Eating out in the UK can be a frustrating
experience for wine lovers. The standard restaurant business model of
using food as a loss leader for drink sales, and in particular the
proportional mark up—the practice of charging anything from 2.5–4
times retail price on wine – means that if you want to enjoy good
wine with your food you’ll need to be feeling flush. (See my article
on the great restaurant rip off, which has a
reply from a restaurateur stating their side of the story.
Anyone who’s travelled to Australia will realise that this doesn’t
have to be the only way to run a restaurant. There, the practice of
BYO (bring your own) wine is commonplace, and it’s a real boon for
wine lovers to be able to select something out of their own cellar and
drink it with dinner in a decent restaurant. And because of the BYO
policy, the wine mark-ups on restaurant lists often aren’t as steep
as they are in the UK.
Over here it’s rare to find restaurants who’ll let you bring
your own wine, even for a sizeable corkage fee. That’s why I was
interested to see the arrival of a relatively new chain of BYO
restaurants opening a branch in our neighbourhood, by the name of
Hullaballos. Originally from Bristol, this chain has expanded and now
has five branches (with two extra branches of slightly smaller scale
branches called ‘Muset’).
These restaurants is have the wonderfully enlightened policy of BYO
wine with no corkage. They also have a well chosen and moderately
marked-up wine list (no vintage dates, though) if you haven’t
brought your own bottle.
When I visited, on a Tuesday evening, we were one of only three
parties in the restaurant, which is reasonably sized, so there was no
great pressure on the service, which was good. So what’s the food
like? If I'm totally honest, I was a little disappointed. The
three-course fixed-price menu (£15) has only three choices for each
course; the à la Carte menu is a bit bigger and a notch up in price.
The food quality is adequate but not that good, with modern
bistro-style pseudo-fusion cooking that is a little bit forced. I
probably wouldn’t be tempted to visit again, except for the fact
that London BYO restaurants are as rare as hen's teeth.
If you are planning a wine nut dinner, then it's worth considering
Hullaballoos. While you probably won't be bowled over by the food, if
the focus us the wine then the great thing about this chain is that
because of the zero-corkage policy you can do the evening for less
than £20 a head, all in.
Hullaballoos BYO restaurant
65 Richmond Road, Twickenham
Phone: 020 8404 0091
For other branches (Bristol, Bath, Cardiff) see