Angelika Oparczyk is the general manager and sommelier at the Bank House in Chiselhurst, a newly-opened restaurant run by experienced husband and wife team Stuart and Cecilia Gillies. Oparczyk has spent 15 years working alongside Stuart, who is the former CEO of the Gordon Ramsay Group. Formerly assistant general manager at the Ivy Collection, Oparczyk has also worked for Jason Atherton’s Social Company as assistant head sommelier. At the Gordon Ramsay Group, she held a number of roles including head sommelier, wine manager and group wine manager. Her wine list at the Bank House features a growing selection of natural and English wines as well as more traditional offerings, available both by the bottle and on tap. A firm champion of dynamic young winemakers, Oparczyk features wines from the likes of Viña Ilusion from Rioja and Les Vignerons d’Estezargues cooperative from the Rhône Valley.
What or who inspired you to become a sommelier?
My first job in UK was at a restaurant called La Noisette on Sloane Street – it is where I first came across an actual sommelier. The concept was foreign to me and I immediately thought what an amazing job, maybe I’d like to do that one day.
What’s your favourite part of the job?
Service. I love interacting with guests, feeling like you are on stage (maybe I should have been an actor?) and finding a bottle or glass that they will love and remember.
What’s the biggest misconception about the role of a sommelier?
That sommeliers recommend wines based on price. I like to recommend wines based on a guest’s previous choice, so I often go for similar wines or something a little more adventurous based on their preferences.
What’s your go-to drink at the end of a long day?
I may surprise everyone, but it’s actually a G&T.
What’s your most embarrassing front-of-house moment?
Like everyone there has been a few…I can’t pin-point one but I think of them as learning curves instead of embarrassing moments.
If you could give your younger self advice when starting out as a sommelier, what would it be?
Take one step at time, choose wisely who you work with and don’t be scared to make mistakes.
What bottle sparked your love of wine?
Côte-Rôtie Guigal 2000.
What to date has been your most memorable wine experience?
At Claridge’s by Gordon Ramsay when I tried Château Latour 1989. I had tears in my eyes when I tasted that wine. Guests noticed and could not wait to drink that bottle!
Which customer habit annoys you the most?
When you have little piece of cork in a glass (I know this shouldn’t happen too often) and guest say the wine is corked.
Who is your inspiration in the gastronomic world?
I’ve met so many people over my years in hospitality, it’s difficult to say. I’m constantly inspired by talented women in our industry such as Clare Smyth, Anna Haugh and Sandia Chang.
What’s your ultimate food and wine pairing?
Zind-Humbrecht Riesling 2005 and tapas style food.
Where would your fantasy vineyard be?
North of Poland – it’s a beautiful area and I would love to see the view of Baltic Sea from my château.
If you weren’t a sommelier, what would you be doing and why?
A restaurant owner. I’m good at what I do and really enjoy it despite the fact that we all know it’s not an easy job.
Which wine do you find it impossible to get along with?
Wines produced in bulk and made only for profit and not for taste.
Who is the most memorable customer you’ve ever served and why?
I’ve had quite a few famous customers in the past, who are of course memorable. However I find that the most memorable are customers are those who follow me wherever I’m working as they enjoy my wine recommendations and style of service.