too complicated then apply this simple rule: Fino/Manzanilla if it swims; Amontillado/Palo Cortado if it flies; and Oloroso if it runs.
In more familiar Sherry territory, there are now a number of Spanish restaurants in London that are unrivalled when it comes to Sherry. They simply have the best selection and the best knowledge and have to be sought out for the ultimate Sherry experience.
These include: Capote y Toro (part of Cambio de Tercio group in SW London) which, with over 125 wines, has the largest selection of Sherries in the capital; Camino Group – that brought us the first modern Sherry bar with award-winning Pepito near Kings Cross and now has four restaurants round the city; Barrafina is central London’s chic destination for Spanish food, along with; Iberica, that is expanding beyond London throughout the UK; Drakes Tabanco which offers fresh Sherries direct from the barrel with light bites and dishes that showcase the best of Sherry and food pairing; the trio of venues from Salt Yard Group; and, of course, everyone’s favourite Spanish chef Jose Pizarro, who championed Sherry in London long before most and remains a true ambassador for Jerez with two restaurants and the delightful Jose tapas and sherry bar in SE1.
If you are dining as a group then visit Barrafina where executive head chef Angel Zapata Martin has designed menus that celebrate traditional Spanish feasting. And they serve traditional Spanish aperitifs such as their own private bottling of Manzanilla Pasada en Rama, which comes directly from the bodega and is great to try before the Para Picar comes to your table. Your main course, chosen from the selection of regional specialities, will then be brought to your table by your chef who will help to serve your feast. We recommend the whole roasted Segovian Suckling Pig, paired with a glass of Palo Cortado – delicious!
For tapas on the go, the rich, spiciness of the morcilla (black pudding) and red peppers dish at Camino make it ideal to be enjoyed with a glass of Amontillado – another dry style of sherry that has an intriguing smokey and spicy finish.
In addition, there are many new local Spanish restaurants popping up in neighbourhoods around London and one notable and welcomed addition is Escocesa in Stoke Newington, N16. A passion for quality ingredients, now more widely and readily available in the UK combined with authentic cooking has led to an increase in quality local restaurants, all of whom respect the wines of Spain, including Sherry. They understand how to cook with Sherry, how best to serve it and when to enjoy it with the right food.
Ask the sommelier
If you find yourself eating out in one of the capital’s best restaurants and want to try a glass of Sherry, but are a little confused with what’s on offer, then the best advice is to speak to the sommelier or wine waiter.
It is a myth that sommeliers are unapproachable and are snooty about wine choices. All of them are keen to share their knowledge and will take delight in introducing you to a new wine (at a price you like). One of the wines that is often a sommelier’s favourite - even if they are very loyal to their own country’s wines - will be Sherry, because it is a rare and special wine that deserves your attention and that you will certainly love once you’ve let it in.
Find places near you
We’ve compiled a list of over 50 places across the capital where you can enjoy the best Sherry wines with food. Visit our London Sherry Trail to find out more. There are many more to discover, so email us if you think you’ve found somewhere new that deserves to be added to the list.
Throughout November you are invited to attend one of the FREE Sherry tastings round London, simply click here for details.
19 November 2018