150 Piccadilly, W1J 9BR
WLC Rank : 6
Glass from : £ 14 (175 ml)
BEST FORAn all-embracing list
Considered wine matches
A sense of occasion
The Ritz is a London palace hotel with eager new owners and a team pushing at every level to become the best in the world.
During the lockdown, the Barclay brothers completed the sale of the famous hotel to the 40-year-old Abdulhadi Mana Al-Hajri. Early signs of the new tenure are positive, according to the head sommelier, Matteo Furlan, who is Villa Sandi’s Best UK Sommelier. To reinforce its place as a world-beating restaurant, the wine list is growing significantly, subject to more modest mark-ups, and with a more encompassing reach. Hence, joining Champagne and English sparkling wine, the all-Italian sommelier team can finally pour Annamaria Clementi Franciacorta alongside such standout dishes as umami-rich panna cotta of Parmigiano Reggiano with shaved truffle and truffle sauce. And, given Maître-Sabreur Furlan is a certified Cava sommelier, expect Spanish sparklers to join too.
Furlan grew up close to Venice, gaining an insight into hospitality early at his family’s restaurant. On coming to London, he joined J Sheekey then Hakkasan’s HKK (RIP) under Tobias Brauweiler MS, “who suggested I go for the Court of Master Sommeliers”. Brauweiler, himself previously at The Ritz, spurred Furlan to send his CV to Giovanni Ferlito, the receptive head of wine and beverage. Furlan describes the volcanic crater-proximate vineyard, Monte Rosso tended by his Etna-born Master of Culinary Arts-accredited boss as “heroic”.
The Ritz’s ‘Livre du Vin’ is now available on an iPad, a decision taken by the hotel’s ‘Green Committee’. It includes wines from China, Israel, Japan and Uruguay, as well as orange wines, which appeared on the list after Ferlito’s visit to Imereti. Sourced directly from the wineries, the standout classic collections are the crown jewels, encompassing Lafite, Mouton and, in some cases at near-retail price, Romanée-Conti. Six recently added collections include Costasera Amarone from Masi, which Furlan visited before the lockdown, running to 1988. Also consider Scharzhofberger from Egon Müller back to 1983, and the vertical of Cervaro delle Sala to 2008, “to prove Italian whites can age”. Sweet wines and Sherries are taken particularly seriously too, with scarce sips “served by the spoon” (10ml), including pre-phylloxera Pio X 1903 Moscatel.
Both the wine list, which is available throughout the building, and menus, include the service charge, meaning the £40 starting point for a breezy bottle of Narince Diren from Tokat in northern Turkey feels like a bargain in the context of the gilded, Michelin-starred Green Park dining room. Delve deep, and you might find relative snips from the likes of Coche-Dury and Domaine Huet.
A testament to the legacy of Auguste Escoffier, dishes are pristinely realised by executive chef John Williams MBE, a “Geordie from a hard, working-class background”, who is chairman of the Academy of Culinary Arts, and the mind behind The Ritz cookbook. He is also a wine collector. “Chef and I taste the food and wine together, and he loves to listen, changing a sauce or adding something so we can do a really good pairing,” says Furlan.
New for this year, Furlan added a UK-focused craft beer selection. He is also working on improving the low- and no-alcohol category, pertinent given the hotel’s owner is from Muslim Qatar. He is also greatly looking forward to the refurbishment of the capacious but aesthetically unprepossessing cellars.
During the lockdown, Furlan delved into the world of “low-carb cuisine”, having been overly hedonistic in the first weeks away from the floor. “Like many sommeliers, I emptied my cellar during the lockdown and practised my bar skills – everything was allowed at dinner!”
When not at work, cheese lover Furlan enjoys the atmosphere of Gordon’s on Villiers Street, London’s oldest wine bar.
By Douglas Blyde.