WLC recommends: The Old Bridge, Huntingdon

Douglas Blyde heads to Cambridgeshire to visit The Old Bridge. There, he meets proprietor John Hoskins MW, the first Master of Wine in the restaurant industry, who tells him why he believes that sommeliers might not be “necessary”.

“Wine and design are the defining features at this Georgian inn on the edge of the town centre with views across a park to the Great Ouse,” appraised The Good Hotel Guide of the ivy-clad Georgian edifice overseen by John Hoskins, who became the first
Master of Wine in the restaurant industry in 1994. That same year Hoskins, who later became exam chairman for the Institute of Masters of Wine, acquired The Old Bridge. What he recalls as a “tired and very provincial” property was subsequently painstakingly renovated to the designs of his wife, Julia, which, along with an integral wine shop, being one of the first venues in the country to feature eye-catching Enomatics, and standout cellar, has made it a wine lovers’ destination.

Hoskins

In both restaurant and shop, wines, which must “charm” Hoskins with their “aroma first, then balance”, are categorised by character not region. This, he says, encourages people “to have a style of wine they like, rather than a region they have heard
of”. Mark-ups are kept to a genuine minimum. “The idea is to offer value and quality combined,” explains Hoskins. “So all restaurant wines are max £20 above retail price.”

Iconic producers present include Chave, Dauvissat, Gaja, Henschke, Jamet and Mugnier. “But they aren’t what we are about,” says Hoskins. “More interesting for us is great quality at under £50 in the shop, where, with limited shelf space, we are unremitting in re-evaluating each wine’s place.” Meanwhile, coming in under £70 in the restaurant, examples include Bilancia Syrah, Danbury Pinot, Ridge Zins, Isole Chianti, Pierre Peters Cuvée de Reserve and the whites of Galicia.

Best enjoyed in the uplifting, enclosed terrace, dishes by head chef Pramod Jadhav, whose nickname is “Rambo”, show accents of India, and may include fillet of sea trout with crushed pistachios, almonds, spinach, roast cauliflower, turmeric potatoes and cumin-pickled fennel as well as curries.

“A sublime combo recently was a not-too-spicy vegan curry with Höllenpfad Riesling Trocken from Dönnhoff,” recalls Hoskins.

Perhaps controversially, Hoskins, who suffers from a histamine intolerance meaning he has a “crashing hangover” if he drinks more than three glasses of wine, doesn’t automatically believe that sommeliers, are “necessary”. He says: “While often talented and brilliant people, I just don’t think an ‘official’ sommelier is what the customer wants.”

Score: 94.5 Value: 99 Size: 93 Range: 95 Originality: 93 Experience: 92.5

To pick up your copy of the 2022 Wine List Confidential guide, click here.

Leave your reply

Most Recent Stories

WLC Eats: Jin Sha at Four Seasons Hotel Hangzhou at West Lake

Douglas Blyde takes a trip to the Four Seasons Hotel Hangzhou, China. During his visit, head sommelier Olive Gao guides him through a list covering everything from lard-washed rice wine to tea.

The airline with an organic-only wine list

French boutique airline La Compagnie's exclusively-organic onboard wine list is designed to correspond with its "disruptive image", according to the company.

Kent vineyard battles opposition to wine tastings near graveyard

Nine Oaks Vineyard in Kent is seeking to allay concerns of local residents after facing opposition to its new licence to hold wine tastings, with villagers arguing that nearby mourners could be disturbed. WLC finds out more.

Analysis: a closer look at Majestic's acquisition of Vagabond Wine

Majestic's acquisition of Vagabond Wines, which was confirmed last week, is an interesting expansion for the well-known specialist retailer, particularly given the growth of its B2B business in recent years. WLC looks at what the deal may mean.

Michel Roux Jr to open new restaurant

Just a few months after he shut the doors of legendary Mayfair institution Le Gavroche, Michel Roux Jr will open a new restaurant at The Langham hotel this summer, with the menu taking inspiration from his childhood in Kent.

Most Recent Stories

WLC Eats: Jin Sha at Four Seasons Hotel Hangzhou at West Lake

Douglas Blyde takes a trip to the Four Seasons Hotel Hangzhou, China. During his visit, head sommelier Olive Gao guides him through a list covering everything from lard-washed rice wine to tea.

The airline with an organic-only wine list

French boutique airline La Compagnie's exclusively-organic onboard wine list is designed to correspond with its "disruptive image", according to the company.

Kent vineyard battles opposition to wine tastings near graveyard

Nine Oaks Vineyard in Kent is seeking to allay concerns of local residents after facing opposition to its new licence to hold wine tastings, with villagers arguing that nearby mourners could be disturbed. WLC finds out more.

Analysis: a closer look at Majestic's acquisition of Vagabond Wine

Majestic's acquisition of Vagabond Wines, which was confirmed last week, is an interesting expansion for the well-known specialist retailer, particularly given the growth of its B2B business in recent years. WLC looks at what the deal may mean.

Michel Roux Jr to open new restaurant

Just a few months after he shut the doors of legendary Mayfair institution Le Gavroche, Michel Roux Jr will open a new restaurant at The Langham hotel this summer, with the menu taking inspiration from his childhood in Kent.