Wine be the Glory
Jean-Philippe Tessier has created a hidden gem in South East London, offering a warm welcome and a wide selection of rather drinkable wines
Review by Rupert Watkins
When Jean-Philippe Tessier first came to London to study business, he was struck by the lack of wine bars like those he knew from home in France. Either they were “almost restaurants”, in his words, or they tended to be along the lines of somewhere such as Gordon’s Wine Bar on Villiers Street.
Spotting a gap in the market, Jean-Philippe decided to bring the best of traditional French wine bars to the British capital. Having friends in Blackheath, he found a former Indian restaurant in the neighbourhood that he was able to obtain and transform, and opened it in its current guise in May 2014.
The interior is sleek and slightly minimalist. Being a small space, there is a feeling of comfortable intimacy as you are very unlikely to find Le Bouchon too crowded. The stripped-back walls are enlivened with cheerfully risqué belle epoque posters.
The establishment is a one man band: Jean-Philippe selects all the wine himself and is always more than happy to chat and suggest one. The wine list is wide ranging and very well chosen. Currently his best sellers are Malbec and New Zealand Sauvingon Blanc, though last summer he found French rosé to be rather popular. Prices range between £18 and £90 per bottle.
When asked if he feels he’s educating the English palate, Jean-Philippe comments on how he found British drinkers more open minded than French when he first opened. He had to introduce New World wines to his list and points out that the French will focus on the region or appellation rather than the grape. British drinkers will look to the grape variety and thus happily sample from vineyards around the world.
A small but well thought through selection of bar food is available. The focus is on the wine, so delicious cheese and charcuterie platters are offered as accompaniments as well as a small number of hot dishes such as chicken chasseur and duck leg confit introduced over last winter.
Jean-Philippe also runs small wine tastings in a first floor room above the bar. Generally held on a weekly basis, they are for no more than eight or nine people and are an excellent way to tap into his knowledge and passion about wine.
So what does the future hold? Jean-Philippe is tentatively considering offering calvados and Armagnac, though rightly he does not want to dilute the excellence of his wine offerings. With summer now upon us, he is also hoping to open up a roof terrace to allow customers to make the most of the weather and the views across the heath.
This is a top-notch wine bar and definitely worth a visit. A wide and carefully selected wine list and comfortable surroundings mean one can certainly wile away a few hours – and bottles – rather easily here.