Holborn Hall, 193-197 High Holborn, WC1V 7BD
WLC Rank : 320
Glass from : £ 5 (125 ml)
BEST FORSoaring ceilings and affirming playlist
Vintages which aren’t the shiniest but which offer excellent drinkability
Hearty and classy dishes by Graham Long
With a kindly priced, ready-to-drink list, Gezellig in London’s “mid-town” (a.k.a. Holborn) offers refuge for wine lovers.
Gezellig, from the Dutch, Gezelligheid (conviviality) is the surprisingly catchy name given to the restaurant and private dining rooms at the former Shanghai Blues at Holborn Town Hall. It is elegantly masterminded by Wieteke Teppema (formerly of Roberson Wines, Viajante, The Square, The Ledbury and Harvey Nichols) who, as designer and project manager, realised the blueprint resourcefully. “My friends tell me I have short arms and long pockets,” she jokes. She is joined by head chef, Graham Long (Elystan Street, The Chancery, Pied à Terre), and James Comyn (Howard Ripley wines). Rebecca Mascarenhas is a backer (Elystan St and Kitchen W8) and Andrew Johnson (Wood Winters) who describes it as “a refuge for the wine trade,” is a non-executive director.
On opening during last year’s London Wine Fair, the team immediately courted the wine trade and wine collectors, extending the “tool” of complimentary corkage which persists during quieter periods. “We reached the right crowd,” says Teppema. “Rarely did anyone come in with a bottle of Wolf Blass.” Instead, guests bring cherished bottles, “and I’ll work with Graham on a bespoke menu, the benefit being we can taste fantastic wines at the same time.”
Olive green, the dining room resounds with a playlist of “ye old classics,” says Teppema. “I turn 40 this year making me a dinosaur on the restaurant floor, so all the young kids born in 2001 are getting their music education as well as their wine education here.”
Long’s “hearty, classy” dishes may include: game faggots with Madeira consommé, ash-crusted venison, and rose veal cutlet, although serious attention is also given to vegetarian dishes. Finish with an actual “Builder’s Tea & a Biscuit” or arguably better, serving of 1920s Blandy’s Bual Madeira.
The pillars of the dining soar rise to the mezzanine where snacks such as stewed suckling pig Bitterballen balls with sweet mustard are available. “Chesterfields here are a tongue-in-cheek reference to members’ clubs,” says Teppema. For larger bookings look no further than the two umber-coloured private dining rooms by Long’s large kitchen.
“Not a brain-dump but selective,” Teppema’s “quite self-explanatory” list runs to 300 bins and is “drawn from close to 20 suppliers whom I trust and who offer a lot of support.” At sweet-spot of £60 per bottle, Riesling and Grüner Veltliner may be found. Of a 2012 of the latter, Teppema says, “lovely to try them with a bit of bottle age – and they don’t break the bank.” Also expect the odd Dutch spirit including Genever.
Service is “ergonomic”, says Teppema, with the front-of-house team, who wear their own clothes under green aprons, instructed, “not to top-up water or wine.” Not only is this less claustrophobic style popular with guests – but it also results in “40% less work to do on the floor.”
When not at Gezellig, Teppema enjoys rock climbing and visiting her friends at The 10 Cases and Noble Rot.
By Douglas Blyde.