This is the first project from Carole Bryon, the former manager of the Grocery Wine Vault in Shoreditch, who is championing women in the industry by showcasing predominantly female winemakers on the wine list. As the name suggests, 60 per cent of wines at Lady of the Grapes are from female winemakers and vineyard owners, whose names appear on the list next to their delicious creations. Sitting in good company on Maiden Lane in Covent Garden, the restaurant is housed in the former site of Encant restaurant, whose proprietor, Rambla restaurateur Victor Garvey now runs the kitchen here.
It may be a small 29-cover restaurant but it is relaxed and extremely well considered inside. The rustic wooden tables and chairs give it a distinct French bistro feel, each table is adorned with an opulent silver candleholder – which, if you’re lucky, will be draped in the Gothic-like wax of a melted pillar candle come evening service. Various antique corkscrews have been framed and mounted on the wall and a deli area displaying beautifully bottled wine, cheese and other sundries lines a wall next to a small counter-top bar. This place is cosy, and while the deli produce is good enough to tempt passers-by in to purchase, they’d be hard-pressed not to stay and enjoy some of Garvey’s satiating offerings.
Markedly French in both its refinement and its indulgence, Garvey’s menu is not short on comfort food. The cheese menu has a selection of six dishes to choose from, something even the most hardened turophile would find an almost impossible task. After much deliberation, we narrowed it down to three and tucked in to a rustic cheeseboard of comté with quince jelly, crottin de Chavignol with spiced tomato chutney and crumbly ellis with truffle honey – all washed down with a wonderfully crisp sparkling white from Olivia Junyent’s vineyard in Catalonia. There’s an equally generous charcuterie menu with a particularly good terrine de champagne and if you want to go full-on Français, order the escargots de Bourgogne. We, however, ordered the light and flaky pissaladière with anchovies, the creamy artichauts à la barigoule with roasted chestnut, lemon and comté and the delectably rich fried oysters with spinach, buerre blanc and almonds. Despite the richness, each dish is perfectly proportioned to leave you enough room for the restaurant’s single dessert of brioche French toast. What a treat!
Dinner for two with wine pairing, from £80
This is the sort of place that would make it to many diners’ top-five restaurants list. It’s a relaxed, sociable place where pretence and stuffiness go out the window and indulgence is the order of the day. And with some great wine, celebrating the rise in brilliant female winemakers, it’s ahead of the curve too.
Lady of the Grapes, 16 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, WC2E 7NJ; ladyofthegrapes.com