At Bottles in London’s Spitalfields, guests can explore wines from Italy and beyond at the wine bar which boasts a sustainable kitchen, terrace and communal counter.
“Always enjoy what you like and be willing to try something new,” says Edward Semprini, a believer that the best way to learn about wine is via “your local wine man or woman.”
Bustling wine bar and terrace, boutique and deli, Bottles in Old Spitalfields Market is a close friendship between Semprini (‘Bottles & Battles’, Mercato Metropolitano, SE1) and housemates, Carlo Deho and Michele Pompili (‘Sood Family’) who cut their teeth running supper-clubs and street food stalls in East London.
Ground floor bar and open basement kitchen have communal tables, with warmly lit walls wrapped in red and gold bottle stamped Italian newspapers, while spent jeroboams serve as vases. Downstairs, fruit crates are filled with Barolo, Barbera and Arneis – a grape Semprini calls “Italy’s Furmint.”
Citing his “indirect mentor” as Massimo Bottura, dishes by delightfully eccentric Pompili (formerly of Chiltern Firehouse) who has a tattoo of Prince Siddhartha and socks depicting a tank riding fish, are soulful. These may include gutsy fried rice balls with molten Bari Mozzarella at their core and Pecorino, Parmesan and black pepper crusts, brilliantly paired with sleek, meek Rosanna sparkling Nebbiolo Rosé (Ettore Germano). Crisp, grilled Brussels sprouts with pear and miso purée and free range lardo work with weighty Arneis (Giovanni Almondo) meanwhile. And handsome, Barbera d’Alba (Palladino) with Swaledale lamb racks swathed in curry, coriander and carrot purée is a combination Semprini envisages “people can fall in love over.”
Fresh pasta might be formed from offcuts honouring the kitchen’s “zero-waste” policy, enriched with nduja, while platters include the one-meter long cheese and charcuterie board; this is also one of London’s few venues offering an Ibérico pork tartare.
Majoring on Italy, though spotlighting character and quality elsewhere – indeed, Semprini’s ultimate ambition would be to feature at least one wine from every wine producing country – the 200 bins regularly rotate, with 30% discount offered if taken home. Preference is given to winemakers “pouring their heart into it,” says Semprini, including, perhaps ironically given Bottles location, “people who left the City to return to their family farms.”
Semprini, who describes wine as “medicine”, has hospitality in the bloodline (his aunt runs Crossharbour’s Floating Lotus) mentions he dropped out of university a decade ago, pursuing a career in wine initially at Kent’s Chislehurst Wines before becoming buying assistant to Alistair Morrell at Mayfair’s Hedonism. His CV also includes Armit and Liberty Wines.
Deho trained as a lawyer, contending with cross-continental inheritance tax feuds by day while earning his keep in restaurants by night, ultimately deciding hospitality was more enjoyable.
Pompili, meanwhile, who originally studied pharmacy, spends his holidays on scooter tours, encountering interesting culinary situations such as in Mykonos, where he was randomly invited to butcher “a grandma’s massive goat.”