Best affordable UK restaurant wine lists

UK restaurant wine lists
The Terrace, Ventnor, Isle of Wight

Even the savviest of wine lovers knows the sinking feeling that can come when perusing a restaurant’s wine list. My own personal bugbears include wines presented – quite literally – as a list, with no attempt to describe their essential characters or why you might like to order it, and prices that zoom up and down like a rollercoaster instead of helpfully ascending from low to high. The wine list lottery is enough to make you reach for a drink to calm the nerves before even selecting a bottle.

Restaurant reviews tend to concentrate on the food; few bother to talk about the wine. And yet what is served in the glass can affect the enjoyment of a meal just as much as what is served on the plate.

Too many wine lists, however, require blind faith in the selection process behind them – or else an encyclopaedic knowledge of grapes and regions, styles and vintages. The cynic in me wonders whether this is merely a ruse for the sommelier to push their most profitable bottles, though few things are as likely to kill repeat custom than upselling wines.

What’s more, all too often the restaurants with the most lauded wine lists are also the most expensive. Nothing wrong with that for those that can afford it, of course. But it tends not to encourage one of the greatest joys of wine: experimentation.

Instead, below we’ve selected the restaurants across the UK where imaginative lists have been assembled, with as much of an eye on affordability as enjoyment and – even if the wine list offers little by way of annotation – staff who have been thoroughly trained to offer knowledgeable and trustworthy advice.

Read on to discover where good value is matched by great choice and, if in doubt, check the wine list on the restaurant’s website beforehand.

Best value restaurant wine lists

The 10 Cases, London

restaurant wine lists

Only ever buying 10 cases of wine for its ever-changing list – all available by the glass – and great food-matching too.

Askham Hall, Penrith, Cumbria

The family seat of the Earls of Lonsdale excels with classic Burgundy and Bordeaux from the family cellar; the Loire and South Africa are also strong.

The Black Bull, Sedbergh, Cumbria

Restaurant interior with wine glasses

Characterful, quirky and good-value wines from small, sustainable European producers, including regions less-travelled by many lists.

Chez Bruce & La Trompette, London

restaurant wine lists

Both under the same ownership. Exceptional lists with lots by the glass, and some prices cheaper than retail.

The Drapers Arms, London

A fairly-priced list almost exclusively concentrated on artisan European producers all the more surprising for being in a pub.

The Felin Fach Griffin, Brecon, Powys

The Gurnard’s Head, St Ives, Cornwall

The Old Coastguard, Mousehole, Cornwall

This trio of Welsh and West Country inns is united by wines sourced from regionally specialised merchants, also available to take away for almost cost price.

Freemasons, Clitheroe, Lancashire

A list so well written that it could serve as a beginners’ guide to wine, with reds and whites divided into four styles each, playful descriptions throughout and something for all tastes and budgets.

Kitchen W8, London

Credit: Andrew Hayes-Watkins

A classically European list not priced as dearly as might be expected by the Kensington location, Kitchen W8 excels with a weekly changing selection of fine wines offered by the glass at cost price (£10 to £30).

The Newport, Newport, Fife

restaurant wine lists

Masterchef: The Professionals winner Jamie Scott’s bistro boasts a fabulous list from a local merchant.

The Old Bridge, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire

Owner and MW John Hoskins offers 15 wines by the glass, 20 more from an Enomatic and wines with between £10-£20 added from retail price; the broad, style-led list is also available to take home from the Wine Shop next door.

Otto’s, London

Credit: Nic Crilly-Hargrave

Otto Tepasse eschews anything that one might find in the supermarket, instead selecting great vintages from classic French…

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Best affordable UK restaurant wine lists  
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