Gordon Ramsay's latest London gastropub falls into the current template. Fiona Sims went along to the Chiswick establishment to see how the wine list is refined for the local clientele
If you want to see the blueprint for the modern-day gastropub, you should head to Gordon Ramsay's latest pub offering, the Devonshire, in Chiswick, west London.
The Devonshire follows closely on the heels of the Narrow, in the capital's Limehouse, which Ramsay opened last spring, and it pushes all the right buttons - as doubtless will his next London venture, the Warrington, when it opens in Maida Vale in March. And I'm not just talking about the food and the feel of both places; the wine lists also deliver.
There's plenty of interest at prices below £20 and lots offered by the glass. The list is not too long either, at 50 bins. But, as Ramsay's group wine buyer Ian Waddington explains, putting it together wasn't as easy as you might think.
"Customer expectation is high, and we need to offer the Ramsay stamp of quality all the way through from the menu to the wine list, without pushing it out of reach by making the list too expensive," says Waddington. "Hand on heart, our mark-ups are modest. Plus, we have tried to cater for as many different people as we can, which is actually very difficult to pull off."
The former Conran wine buyer has a huge job. As well as overseeing the drinks purchasing for the restaurants in the group, he looks after the alcohol side of things for new projects, including Heathrow's Terminal 5. In all, the company is juggling some 100 drinks suppliers.
So, where to start?
"We wanted to keep things simple for all sorts of reasons, from delivery to stockholding to invoicing," explains Waddington. "After a lot of thought, we decided to choose the list from just two of our existing suppliers, plus use what we have from our own stocks in our bonded warehouse. If not, it might have spiralled out of control."
This list differs little from that at the Narrow - and will vary as little from that at the Warrington. The idea is to offer pretty much the same wines in all the Ramsay pubs, with a few tweaks here and there to accommodate the local clientele.
The Devonshire, for example, sits in a well-heeled part of Chiswick, whose residents are deemed by Waddington and company to be a bit more wine-savvy than most, so the choice of wines reflects that.
For example, the English Chapel Down Brut, which is going down a storm at the Narrow, is joined at the Devonshire by its Tenterden Estate Bacchus Reserve (£22.50), plus another star English bubbly from Nyetimber (the 1998 Blanc de Blancs, at £55), said to be "selling very well". The Devonshire also lists a couple more regional French reds and a benchmark Margaret River red (Leeuwin Estate Art Series Cabernet, £60).
As the Devonshire opened only last October, it's still too early to discern the overall best sellers, but at the Narrow the best-selling wines, interestingly, are both from Chile - a Sauvignon Blanc from De Gras and Viu Manent's Malbec.
Do they suit the food? Well, in a way. "If you're putting a wine list together, it's got to be appropriate for the food, but in a lot of instances it's not so important," says Waddington. "We're not getting so hung up on it with the pubs. At the end of the day, people go out to enjoy themselves."
Although he hasn't quite worked out what the average spend is yet, Waddington reveals that all his top four best sellers cost less than £20, and sales of wines by the glass are outstripping bottle sales by three to two. Waddington insists: "If you want to offer the best choice to customers, offering a good range by the glass is the way to do it." He, therefore, offers 17 wines in this way.
How wine-savvy are the staff in the pubs, though? Waddington admits: "We haven't got the facility yet to explain the lists to the customers." It would also help if he had thought to include regional details for each wine on the list.
But such kinks are likely to be ironed out before long. There is a thriving wine education scheme across the Ramsay group, partly written by Waddington, and partly supplied by Enotria.
And Waddington has a secret weapon. Grinning, he says: "We also work with some of the excellent sommeliers we have - we just pinch them for a day to do some training."
What's on the list
- NV Ayala Brut Majeur, Champagne, France, £35
- 2002 Chapel Down Brut, England, £32.50
- 2007 Sauvignon Blanc, de Gras, Chile, £14.75
- 2006 Stormy Cape Chenin Blanc, South Africa, £16
- 2006 Torrontés, Bodegas Santa Ana, Argentina, £18
- 2006 Bergerac, Cuvée des Conti, France, £20
- 2005 Gewurztraminer, Hugel et Fils, France, £26
- 2005 Puligny Montrachet Vielles Vignes, Vincent Girardin, France, £65
- 2006 Garnacha Rosado, Campo Neuvo, Spain, £13.50
- 2004 Shiraz/Viognier, Innocent Bystander, Australia, £26
- 2006 Domaine Brusset, Côtes du Rhône, France, £20
- 2004 Clos de los Siete, Malbec/Cabernet, Argentina, £30
- 2004 Thelema Merlot, South Africa, £35
- 2003 Five Puttonyos, Royal Tokaji Company, Hungary, £30
•The Devonshire, 126 Devonshire Road, Chiswick, London W4 2JJ. Tel: 020 7592 7962