Holborn Hall, 193-197 High Holborn, WC1V 7BD
WLC Rank : 323
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.
Try pronouncing “Gezellig” without forming a smile? Deriving from the Dutch, Gezelligheid, meaning conviviality, the name for the 140-cover venue was applied by Dutch of origin, Wieteke Teppema, who acted as the project manager, and, having received a vertigo-inducing fee proposal from an interior architect, the interior designer, too.
Formerly of Roberson Wines, restaurants, Viajante, The Square and The Ledbury, and also Harvey Nichols, Teppema is part of a triumvirate of talent comprising head chef, Graham Long (Elystan Street, The Chancery, Pied à Terre), and James Comyn (Howard Ripley wines). Further investment comes care of restaurateur, Rebecca Mascarenhas (Elystan St and Kitchen W8) and non-executive director, Andrew Johnson (Wood Winters), who believes Gezellig has the potential to offer “refuge for the wine trade.”
Located in the handsome former public library of Holborn Town Hall (previously Burger and Lobster and Shanghai Blues), Gezellig was “three years in the pipeline,” says Teppema, with the original plan being “a shack in Hackney,” adds Long, who would “have fallen off my seat three years ago if you told me we’d be here.”
Filled with the affirmative soundtrack of David Bowie and The Rolling Stones, the dining room shares a similar olive colour to 67 Pall Mall. The star feature is the wall of images relating to the lives of the founding three amigos, “and our neuroses” jokes Long. “We’re trying to give a feeling of home,” adds Teppema, “though my home doesn’t have double height ceilings!” Meanwhile, mallard green pillars rise to the clubby mezzanine where the best seat is the banquette in the bay window. “Chesterfields are a tongue-in-cheek reference to members’ clubs,” she adds. For bookings over six, guests can reserve one of two umber-coloured private dining rooms beside Long’s large kitchen, featuring ornate original window handles, cookery books, and a drinks’ globe.
Teppema’s “quite self-explanatory” list runs to 350 bins, “drawn from 15 suppliers whom I trust,” with the sweet-spot being £50-60 per bottle. “It’s pretty classic in taste, not subverting to the dogma of natural for natural sake: wine needs to be correct,” she says. It may include top year Haut-Brion at retail price, a magnum of respectable Côte de Nuits-Villages from Comyn’s former employer, or an Oregon Gamay from self-described “drink tank”, The Craft Wine Co.
Service is “ergonomic”, says Teppema, and, conscious of the criticisms sommeliers receive for imposing additional bottles of wine on guests, she has instructed her front-of-house team, who wear their own clothes under green aprons, “not to top-up water or wine.” Of guests being encouraged to perform DIY drinks service, Long reasons, “we’re all grown-ups, and I’m not cutting up their food for them!”
Served on “white plates with a matt finish”, Long, who became known as “Captain Bailout” in recent months owing to his ability to calm kitchens quickly, describes dishes as “hearty and classy, fine food, not fine dining, with, when called for, plenty of butter, cream and salt.” These may include, served on the mezzanine, duck heart kebabs, a veal sweetbread slider with truffle coleslaw, and hazelnut ice cream with Frangelico liqueur. In the dining room, expect a chicken, leek and foie gras terrine with warm morel vinaigrette, a suckling pig to share with anchovy and Jansson’s Temptation, then apricot and chamomile tart. Given the generous space below decks, butchery is done on site, with carcasses kept on Himalayan salt blocks.
Teppema hopes Gezellig here in London’s “mid-town” will form part of a “drinking trail”, which also comprises – located equidistantly – her friends at Noble Rot and The 10 Cases.
By Douglas Blyde.