As Quality Wines continues to mature like, well, a quality wine, there are no signs of complacency settling in. Nick Bramham’s cooking continues its peripatetic journey through the hills and valleys of southern Europe, making occasional stops along the way for something a little naughtier and more excessive: a truffle toastie here, a tuna melt there, an outrageous-sounding mortadella, burrata and pistachio pesto sandwich at some soon-to-be-specified point in the future.
Increasingly, this feels like QWF’s raison d’être: a baseline of reliable excellence, with just a little magic fairy dust sprinkled on top. It is, at root, the sort of wine bar everyone wants at the end of their road; with every visit there is, however, a little something extra that rewards those willing to travel from much further away.
And, in a city where lists can at times skew drably conformist – the same widely available natural stuff, the same unthreatening New World selections, the same predicable French heavy hitters – QWF offers proper lightning in a bottle. Cult Aussies, Greek rosés that evoke Homer’s “wine-dark sea”, Muchada L’Eclapart’s electric Palominos – all share shelf-space with New Wave South Africans, Loire garagistes and Cuvee Frederic fucking Emile. It’s thrilling, basically – an ever-updated selection of the stars of today and tomorrow, the wine equivalent of NBC’s era-defining run of must-see TV. Don’t miss out.
Magna Carta Wines, Ubuhle Izinkomo (£53)
It seems every few years another achingly hip winemaker emerges from the fragrant fynbos of South Africa’s Western Cape to reconfigure everything we thought we knew about one of the world’s most exciting wine regions. Craig Hawkins, Eben Sadie, Adi Badenhorst… and, now, Mphumi Ndlangisa, whose Magna Carta wines are slowly starting to find their way onto British shores. The Ubuhle Inzinkomo – a Muscat grown in the sunny plains of Franschhoek – is one heck of a calling card: as decadent as any of the region’s stellar Chenin Blancs, but perfumed enough to set itself apart from them, too. We had it with cold langoustines and mayo, and: wow.