London is an interesting place for food and drink these days. Last night I went out with buddy Daniel Primack of Around Wine to have some fun in Charlotte Street, taking in three establishments that represent the best of London’s new gastro/booze scene.
We started of at Vagabond (pictured above), which I reckon represents the future of wine retailing. The Charlotte Street branch has only been open a few months, but it’s already pretty busy. There are over 100 wines to try from the sampling machines, and there’s space to sit down. Each of the wines on tasting has a small sheet explaining what is and where it comes from, and these are available for customers to take away. It’s a fun, social place.
How does it compare with The Sampler? At Vagabond the wines are less high-end, and it’s less of a wine shop than a place to come and try wine – it’s less geeky and more accessible, although for a serious geek like me The Sampler has more of the sort of wines that will get me excited. Vagabond is a bit more social, and for its location and clientele they seem to have got it just right.
Daniel and I spent a while tasting wines. For £20 between us we tried 8 wines each, finishing with the remarkable Equipo Navazos La Bota de Palo Cortado 24, a sensational Sherry.
This set us up nicely for the next stage of the evening: a spot of dinner at Drakes Tabanco round the corner in Windmill Street. This is a gem of a place: simple, a bit rustic, with a sherry focus and remarkably detailed, complex, flavoursome small plates. Highlights included cured sardines and an amazing plate of smoked scallops with avocado puree. My pictures (taken in terrible light) don’t do these dishes justice.
To drink we began with Fernando de Castilla’s Fino en rama and then two bottles of red: Heinrich 2010 Blaufrankish from the Burgenland and La Makerida Bobal 2012 from Utiel Requena in Spain (we’d brought these with us; they’re not on the list). Both fresh, bright, focused and rather delicious.
Then it was off to the Draft House Charlotte Street. This is the smallest of the Draft House’s five London locations – a compact, atmospheric bar with great staff and fabulous beers. We began with the Odell St Lupulin and Oscar Blues Dales Pale Ale – both brilliant examples of the US craft beer scene, the latter in a can (good for beer quality). Then we hit the amazing Stone Ruination, and the quirky Partizan Saison Grisette Lime. The beer scene is so exciting these days, and places like the Draft House make serious beer accessible to non beer geeks, which is important.
My full notes:
Henry Pelle Menetou Salon Silex du Carrois 2011 Loire, France
Fruity, textured and lively with some herbs and a hint of melon. It’s a rounded, sophisticated, rich expression of Sauvignon with nice texture. 89/100
Claude Riffault Sancerre Denisottes 2012 Loire, France
Fresh, mineral and lively with lovely citrus and herb notes. Mineral and quite linear this has lovely focus. 90/100
Pegasus Bay Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2011 Waipara, New Zealand?
Such a bright, pure wine with lovely fresh, green-tinged fruit. Great precision here. 90/100
Domaine Gayda Figure Libre 2010 Languedoc, France
An organic Macabeo. Complex, herby, pithy and dense with some waxy notes and rich fruit. Dense and rich yet still quite fresh. 88/100
Pietradolce Etna Rosso 2012 Sicily, Italy
This shows fresh, bright, vivid red cherry fruit with some spice and herbs, finishing grippy. Lively and quite fresh, but also quite angular. 89/100
Maseria Li Veli Susumaniello 2011 Salento, Italy
Rich, spicy and berryish with some reductive notes, as well as black cherry fruit and herbs. A little bit animal but it’s a lovely, complex ripe red wine. 91/100
Quinta do Seival Castas Portuguesas 2006 Campanha, Brazil
Warm, rich, dense, ripe and spicy with vanilla notes under the black fruits. Dense, ripe, oaky, and quite Spanish in style. 87/100
Equipo Navazos La Bota de Palo Cortado 24 Sherry/Jerez, Spain
Amazing nose: toasty, nutty, tangy and rich with some citrus freshness. Tangy, intense palate has real depth and complexity. Just fabulous. 94/100
Fernando de Castilla Fino en Rama NV Sherry/Jerez, Spain
Wonderfully nutty, lemony and tangy with herbal hints and fresh citrus notes, allied to richness. Very stylish. 93/100
La Malkerida Bobal 2012 Utiel Requena, Spain
12.5% alcohol. I really like this: it’s fresh, vibrant and pure with sweet fruit but also a bit of savoury grip. Juicy and focused with structured cherry and raspberry fruit the dominant theme. 92/100
Heinrich Blaufrankisch 2010 Burgenland, Austria
12.5% alcohol. Ripe, sweet and fresh with nice meatiness and a subtle green edge to the raspberry and black cherry fruit. Supple and lively with a meaty peppery streak. Very drinkable. 93/100
At the Draft House
Oscar Blues Brewery (Colorado) Dales Pale Ale
6.5% alcohol, in a can. Hoppy, bitter and stylish. Fresh, tangy flavours. A lovely edgy, hoppy beer. 8.5/10
Odell Brewing Company St Lupulin Extra Pale Ale
6.5% alcohol. Warm, creamy, malty and rich but also hoppy and tangy. A lovely textured, rich style of pale ale. 9/10
Stone Ruination IPA
8.2% alcohol. Concentrated, dense, citrussy and herby with rich complexity and nice spicy bitterness, as well as some sweetness. Powerful and satisfying. 9/10
Partizan (Bermondsey, London) Saison Grisette Lime
3.8% alcohol. Fresh, citrussy, limey and a bit like a Sauvignon Blanc with fresh aromatics and a hint of skunkiness. Really interesting lighter style of beer. 8/10
6 thoughts on “Vagabond, Drakes Tabanco and the Draft House, a great night out”
Thank you for the write up Jamie, Great having you in. Must do it again soon. DM (TW) me when you’re next about and perhaps we can do a bit more of a structured tasting. That way I get to have a beer with you!
Just wish we had places like this in my area!
Jamie, I heard that you are going to visit the Okanagan this summer?
Sounds like a fantastic evening. Must try Vagabond and Drakes
The craft beer scene I struggle to get to grips with though. I find most of them massively over-hopped and over-strength and the less said about some of the ingredients they stick in, the better.
There’s no doubting the talent a lot of these brewers have – I’d just like them to occasionally turn their hand to crafting a good bitter at about 3.5 – 4% alcohol.
Yes I’m coming out west not sure exactly of my movements yet
Are Craft Beer and Real Ale synonymous? If so there are plenty of beers being brewed at the 3.5-4% (maybe up to 4.5%) session ale strength. You need a good old fashioned real ale (CAMRA style) pub and they’ll usually be on draft rather than in bottle or cans – and they’ll usually be English.
Tried to get into Vagabond Wines on Sat night but it was rocking and I couldn’t get a table. I ended up at Newman Street Tavern which I really enjoyed – laver on toast, venison, Dard et Ribo Crozes. Really enjoyed the whole experience.
Don’t know Drakes or the Draft House so will look then up next time I am in the area.