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The Woodford
Churchill Country
Latest Post Having grown up in Woodford, there has only ever been one restaurant worth returning to over all of those years and that is the Pizzeria Bel-Sit, family owned and run since 1981, cash only, no reservations, and a honking foghorn announcing all birthdays as the lights dim and all the waiting staff chime in with Happy Birthday. A neighbourhood Italian to cherish. Apart from that it’s a dining desert. The most recent opening of any merit has been Max Renzland’s Provender Bistro in nearby Wanstead.

So when I hear of an opening with a ‘Michelin-trained chef’ aiming to bring ‘sophisticated dining’ to Woodford, with ‘exposed filament lightbulbs’ and ‘industrial chic’ style drop lighting, I’m immediately sceptical: I’m expecting a gaudy, Essex perma-tanned version of haute cuisine that jangles with all the worst bits of supposed ‘la-dee-da’ scarfing, with a side-order of botox and vajazzle. After several meals these knee-jerk assumptions are tossed away…

History of the previous incumbents is ‘well dodge’. The Georgian Grade II listed building had previously served as Funky Mojoe’s, a bar with a chequered history involving late night Essex fisticuffs, general disorder and a procession of ‘celebs’ partying hard until 3am including television’s The Only Way Is Essex. Not many locals were sad to see it close. Backed by restaurateur Steve Andrews, founder of The Blue Group and The Grey Group who own hotels, restaurants and bars across Essex, a serious makeover of a reported £1.3 million has transformed the venue into a 100 cover restaurant.

Read on...

This Week

Celebrating the refurbishment of St. John Bread & Wine in Spitalfields, a party in classic St. John style: tomato, anchovy and little gem salad; whole roast brill, green and white vegetables; eye wideningy good pig’s head pie; strawberry ice cream and Madeleines – Fergus Henderson on fine form as he caroused along with a lively crowd, baptising the new bar.

Barbary duck breast, labneh, pistachio and pickled cucumber – Andrew Edmunds in Soho on fine form, with Head Chef Bob Cairns pulling the strings. German Riesling from Sybille Kuntz the star wine.

Tasting wines at the Bermondsey cellars of wine merchant Dynamic Vines, helping out with a forthcoming opening …the new one from the Smoking Goat team. Soho. Soon.
I've helped Blacklock (Big
Chops, Skinny Chops, Soho
basement) put together a little
list of wines for their new
blackboard. Friendly cash margins means great drinking without
spaffing over the odds. Chops on
a grill alongside some cracking
wines —

Cabernet Sauvignon 2011,
Restless River
Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa

Cult Syrah 2013, BK Wines
Adelaide Hills, Australia

Cabernet Sauvignon 2011,
Ridge Vineyards Sonoma, USA

Pinot Noir 'Laissez Faire' 2014, Cherubino Pemberton, Australia

Nero d'Avola 2013, Fox Gordon
Adelaide Hills, Australia

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Riesling 2012, Sybille Kuntz
Mosel, Germany

'Kortpad Kaptoe' 2014,
Blank Bottle Wellington, South Africa

Chardonnay 'Graviers' 2012, Stephane Tissot Arbois, France

Riesling 2013, Clos Clare
Watervale, Australia

'Toru' (Gewürztraminer/ Riesling/Pinot Gris) 2013,
Te Whare Ra
Marlborough, New Zealand


Clapton’s P. Franco is becoming a hot incubator for chef talent, with Version 1.0 William Gleave having made a great impact with his stint there, soon to open his own place in Hackney. Tim Spedding is the next to take on the challenge of cooking on a two hob induction at the end of a communal table, having been a core part of Michelin starred The Clove Club from their early days. Tim’s menu bristled with highlights: ‘torched’ Cornish mackerel, gooseberry and nasturtium (wow); beetroot tartar, beef fat, oxidised vinegar, charcoal cream (reads scary, eats beautifully); Cantabrian anchovies, lemon, Le Coste olive oil (Grand Cru anchovies); chicken and girolle agnolotti en brodo (the dish that had me scurrying there, will have me scurrying back) – £10 corkage on any wine, good drinking assured. Ask resident Aussie Phil Bracey what to drink: he’s good, damn he’s good.  

"Bloody tasting notes. The infuriating, bombastic, ridiculous tasting note, sitting there all smug and chuffed with itself – “look at me, aren’t I clever”, it seems to chime. Cocky little bugger."

Noble Rot
Issue N10
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As Sideways opens on the stage in London, Zeren Wilson reminisces of his time spent in the vineyards of California.

CODE Quarterly
Issue 7
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“Wild chimps caught boozing on 7% ABV ‘wine’”, shrieked the headline in The Guardian last year. As headlines go, that’s a corker.

Noble Rot
Issue N10
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“It’s likely that the thunderbolt wine revelation usually comes courtesy of a restaurant, via a well chosen list, a savvy sommelier, a beautiful plate of food, and the perfect alchemy of a night out.”

Once you’ve had a taste of the good stuff, "it's hard to go back”. Here he explores the vinous Holy Grail. Corkscrews at the ready.

CODE Quarterly
Issue 6
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Everyone knows the wines of Napa and Sonoma, but some of California’s lesser-known wine regions are producing vintages that are equally appealing...

Christie's Magazine
February 2016
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Wine is good for you

"A meal without wine is unthinkable for some. Being in a restaurant sober and not witnessing the cut and thrust of the dining room; missing that moment when the volume seems to ‘pop’, usually around 9pm, would make me consider why I was there at all...

Hoi Polloi
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Zeren Wilson ponders the often-snubbed ‘house wine’ and assures us that frugal drinking in London is better than it has been before.

“Monsieur, with this House Ferrero Rocher Wine, you are really spoiling Ous...”. Or something like that...

CODE Quarterly
Issue 5
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The Menu Fetishist Returns

“Here’s our menu, let me know if you have any questions...” The phrase that launched a thousand meals. You read, you choose, you ask, they bring: no titillation here, nothing to see, please move along. You’re a menu fetishist? You sick bastard...

Noble Rot
Issue N8
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Wine List Man vs Inverted Snob

Do you really know about wine? Or is all your swaggering braggadocio about to be mercilessly skewered by the secret wine buff in your midst?

Noble Rot
Issue 6
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Written Welcome
to K–Town

There’s something in the air and it’s Korean flavoured. Zeren Wilson finds out why Korean cuisine is the food of the moment

May 2015
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Written Blue

Spring; The menu bristles with the confidence that means no frilly language, just laconic listings of ingredients with the odd nod to a cooking technique here or there:

Completely London
Spring 2015
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Written Thai Lords

Thai cuisine is on
the verge of a re-appraisal in the UK, with new restaurants cooking regional dishes that really highlight the depth and diversity of the food. Zeren Wilson reports

Caterer & Hotelkeeper,
February 2014
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Written Lambrusco

Having fallen from grace, Lambrusco is now making a comeback in its traditional form as a deep, dry,
sparkling wine from Emilia Romagna. Zeren Wilson hails the return of this once–derided drop.

Christie’s Magazine,
October 2014
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Written California

The wines of Napa Valley and Sonoma County are back in the frame, their characteristic exuberance tempered with the restraint that first wowed the world in 1976. Zeren Wilson, reports

Christie’s Magazine,
November 2014
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Written What to drink with a kebab

– And it's not lager.

Inspired by the recent British Kebab awards Zeren Wilson wonders what the perfect wine pairing is for a kebab and comes up with some surprising conclusions.

Matching Food & Wine
August 2014
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The Paul Cluver estate has been a pioneer of wines from the cooler South African region of Elgin, with the wine and farming business still owned and run by the Cluver family. ‘Ferricrete’ refers to the soil on which its grown, rich in iron: Riesling enjoys growing on these kind of mineral laden soils. A modest 10.5% ABV, this comes rattling out of the glass with a compelling lime character, with more than a whiff of Rose’s lime cordial. Pretty taut and sturdy, this is drier than expected, and £13 well spent. Sea Bass ceviche would love this.  
Wine of the week

Rielsing ‘Ferricrete’ 2014, Paul Cluver, Elgin, South Africa



Ok, I’m biased: I’ve been helping Coombeshead Farm with their wine list, alongside former wine trade colleague Pete Goss, but even so…this opening by Tom Adams and April Bloomfield is set to be one of the most exciting this year. Working farm, guesthouse and dining room amidst 66 acres of meadows and woodland in the village of Lewannick, Cornwall. Tom’s obsession with pigs has already been displayed at Pitt Cue, and here they will be rearing their own Mangalitsas. Curing, pickling, fermenting, baking, butter-making, honey production…a rural idyll. Rewards for shunting wine into the cellar over a couple of days included black pudding, amazing bread and butter, and the best bacon I’ve ever had. Those six guest rooms are already looking like some of the most precious bookings around.

When news gets out that two of the mainstays of the estimable Terroirs group are striking out on their own, ears prick up and a flurry of bookings are made by many of those tracking the current fervid London restaurant landscape: ballsy, gutsy cooking with no faff or fanfare is the rich seam that has run through the Terroirs DNA since they opened in 2009. Oli Barker and Head Chef Pascal Wiedemann bring a welcome robust smack in the chops to genteel and monied Holland Park, a neighbourhood which, apart from the pristine Lidgate’s butcher, has historically had little reason to drag anyone to W11 for anything food related. One lunch is enough to convince:

Pork & Pistachio terrine – (£8) – Memories of the excellent terrines at Terroirs. Jammed with lardo, chicken livers, and other goodness. Textbook terrine. “A master of the country terrine”, according to Chef David Gingell of Primeur.

Devilled Egg, anchovies, mâche salad (£7.50)  – Keep these coming all day on a conveyor belt. Punchy Cantabrian anchovies starring.

Squid, brandade & piment d’Espelette (£10.50) – Curls of silkily tender squid, creamiest salt cod brandade beneath. Yes.

  Quail, white polenta, gremolata (£9.50) – Plump and bronzed, we chase white polenta round the plate, mopping and sucking it from chunks of crisped quail. 

  Pork chop, Jersey Royals, wild garlic, sauce charcutière (£17.50) – Unimpeachable chop, with a deeply flavoured, gorgeously rendered ribbon of fat. Quite indecent, quite wonderful.

Tiny and cosy, it has a ‘skiving off work lunch' written all over it. I’ll be on a table beside the kitchen.