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
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

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    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...

    Day In a Page

    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
    Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
    Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

    Feather dust-up

    A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
    5 best waterproof cameras

    Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

    Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
    Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

    Louis van Gaal interview

    Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
    Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

    Will Gore: Outside Edge

    The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz