The 10 Cases
16 Endell Street, Covent Garden, WC2H 9BD
WLC Rank : 63
Glass from : £ 5 (125 ml)
BEST FORBistrot, Bar, Wine Shop and Terrace
Colourful Covent Garden location
Flavour-forward wine-friendly plates, as well as charcuterie
Cave á Vin private dining room
Bustling, The 10 Cases Bistrot serves an ever-changing selection of wines bought in 10 case permutations, while the Cave á Vin wine shop and bar next door has a more voluminous list.
Staffordshire-born, Leeds-raised, environmental sustainability graduate, Alexander Pitt previously worked at Lee Westcott’s Typing Room (RIP) before joining Covent Garden’s, The 10 Cases, which is replete with a soundtrack featuring The Kinks and The Beach Boys.
Pitt is joint wine manager for the Bistrot à Vin and adjacent Cave á Vin. These were opened by friends, Will Palmer and Ian Campbell to challenge the observed formality and excessive mark-ups they encountered elsewhere in London.
Neatly, the Bistrot’s list highlights 10 white wines, such as the Muscat/Assyrtiko Greek Connection (J. Ligas), 10 reds (Cabernet Franc “Seaside” Geyer Wine Co. Barossa), plus fizz, rosé, sweet wines and the odd sake, all available by the glass, carafe and bottle. The USP being, wines are only every purchased in 10 case orders. “It’s a fantastic, huge challenge to compile that list,” notes Pitt, recalling the purchase of old vine Tempranillo from Pisa-proximate vineyards which “vanished” after just two weeks on the list. “Before I happened upon that wine, I’d met a customer who was convinced Tempranillo came from Italy and, in disbelief, I’d tried my hardest to keep a straight face…”
Alongside, dishes by head chef, Chris Mathias, who earned his spurs in France and Canada, show “simple plating” says Pitt, being “French in style and really flavour-focused.” These might include snail and roast garlic feuillant, smoked Morteau sausage with Puy lentils, and a brilliant coq au vin, followed, perhaps by espresso trifle with mascarpone and honeycomb.
Opened two years after the Bistrot in 2013, the Cave á Vin wine bar, shop and cellar offers the same plates as the Bistrot, albeit on a walk-in only basis come evenings. Here, the list is, at 300 bins, more voluminous and offered at retail price to take-away or subject to a modest £15 corkage to drink within.
Bottles are often matured in the venue’s substantial cellars, “and a lot of stuff won’t see the list for quite a while,” says Pitt. Preference is given to low intervention producers. “When I first started in restaurants, I wasn’t focused on sustainable viticulture, but The Typing Room proved to be an eye-opener, being very focused on natural wines.” Pitt insists he has “learnt to identify wine faults – and if something sticks out, I can’t buy it.”
Before lockdown, Pitt visited Eastern Austria’s Burgenland. The trip, “organised off my own back,” revealed how much he “really liked Blaufränkisch” as well as the country’s minute production of Furmint.
Be sure to visit sister seafood restaurant, Parsons, over the road for happy hour oysters at the window counter.
When not working, you may find studious Pitt reading wine books, or enjoying the spoils of “buzzing” Shoreditch.
To his relief, during the lockdown, Drop, which is the venue’s wine delivery arm, was “going great guns,” says co-founder, Will Palmer.
By Douglas Blyde.