Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, 66 Knightsbridge, SW1X 7LA
WLC Rank : 166
Glass from : £ 7 (150 ml)
Yuri Gualeni, Head Sommelier of Bar Boulud, London – sister restaurant to the New York outpost – grew up in Milan, “where wine was always on the table,” he recalls. “And I remember travelling to Piedmont yearly where we’d buy enough demijohns to last a year… Then grandpa and I would sit under a grapevine in the garden, pushing corks into bottles. And when mum and dad weren’t around, I’d try a few drops topped up with a lot of water. But I must admit I enjoyed feeling like a grown-up more than I did the taste of the actual wine!”
Gualeni studied hospitality in Milan, graduating with a sommelier’s diploma. “I left Italy right after, working in London for the past dozen years for Alexis Gauthier, Gordon Ramsay, Gary Rhodes and Theo Randall.” Gualeni also worked at La Petite Maison, Coya and Clos Maggiore.
Bar Boulud’s list focuses on the Rhône and Burgundy, “including wines from the most famed producers, and also an array of up and coming producers”. This is supplemented by bottles listed under a title such as ‘Les Cousins’ (i.e. made from varieties associated with Burgundy or the Rhône, such as Bollinger’s still red, La Côte Aux Enfants). ‘Les Coups de Coeur’, meanwhile, features wines “from any grape, anywhere in the world”, such as Bolyki’s Hungarian ‘Bull’s Blood’. The list also showcases ‘Les Americains’ including Dominus, Opus One and Sine Qua Non. “And let’s not forget the Grands Formats, uncorked on a regular basis and poured by the glass at affordable prices.”
Gualeni selects wines which offer a true representation of their grape and terroir, “while telling a story to our guests.” In this quest, he gives coverage to ‘adventurous’ regions. “It’s great to say we have Pétrus and Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, but it’s also exciting to list Greek and Tasmanian wines, indigenous Italians, volcanic wines from Tenerife and wines sown in the Atacama desert.”
Gualeni enjoys finding wines which, hitherto, have not been imported into the UK, while bringing home knowledge from his vinous journeys. “It’s important to to transmit stories to our guests,” he says. Gualeni also finds it fulfilling to decode a guest’s preferences. “Over the years I’ve learnt to ask trigger questions. Sommeliers are not there to judge but help you spend a memorable time and find a drink you’d truly enjoy. So, don’t be scared – ask for help – give a budget and talk about what you liked in the past. Then we’ll do our magic!”
Gualeni particularly rates mature wines. “The ultimate experience is drinking wines at their peak. Some bottles live more than 50 years and it would be a shame to finish all your stock in within a dinner.”
Perhaps recalling the humble childhood experience of helping his grandfather under the vine pergola, Gualeni hopes the world of wine will one day see prices which “stop rising to the top of the sky”.
Gualeni does not encourage corkage at Bar Boulud, ‘because my wine list covers virtually the whole world (or it will!)’
Alongside the ferment, dishes, calibrated by intrepid chef, Daniel Boulud, may include snails, steak tartare with Dijon mustard, Boudin Blanc with truffled mash, a whole baked Reblochon for two with steamed potatoes, then gateau Basque, ideally with a glass of vintage Port (Graham’s) – or, when Boulud is in town, perhaps a world record settingly long baked Alaska…
By Douglas Blyde.
Bar Boulud is a wonderful place to drink good wine, particularly if you’re a Francophile. As with its sister restaurant in New York, the cellar at Bar Boulud London is replete with the best drops from chef-proprietor Daniel Boulud’s favourite wine making regions, the Rhône Valley and Burgundy (he’s from a little village close to Lyon) – regions ordered under the headings ‘Les Déscouvertes’, ‘Les Classiques’ and ‘Les Légendes’.
A team of top sommeliers, led by head somm David Vareille, is on the floor and all have a genuine enthusiasm for quirky wines, as well as those from the New World, so while the French classics dominate, there are progressive elements on the list too. Helpfully, there are short ‘Les Cousins’ sections which present Rhône and Burgundy-style wines (white and red) from other regions of the world. These are definitely worth a look – Crystallum Clay Shales Chardonnay from South Africa tops the white Burgundy-style list, while there’s an extensive selection of Burgundy-style Pinots, including the delicious and very polished Thörle Saulheimer Spätburgunder from Rheinhessen.
It’s also a pretty dynamic list – it’s ‘Seasonal Selection’, which is emphasised by the restaurant’s monthly masterclasses, focuses on a different winemaking region every three months, serving an enviable selection of wines from the selected region by the bottle and carafe.
Bar Boulud has been an enthusiastic adopter of Coravin, so you’ll see a good selection of icons available by the glass – Garrus Rosé (£36 for 125ml), Baron Thenard Montrachet 2008 (£95 for 125ml) and Angélus 2008 (neatly, £125 per 125ml), for example. The BTG list otherwise extends to a generous 30 or so wines.
Monsieur Boulud’s adoptive US also gets decent coverage here, while there is a good number of magnums available if you’re looking to ‘supersize’.
All in all, a sprightly and very well curated list – chapeau, David!
By Darren Smith