My Top Tip For Finding A Good Restaurant Is Actually On The Wine List
During dinners with winemaking friends in town this week, the conversation wasn’t about wine believe it or not, they were curious about what is happening on the restaurant scene.
When I named the new restaurants that just opened, they had one response… “Is there anything good to drink?” My answer brought rounds of laughter, “If there isn’t anything good to drink, then there isn’t anything good to eat!”
Joking aside, it is my personal criteria of how I choose restaurants.
All the restaurants I share enthusiastically on my site are personal favourites because they are informal, fun and offer value for money – but above all – I choose them because the Chef-Owners are making a conscious effort to serve only fresh seasonal food and wine (and bread and coffee too for that matter.)
Sadly too many other places treat these important details as an after thought. I look at them as a sign of quality.
It isn’t about drinking alcohol per se (okay for us maybe it is) because not everyone drinks. But the point still remains, if they have mass produced poor quality wine on the list, what on earth does that say about the rest of the menu?
I firmly believe that a Chef-Owner should take a huge interest in and be accountable for every part of the experience they sell to customers, and that includes the wine.
Imagine. Great new restaurant! Fantastic Chef! Food is wonderful! (excitement builds…) then, “but the wine list has mass produced wines.” (Disappointed letdown)
Interestingly, there is a specific demographic of people out there (my winemaking friends would agree) who actually choose a restaurant based on what there is to drink first. If there isn’t good quality wine on the list, (in our case, small production wine made by farmers is what we hope to find), then why bother going? Especially in France where food and wine go hand in hand on the table as an essential part of the meal.
This point has been brought up a lot around the table by this demographic during my recent travels to New York, London, New Orleans etc. who get frustrated that restaurant reviewers don’t mention a word about the wine so that we can make a fully informed decision, or that the restaurant’s website has a drop down that goes into great detail about the food suppliers but there isn’t one for wine. We won’t take a chance on reserving if the restaurant’s taste in wine isn’t available to see first.
Since I prefer natural wines made by small producers, this is the criteria I set out when seeking restaurants in other parts of the world. Some of the best discoveries have come from walking into a wine shop to ask which restaurants in town serve these wines. (When there isn’t a wine shop, I talk to the town’s artisan baker.) It is all I need to know. If you prefer a classic wine profile, this same tactic works.
This one thing makes my job in curating a huge restaurant city like Paris quite easy – if the restaurant is proud of their food and natural wine producers, I am also proud to be a customer and to share these restaurants and wine makers with you.
BTW, if you are a restaurant that is equally proud of your menu and cellar but don’t have a mention of it on your site, would you mind adding just a few examples? I’d love to visit ya’ll.