Athens-born Savvas Symeonidis, found his way into wine by way of medicine. Moving to the UK seven years ago from his native Greece, Symeonidis took up the role of head sommelier at Thornbury Castle restaurant near Bristol. While continuing his WSET studies, he moved to London and has also held roles at the JKS Restaurant group before becoming head sommelier of Goodman Restaurant last year.
How did you arrive at the position you are in today?
I was in charge of the wines in Thornbury Castle just outside Bristol, and then relocated to London as a sommelier for the likes of Tamarind and Gymkhana, both Mayfair Michelin-star restaurants. Now I’m looking after the wine department in Goodman of Mayfair. Hard work and patience is all it takes.
What’s your favourite part of the job?
The challenge of elevating dining to an experience for someone is very rewarding. Every day is full of surprises on the restaurant floor, so I never grow tired.
What’s the biggest misconception about the role of a sommelier?
Probably that we are a bunch of drunkards that just talk nonsense about the wines, and just to rob people of their money.
What’s your go-to drink at the end of a long day?
Water. Nothing can revitalise me better.
What’s your most embarrassing front-of-house moment?
First day on the job, spilling a glass of red wine over the white shirt of a guest. Bless him, he was so cool about it.
If you could give your younger self advice when starting out, what would it be?
Talk less, listen more. Have faith and stick to your plan. Don’t listen to the naysayers as it’s hard to share a vision.
What bottle sparked your love of wine?
A Pinot Noir from Greece, from a place very close to where my mother is from. That led to red Burgundies, and the rest is history.
Which customer habit annoys you the most?
Using an app when you are eager to navigate them through the list. People that think they know it all about the ever-changing wine world. Bad manners in general annoy me.
Who is your inspiration in the gastronomic world?
What’s your ultimate food and wine pairing?
Cheese paired with a wine on-the-sweeter-side Riesling.
Where would your fantasy vineyard be?
On any other planet after terraforming.
If you weren’t working in the restaurant industry, what would you be doing and why?
In the music industry or sports as I do make music and I am a keen martial artist.
Which wine do you find it impossible to get along with?
The least pleasing examples of natural wines.
Who is the most memorable customer you’ve ever served and why?
My wife. She’s a constant reminder of the love I put into every wine recommendation, every pairing, and every conversation regarding it, as I managed to spark her interest in it.
What makes you most proud to be working in London?
It’s a huge market and very fast-paced. In London, there’s a real opportunity to work in such a diverse environment full of interesting people and top wines from all over the world.
What’s on your wine bucket list?
I have my eyes on that Scarecrow…
Finally, what wine and paired plate would you pick from your list and why?
Porterhouse steak with a big Napa red. Why you say? ‘Cause you go big or go home!