Even though I haven’t been away this summer (I’m not complaining, I’ve done a fair chunk of travelling this year already), I’ve had some great meals out and about in London.
And I don’t mean all-singing, all-dancing Michelin-starred meals either, I mean the likes of Da Polpo and The Riding House Café.
Going to these types of places has made me realise that even though a few months ago I talked about about the Sherry & tapas revolution that’s hit the capital, from a food point of view what I actually meant was a small plate revolution in general, rather than just a Spanish-themed one.
“More and more people are realising that meals aren’t just about a set 3 courses,” Shaan Mahrotri, operations director at Galoupet said to me the other day. Galoupet in Knightsbridge is a great example of a restaurant that’s championing small plates that aren’t necessarily Spanish in theme. Its food has some Med influence, yes, but there’s also an Asian influence too, and to deal with this treasure trove of flavours from a wine perspective, it’s installed an Enomatic machine.
So has this small plate eating culture changed the way we drink wine?
I believe it has, and for the better, because I don’t exclusively mean what we drink, but how we drink it too.
Often these small plate places will have a much more relaxed approach to the kind of glasses from which you drink wine. When you’re supping wine from a little glass tumbler while you’re about to tuck into side plate-sized dishes of arancini, pizzete and cured meats, it all feels satisfyingly authentic.
And even better, as a friend said to me last weekend while we were at such a place, having wine in these glasses can often make a wine taste better than it is (I suggested it was probably his stimulating company, so we agreed it must be a combination of the two….).
The same can be said for this current fashion of serving wines in a carafe. Like with the tumblers, there’s something very wholesome about it. In my mind, and as long as the setting/environment corresponds, carafe and tumbler wine drinking instantly takes the pretense and snobbery out of serving wine, making you feel more relaxed as you drink, which must surely be a strong contributing factor to why the wine could taste of better quality than it actually might be (though it’s obviously no excuse for letting the quality of the wine served to take a nosedive).
As for the type or style of wine we drink in these places, from speaking to sommeliers and wine suppliers to restaurants, by removing the predictable wine choices from the wine list, or by simply having a spoiling choice of wines available by-the-glass or carafe, these in vogue small plate eateries are doing a fantastic job at encouraging people to experiment with styles, regions and grape varieties.
Less snobbery and more experimentation with wine? I’m definitely up for that.