Wine expert Melanie Brown opened all-day neighbourhood bistro and wine shop the Laundry in London's Brixton last year. She talks to Emma Lake about the future of New World wines
In 2015, you launched the New Zealand Cellar in Brixton, London, showcasing wine from the country. What led you to this point?
My chef background instilled a love of restaurants and hospitality in me from a very young age. I guess I've been addicted since that point.
The transition from chef to wine and now to restaurant owner has been one that has unfolded very naturally. It's given me the chance to understand the many variables (and we know how many of those there are in the restaurant industry!) of an authentic hospitality experience and one that I strive for daily.
Four years later you opened all-day bistro the Laundry in the same area of London – what was your inspiration for this project?
To be brutally honest it was all about the building – I've watched the development of this particular space over the last four years when walking past on my way to our bar at Pop Brixton and somehow it captured me.
I was adamant to preserve the integrity of this Brixton landmark and felt that my experiences over the last decade (or two) were best suited to an all-day offering, somewhere that was familiar, outgoing and knowledgeable in the way we approach hospitality. So, the Laundry was born.
The Laundry takes its name from the beautiful Edwardian building it occupies – can you tell us about the building and how you managed to secure it?
I am extremely lucky to have such a close and supportive community in Brixton and our landlord was extremely welcoming with the concept. Nothing really prepares you for the intense nature of the restaurant business. I love everything about it and I am so fortunate to have such an incredible management team leading this space.
How has your experience fed into the wine list at the Laundry?
This was the first time I was able to explore the Old World and I was really excited by the chance. We designed this wine list to appease varying degrees of enthusiasts. I wanted to make sure it wasn't too ‘winey' and that we covered key regions and styles at really good value.
The most exciting element on this list is my first series of wines ‘New Press'. I'm very fortunate to work with Ben Glover to produce three wines from Marlborough – these wines have extra sass appeal and are available every day by the glass, bottle and to take away from our wine shop.
There's a lot to be said about just how rewarding the simplicity of a hospitality experience can be
How did you and head chef Dylan Cashman go about developing the food offering, and how aligned with the wine list is this?
Dylan has a simple philosophy that is driven by quality produce and respect. We're lucky to have such an intuitive chef whose priority lies around fresh ingredients, driven by classic traditions.
We do all we can to minimise our impact and use retired dairy cows. We also use the whole animal to ensure our waste is minimal.
Do you think New World wines get the recognition they deserve in London?
Hell, yeah – the New World is catapulting onto the scene here. These wines have so much personality and spunk, you can't help but notice some pretty exciting examples landing on our shores.
A modern approach with the use of traditional techniques is what we're starting to see. Long gone are the days of stringent rules from the Old World, and we are seeing intuitive, exciting styles of amazing quality and value.
I think we'll start to see more recognition over time. For now – get them while you can.
What does the future hold?
More experiences. A mixture of curating experiences or enjoying them – there's a lot to be said about just how rewarding the simplicity of a hospitality experience can be. Watch this space.
Photo credit: Nic Crilly-Hargrave
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