Corking profits: How our best restaurants massively overcharge when it comes to wine

Even Gordon Ramsay, often regarded as a hero of British cooking, is said by the Time Out London Eating and Drinking Guide to ask too much of diners at the Claridge's restaurant run by his protégé Angela Hartnett. The Ivy, that famous haunt of celebrities and media powerbrokers, is also fingered for over-charging.

There is criticism too of the trendy Chinese restaurant Hakkasan (where a £7.99 bottle of wine costs £25), the Ritz, the Ledbury in Notting Hill and the Greenhouse, Mayfair.

A bottle of 2000 Marqués de Riscal Rioja Reserva costing £31 at the Ivy can be had for £9.99 at Majestic. A 2001 Côtes du Rhône costs £30 at the Ritz - but £8.49 in Oddbins.

"The Ritz isn't alone in imposing such steep mark-ups," said the guide's author James Aufenast. "Other fine dining restaurants, such as Gordon Ramsay's Angela Hartnett at the Connaught and the Greenhouse in Mayfair, the Capital in Knightsbridge and Tom Aikens in South Kensington, mark up way beyond what is reasonable."

Restaurant critics say the overcharging goes on across the country. "There's some rapacious pricing in London," said Neil Beckett, editor of Fine Wine magazine. "I don't eat out that much precisely because of what a decent bottle costs. It's a shame, because there are some great places, but you just end up paying through the nose."

The suspicion is that restaurants are capitalising on the national nervousness about wine.

Almost two-thirds of people questioned for the Australian winemaker McWilliams last month said they would not send back wine in a bar or restaurant for fear of looking stupid. Some thought the term "oaked" meant the wine was made from acorns.

As a result, many diners opt for the house wine - but that is a mistake, according to Time Out. After costs to suppliers, shippers, and bottlers, the amount spent on making the wine might only be 30p. "It's impossible to make good wine at this price," the guide says.

Restaurants deny they are ripping off the public. Dawn Davies, head sommelier at the Ledbury, defended charging £19.50 for a South African red, Flagstone's 2003 Cellarhand Backchat, four times the cost. "That's normal for London, it's what you need to make a profit," she said.

Corinne Michot, head sommelier at the Connaught, said customers demanded expensive wine. She said: "If I list a wine under £100 guests think there's something wrong with it.''

But not everyone in the restaurant trade backs the mark-ups. Martin Lam, owner of the modern European restaurant Ransome's Dock, said that charging three times the cost was reasonable for food - but not for wine, for which labour costs were much lower.

The critic's guide to getting value for money

Don't automatically plump for the house wine or cheapest option

The house wine is the bulked-out plonk with a fancy label that tastes of nothing - if you're lucky. Far better to spend a little extra on a wine that's been proudly selected by the restaurant for its good value and suitability. Where there's a strong wines-by-the-glass list, give yourself the option to vary your wines or order the bottle if you really like the wine.

Ask the sommelier what's good value

Today's sommelier is a different animal from the supercilious caricature of yesteryear. A professional sommelier will already have done the selection process with the menu or style of cooking in mind and be only too keen to advise.

Give a wide berth to the "classics"

Bordeaux, Chianti and New World icon wines priced in la-la land are as often as not a let-down. Check out an unusual grape variety or off-the-beaten-track region.

Seek out the wine list

Look for a restaurant with a good reputation for its wine list and not too hefty a mark-up. If you have a place in mind, look it up on the Net and see what others have said about the wine list and any bottles they've enjoyed.

Make friends and influence people

If you're a regular, or have a good local restaurant, develop a relationship where they'll let you bring your own bottle of wine and charge you corkage. Don't bring a Blossom Hill or Mateus Rosé but something a little bit special or interesting which isn't on their list. Or eat out at a good BYO, where you can indulge to your heart's content. But walk, cab, take public transport home or designate a driver.

Don't let the waiting staff overfill your wine glass

Properly-trained staff shouldn't fill your glass more than half full. If your glass is filled, you'll be inclined to gulp it down and there won't be room in the glass to appreciate the aromas. A swirl and a sniff will reveal hidden depths in a wine.

Drink water, plenty of it

Not expensive bottled or designer water, but simply tap water. Using wine to quench your thirst can only mean more wine and greater expense.

Anthony Rose, Independent wine critic

Sinners...

* The Ivy, Covent Garden

* Angela Hartnett at Connaught, Mayfair

* The Ritz, Piccadilly

* The Greenhouse, Mayfair

* The Ledbury, Notting Hill

...and saints

* Andrew Edmunds, Soho,

* Le Colombier, Chelsea,

* RSJ, South Bank

* The Terrace, Kensington.

* Rocket, Mayfair

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
News
people
Life and Style
President Obama, one of the more enthusiastic users of the fist bump
science
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
tv
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
News
Kristen Stewart and Rupert Sanders were pictured embracing in 2012
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried