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

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
New Articles
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
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

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

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

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

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

    £30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

    Day In a Page

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering