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Plush, Leeds

28 July 2005

Leeds restaurateur Martin Spalding has, in his words, been around a bit. He's seen the city's dining scene change dramatically over the past 25 years and has played a big part in that change, first with Paris, then with Leodis (he's still a partner) and now with Plush, which opened last December to rave reviews - most recently in the Guardian, which declared the dishes were "plated perfection".

Located just off the main city centre in an area dominated by legal firms, Plush attracts higher spenders than most. They make a beeline for Plush's two upstairs bars and the 70-seat restaurant where New Zealander chef Gordon Mann serves up the likes of sautéd kidneys in a mustard cream with mushrooms and bacon, and zebra steak topped with a wasabi crust.

But then one look at the wine list would have told you that. It kicks off with a page of Champagne, which sells well here - particularly after dinner, reports Spalding - and the 20-strong selection moves up from De Castellane NV (£25) to 1997 Cristal (£160) and 1995 Dom Pérignon Rosé (£240).

He put together the 120-bin wine list with a little help from his long-time supplier, Huddersfield-based Cellar 28. "We don't just use wines from their core list, they source stuff from all over the place for us," explains Spalding, who has arranged the list by grape variety.

In fact, the organisation of the list by variety, rather than the more usual price or country, has had a direct impact on sales, reckons Spalding. "If you do it by price, it distracts people away from the wines - they look at the prices first, then the wine. This way, they really look at the list."

There's Albariño from Galicia in Spain (Marques de Murrieta's Pazo de Barrantes, £24.95) and New Zealand Riesling (from Marlborough, Allan Scott, £24.95), as well as aromatic Argentinian grape variety Torrontés (from Nieto Senetiner in Mendoza, £14.95) and Aussie Verdelho (from the Windowrie Wine Company in Cowra). Viognier from the wine's heartland, Condrieu (Georges Vernay, £46) sits alongside a Viognier from Stellenbosch in South Africa (Rustenberg, £18.50).

There's a lot of that going on with this list. You can try Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa, New Zealand, Chile and France; or you can try a Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile against one of seven others from around the world, including one from Margaux (Château Martinens Grand Cru Bourgeois, £32.50).

"The best thing about this is that we're teaching people a little bit about wine. They see Gamay and say, ‘Oh, I didn't know that was what Beaujolais is made with.' Or Chablis is a classic - they had no idea it was made with Chardonnay," he says.

The added interest from customers - wine sales represent 55% of overall wet sales - means that Spalding and his team are often called upon to recommend wines from the list, so how clued-up are his staff? "It's usually me or the manager who helps customers out, but I've made sure that each wine on the list has a good tasting note and I go through the list with everybody," Spalding replies.

The 10-strong selection of wines by the glass (also available by the bottle) represent the biggest sellers for Spalding, and these include a Macabeo Chardonnay blend from Somontano in Spain (Bodega Pirineos, £3.50), plus a Merlot from Chile's Central Valley (Vistamar, £3.50), with the top spot going to a Tempranillo, Cabernet and Merlot blend from Ribera del Duero (Pago de los Capellanos, £6). Laurent-Perrier NV, the house bubbly, is £6 a glass.

What's on the list

  • 2004 Pinot Gris, Thorne-Clarke, Terra Barossa, Eden Valley, Australia, £19.95

  • 2000 Gewurztraminer, Cave de Turckheim, Grand Cru Brand, Alsace, France, £28

  • 2004 Sauvignon Blanc, Babich, Marlborough, New Zealand, £20.50

  • 2003 Vardejo Viura, Marques de Riscal, Rueda, Spain, £17.95

  • 2004 Chardonnay (unwooded), Kingston Estate, south-eastern Australia, £17.50

  • 2003 Shiraz Bonarda, Arriero Voneyards, Mendoza, Argentina, £14.95

  • 2002 Syrah, Domaine Yann Chave, Hermitage Rhône, France, £47

  • 2002 Zinfandel, Mandolin Winery, Central Coast, USA, £18

  • 2003 Moscato, Pellegrino, Passito di Pantelleria, Italy, £16.95 (37.5cl)

  • NV Pedro Ximenez, Ferando de Castilla, Jerez, Spain, £34.95 (50cl)

*Plush, 10 York Place, Leeds, West Yorkshire. Tel: 0113 234 3344*
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