Vintage stuff

Bites Caroline Stacey raises a glass to great restaurants with exceptional wine lists

1837, Brown's Hotel, Albemarle Street, London W1 (0171-408 1837). Mon-Fri lunch and dinner, Sat dinner. Winner of a Carlton London Restaurant Award, the wine list at the oak-panelled restaurant of Brown's Hotel is evidence of the jaw-dropping investment in its relaunch. Sommelier John Gilchrist was responsible for buying most of the 1,000 wines and makes sure they don't sit around in the cellar, with 200 by the glass, and exhortations to try a different glass with each course. The emphasis is on France, but there's still scope for more New World than most. Prices from pounds 18 to pounds 8,000, but there are 200 for less than pounds 25. Expensive French food, formal service: pounds 22 for three-course lunch, pounds 45 for lunch or dinner.

The Crown, 90 High Street, Southwold, Suffolk (01502 722275). Daily lunch and dinner. Jewel in the crown of Suffolk brewer and wine merchant Adnams, this former coaching inn has a list of nearly 300 wines, 20-odd by the glass. Lots of Italians, New World, French country, Loire, California and Bordeaux - assembled with the buying power and knowledge of Adnams' team. Prices from pounds 7.95; a current favourite is 1989 Ridge Monte Bello at pounds 57.50. Lunch in the restaurant is pounds 14.50 to pounds 17.50, dinner pounds 19.50 to pounds 24.50. Bar food costs less.

Hotel du Vin, 14 Southgate Street, Winchester, Hants (01962 841414). Daily lunch and dinner. As the name implies, the theme of this attractive Georgian town house hotel is wine, with a relaxed atmosphere and European food for pounds 20-pounds 25 without wine. Sommelier Vincent Gasnier's impressively wide-ranging list is 300-strong and constantly evolving, as the turnover is high, and more unusual discoveries, grape varieties and producers are added: Pinot Blanc from Canada, New Zealand Gewurztraminer, for example, and all the French classics. Mark-ups are modest, with masses of choice in the pounds 15 to pounds 25 bracket, though there are pricier rarities in the prestige cellar.

Mirabelle, 56 Curzon Street, London W1 (0171-499 4636). Daily lunch and dinner. Sparkling with 1930s glamour, Mirabelle's appeal extends to a remarkable collection of wines - a few months ago Johnny Depp famously spent pounds 11,000 on a bottle of 1978 Romanee Conti. There are some bottles under pounds 20, nothing for less than pounds 15. The list is strong on French classics, but the real talking point is the dessert list where there are 50, count 'em, vintages of Chateau d'Yquem, dating back to the 1847 for pounds 30,000. Wide-ranging menu of classic French food cooked with modern clarity. Lunch and dinner pounds 30 without drink.

Ransome's Dock, 35-37 Parkgate Street, London SW11 (0171-223 1611). Mon-Fri lunch and dinner 11am-11pm, Sat lunch and dinner 11.30am-12midnight, Sun lunch. Chef/owner Martin Lam's Battersea all-rounder is much loved by the wine trade, a testament to his terrific, lucidly arranged list. After a front selection of bottles for less than pounds 18, the remainder is arranged by style and grape varieties: aromatic and dry whites, Riesling, bigger reds, and Pinot Noir among them. Old favourites and new discoveries are all decently priced. Two-course weekday lunch is pounds 11.50, average pounds 35 to pounds 40 for wine and cooking of restraint and intelligence.

White Horse Inn, Chilgrove, West Sussex (01243 535219). Tue-Sat lunch and dinner, Sun lunch. New owners Charles and Nicola Burton recently inherited the cellar of this South Downs pub with its score of Mouton-Rothschild vintages and almost as much Chateaux Petrus. As well as France, Germany is well represented, and there are plenty of half-bottles and wines by the glass. Look out for dining events where wines are matched to the mainly French cooking. Lunch or dinner in the restaurant is pounds 20 for two courses, pounds 24.50 for three

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