London Shell Co.
Sheldon Square, Paddington Central , W2 6PY
WLC Rank : 88
Glass from : £ 4.25 (125 ml)
BEST FORA haven from London’s hustle
Wines on tap, bespoke fizz and original choices
Colourful, sustainably inclined dishes
The semi-private room in the bow
“Things are ship shape and Bristol fashion here at London Shell Co.” says Harry Lobek, who operates two vessels from Paddington, both well stocked with wine.
Given the popularity of their cruising vessel, The Prince Regent, Harry Lobek and his sister, Leah needed a bigger boat. Cue the launch of larger vessel, The Grand Duchess, a static craft previously serving as the marketing suite for Paddington penthouses. Given the absence of an engine, this vessel is capacious enough to feature a semi-private “Captain’s Table”.
Opening with John Masefield’s 1902 “Sea Fever”, the list aboard The Grand Duchess is themed around noble fish. Hence, under “A Pint of Prawns” expect reds “light enough for drinking but still plenty to make a meal of”, such as aromatic “Experimental Batch” EB42 Summer Lovin’ Pinot Meunier (Mac Forbes). And honouring the mighty “Turbot” expect “decadent wines to impress your friends…” such as thickly-textured Langhe Bianco (Solea Roagna). Other sections include “Mackerel”, starring an Australian Petit Manseng (Symphonia) described as “Savennières in style”, and “Departures”, where Austrian Beerenauslese (Umathum) is offered by-the-glass. “When you dine with us, you will most likely ask yourself if today is a Mackerel or a Turbot day?” says Lobek. “Tongue in cheek, the most important thing to us is that our wines have character and integrity.”
The Lobeks love the Loire, particularly, “bulletproof Chenin” and “chic” Melon de Bourgogne. “Vincent Caillé, Monnières-Saint Fiacre has me as happy as a clam at high tide,” says Lobek. Rich, complex and with “racy acidity”, aged Verdejo has proved a wonderful discovery, especially the single vineyard, micro-production, Vidal Soblechero Finca Buenavista. “It’s completely unrecognisable from the entry-level, mass-produced aromatic Rueda bottlings that sometimes crop up at large weddings of the past.”
Dishes by head chef, Stuart Kilpatrick may include Devon crab and Guinness rarebit, and cod with curried mussels, cauliflower and kale. Blending Bacchus and Pinot Gris, house bubbles are produced in collaboration with Hampshire’s Hattingley Valley – a nifty fit with oysters. “In our opinion the best value English Sparkling Wine you can buy; winemaker, Emma Rice is smashing it every year.”
The Lobeks dispense considerably more reds aboard the Grand Duchess compared to The Prince Regent. “Post-Christmas, we had to buy in a lot of big-boy reds, such as Dal Forno Valpolicella 2005 over Christmas. Some of our guests will always go big.”
Meanwhile, with ever-changing scenery, The Prince Regent gently slips its mooring come the evening, navigating to Little Venice with passengers kept “entertained and surprised” with sherry, including those bottled by progressive Spanish wine and sherry collective, Equipo Navazos, magnums of transcendant Provence rosé (Clos Cibonne) and mature wines. “Under Old Bangers we list a selection with bottle age.”
To crew both craft, the Lobeks team rose from 12 to 34, although a pause on hiring post-lockdown has meant the albeit happy crew can feel the pain of fatigue more keenly.
Of the first weeks of Lockdown, Lobek jokes he was indulging in three, three-course meals a day with a bountiful cheese board “permanently resting in the kitchen and fortified wines to give a final shove into oblivion.” However, matters soon changed when he begun implementing the delivery side of the business via hired fridge vans. “It was great to actually see customers.”
Meanwhile, beverage manager, Oliver Zelenczuk organised regular wine Zoom wine tastings for the team.
Keep an eye open for the London Shell Co’s own wine club, and having listed Tidal Rum for Jersey, they will be hosting a rum cruise.
By Douglas Blyde.