As is always the way when a new gaff opens up just around the corner from your home, when you stand outside Cellar as a Clapham local, you find yourself scratching your head for simply ages, thinking: “I know this wasn’t here three days ago, but what was here?” It’s the mystery of urban living, the inability to recall the shop or business or bar or service that occupied the same dozen square feet at the end of your nose only a matter of hours before.
Cellar sort of fits a tidy little niche, a wine bar serving interesting and unique wines, none of them well known or even widely available, along with platters of meats and cheeses. The establishment has been set up by the same minds behind Dvine Wine round the corner on Landor Road, an outfit that specialises in selling organic and biodynamic wines. So I’m going to come out and call this – this is a local business (even if the owner is a very friendly and personable Aussie) with proper local routes.
The interior is done up as a niche (and, forgive me, cliché) little wine bar should be: it’s filled with old wooden wince crates on the wall and includes a bar made from old wine crates, which was pretty cool. Even the candle sticks are made from old wine bottles – in particular, Craig Hawkin’s esoteric labelled bottles.
The wines themselves are what you’re here for, though, right?
Not to be outdone by any other reviewer, we went through pretty much the whole gamut of wine options available, starting with a white (for GrubsterGirl) and an orange (for me).
What, I hear you cry, on earth is an orange wine? Put simply, it’s a wine that’s orange. Put more sensibly, it’s a white wine that’s made like a red wine, so instead of separating the juice straight await and allowing it to ferment, you leave it on the lees for longer – in some cases, apparently, for up to a year – which I can imagine would be very tricky to handle.
My example of an orange wine was Cosimo Maria Daphne. It felt old and oaky, a little like a red, yes. It was also pretty powerful and lots of hard work, so good as a sipping wine perhaps, rather than something to take with a meal.
GrubsterGirl’s white wine was a Chenin Blanc, specifically the Craig Hawkins “C”. This was much lighter, a bright, fruity and floral wine, with cantaloupe notes and a distinct sweetness, but still with lots of robust flavours.
Next up, rosé.
Again, two distinct ends of the spectrum. The lighter rose was another Cosimo Maria Masini, this time the Mathilde. Dry and oaky, as GG put it: “think sunshine and easy drinking”.
The darker rosé, however, was the opposite. The Los Frailes Monastrell Rosado was much sweeter, bursting with red fruits and winter berries (think redcurrants and cranberries) and with that enduring richness on the end that you find in some rosés.
Then there’s also the food. I can’t really resist a good charcuterie and/or cheese board, and they had both on hand.
Then onto the red. We actually went for the same red – the Hewitson Ms. Harry Grenache Syrah Malbec. Again, this is relatively easy drinking, but that’s no bad thing for a wine bar – the last thing you need in that context is something you have to struggle with. This was full bodied – think woody, smoky, rich and buttery. Lovely.
They also had lovely olives served in an even more lovely teacup and saucer (actually a great innovation, as it solves the question of what happens to the stones).
The thing is this, though. Neither the meat nor the cheese board was cheap. So I felt the portions were, to be frank, a bit stingy. But that’s really the end of my criticisms. Solve that issue (either drop the price or give more away) and you’ve got yourself a lovely little spot to drop in at.