When French-born, former art director Carole Bryon opened her wine bar and shop on Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, in 2018, she placed two restrictions on the wines she would list. First, they had to be produced following at least one of three artisanal, sustainable philosophies: organic, biodynamic or natural. Second, the winemaker had to be a woman. It is a measure of the progressiveness of the wine world that Lady of the Grapes currently stocks nearly 400 wines that satisfy both criteria – and offers 38 of them by the glass.
When it opened, the food on offer was, for the most part, cheese and charcuterie, but in the past year, Lady of the Grapes has become a fully-fledged restaurant – with a great kitchen team led by head chef Matyas Plzak (formerly of Frog by Adam Handling and Frenchie).
This December, the combination of Plzak’s cooking and Bryon’s sommelier skills is on display over six – count ‘em, six – courses. The festive tasting menu kicks off with langoustine tartare, with salt-baked white beetroot and lime gel, accompanied by a glass of Henriet-Bazin premier cru blanc de blancs champagne produced by Marie-Noëlle Rainon-Henriet. A crab crumpet, topped with hazelnut and yuzu cream and bottarga, arrives with another chardonnay-based wine, but from a little further south – a white Burgundy from the Côte de Beaune by Fanny Sabre.
There’s a bit of back and forth between red and white from then on, albeit it’s a delicate pinot noir, also from Burgundy, made by sisters Juliette and Caroline Chenu that accompanies a buckwheat and mushroom tart. Iberico pork, with quince purée and hispi cabbage, is paired with a South African grenache blanc.
The final savoury course is an artful icon of French Christmas festivities, a pithivier – the domed pie associated with Epiphany. The filling of duck breast and foie gras is matched with an old-vintage chianti from the Colli Senesi appellation, known for its forward fruit and spice.
Finally, after the obligatory show of ‘I couldn’t possibly’, the meal ends with a pair of ice cream sandwiches, one with nuts, the other vanilla, and a dessert wine of Hungarian tokaj made by Vivien Ujvári of the Barta Winery.
The Lady of the Grapes festive tasting menu is available for dinner from 1-17 December (closed Mondays): £155pp, including wine pairings (£75 without wine). Each dish and its paired wine can also be ordered individually.