Open Mon–Sat midday–11pm; Sun midday–10.30pm
Kensington Wine Room’s sommelier Nobuko Okamura (who has worked for the likes of Zuma and The Glasshouse) has pulled out the stops for a corking wine list, which boasts well-established classics and little-known wines from France, Spain and Portugal (such as Quinta da Cereijaras 2003 from Portugal’s Estremadura). There are more than 120 wines to choose from with 40 to try from one of five Enomatic fridges (eight of which rotate fortnightly) lining the walls of the front room.
There’s also a smart, candlelit restaurant at the rear, but we were here to try the Enomatic machine-dispensed wine with tapas. Arriving early on a Tuesday evening, the bar, front room area – which boasts tall, circular tables and cosy booths for an intimate, party buzz – and restaurant were already close to full.
Charming co-owner Richard Okroj gave us a quick demonstration of the Enomatic machines – you simply insert a Winecard, purchased and credited on arrival (although you can pay at the end), into the machine and select your glass measure (125ml, 175ml or a little taster) which dispenses the wine at optimum temperature. Wines range from a crisp Cedar Grove Chenin Blanc 2008 (£3.70) to a decadent Chateau Margaux Bordeaux 1999 (£63.65 for 125ml). We started on familiar territory: a light and fragrant Sancerre Vincent Delaporte Chavignol 2008 (£6.60 for 125ml) for my friend and a deliciously rich Fontaine Gagnard Bourgogne Blanc 2006 (£5 for 125ml) – a great year, I’ve been told – for me. Staff were always on hand to offer advice, but equally the wines were divided into helpful categories, such as ‘pure, bright and refreshing’ for a selection of reds and ripe, ‘balanced and fruity’ for whites.
The simple tapas menu boasts top-notch ingredients; olives (£3.95) were juicy instead of the usual sharp, salty fare; pimientos de Padrόn (£3.75) were served as they should be – fried and salted. We also enjoyed stuffed feta chillies (£5.80) and tepenade with toasted sourdough (£3.75).
We loved the relaxed pick ‘n’ mix wine tasting experience, often finding ourselves chatting to regulars while trying to decide what to sample next. However, we knew when to call it time when my friend forgot to put a glass to the dispenser before pressing the button. She quickly cupped her hands underneath like a kid at a water fountain, spraying me in the process – it was a red, of course. The mess was swiftly cleaned up (well, except for my skirt) and we were sweetly told that was the second time it had happened that evening. We’re not sure if it was a little white lie or not, but my friend said she’ll stay off the red next time.