I’ve gleaned a little about wine over the years - I can use the term ‘mouthfeel’ like I know what it means, and have drunk enough £4.99 bottles of corner shop red to know what the bad stuff looks like. On the flipside, I’ve got a long way to go; I once necked a glass of fancy Brunello di Montelcino that had been gifted to my dad, grimaced, and proceeded to exclaim loudly to a table of my parents’ fancy friends that it tasted like dirt. While I have grown some since then - and would now use the term ‘earthy’ - I still feel a stab of panic when it comes to sussing a wine list. Luckily, in a place like Humble Grape, you don’t have to worry. Offering a friendly and approachable attitude to wine, this string of venues is a safe space for novices and knowledgeable folk alike, and we went down to Bishopsgate to taste test their newest wine bar.
Venue and Atmosphere
Parked between a pub and pasta bar, the fourth location from the Humble Grape may look a little intimidating from the outside, but venture within and you’ll find a clean, calm, intimate venue that feels a million miles away from the crowded happy hour pubs in the area. It’s a place for drinking and eating with friends, as evidenced by the tables of twos and threes, sipping on sleek angled-bowl glasses, and tucking into giant plates of creamy burrata and hunks of bread.
Slickly decorated with exposed brick walls and an innovative window display, the wine is the main focus, as the walls are lined with stuff. Floor to ceiling racks are used to hold the 400-plus varieties stocked here, and you’ll regularly see the team up on step-ladders pulling bottles off the shelves.
The team themselves are hugely knowledgeable about the products they sell, and will impart that knowledge to you at high speeds so keep your ears pricked for some specialist vino trivia.
Food and Drink
The kitchen at Humble Grape serves up a selection of small plates designed to pair with their many wines. While ruminating over the menu we’re presented with two glasses of cold bubbly stuff - a necessary way to cool off after a steaming hot Thursday. Mine is a blush-coloured Allimant-Laugner, Crémant d'Alsace (£9) that brings a cold, excitable fizz, with just a hint of summer berry.
The food arrives en masse and our table is overflowing with tasty tapas-style bites. A bowl of juicy chorizo drizzled with honey and creme fraiche (£7.50) offers a salty and satisfying starting point, while the crispy halloumi sticks (£4) barely have time to reach an edible temperature before we’re slathering them in rocket pesto and crunching them down.
I’m recommended the Perrachon Fleurie Vieilles Vignes, a beaujolais that proves to be the lightest red wine I have ever encountered. Soft and floral it flits delicately across the palette leaving traces of violet and red fruits. It’s a five star suggestion from our wonderfully friendly waiter, with flavours complementing the lemon-y tang of the smoked mackerel pâté (£8). It’s a very generous helping of pâté I might add, garnished with sharp and sweet pickled fennel. While it’s served with some sizeable toast slices, it’s worth grabbing yourself a basket of bread (£4) to mop up the remains.
As we’re polishing off the last vestiges of chorizo and mackerel, our waiter arrives brandishing two bottles of the sweet stuff. The Punctum Dulce Venganza Chardonnay (£6.50) is like sipping on straight-up honey, while the Allimant-Laugner Pinot Gris (£8.50) offers something a bit deeper but with the sticky toffee taste of sweet sherry. Between us sits the cappuccino crème brûlée (£7), a marvel of soft Kahlua and Frangelico-spiked custard and pleasing caramelised sugar crunch.
Whether you like your wine in a bucket or a box, Humble Grape Liverpool Street can certainly teach you a thing or two. Wine buffs will be in their element with shelf upon shelf of grape goodness to inspect, while those less sure on the difference between tannins and terroir can put their trust in the Humble Grape team to furnish them with great wines, and a few tidbits to help you blag your way through any grown up dinner party.