Petit Pois, a small, rather delightful French-styled bistro on Hoxton Square, specalises on short well-excuted menus. This ethos for quality is found across the four mains on the dinner menu, the paired-back brunch offering and the brief wine list. Long gone are the days when a restaurant's wine offering was judged by the dull thud it made hitting your table, inspiring dread for the designated wine-expert in the group. Instead, at Petit Pois, the fabulous wine collection is printed on a small piece of paper which doesn't even require turning over to discover the complete list.
Pieced together by Chris Madden, formally of Jason Atherton's Social Eating House, the list heros new world wines as much as it shines a light on French styles. With such a short offering each wine has had to fight hard for it's place on the list and works equally well with the bistro's food or enjoyed on the patio by itself. To understand Petit Pois's wines we asked Chris to pick three bottles - a white and red which exemplify the style of wine in the restaurant and one special bottle he wishes people would order more often.
Rag & Bone Riesling, Magpie Estate, Eden Valley, 2015 £7/£36
Journeying to us from Australia's Eden Valley in the Barossa Ranges, this riesling hails from slightly further afield than the hot and concentrated area where the country's famous big syrahs and shiraz come from. Made by a family with Austro-Hungrian roots, an area of Europe known for its excellent riesling, who moved over after the Second World War the vineyards here have a certain hertiage . An engaging texture with slate minerality, coupled with lively citrus and lime aromatics, makes this a great glass of wine to drink on its own by glass as well as pairing with the restaurant's mussels, oysters or sole.
"It's a great wine to pair with more than one dish," says Chris. "I didn't want to end up with wine exclusively for one dish, or one type of person. Instead I went for an entry level riesling which is super approachable but from the new world. Now the grape is becoming increasingly popular people tend to think of Germany or Austria but California and Australia have great reislings too."
From left to right, the Morgon, Cabaret Frank No.2 and Rag & Bone Riesling
Cabaret Frank No.2, The Aviary, Lodi, 2015 £6/£30
Made using 85% cabaret frank vines of between 30-50 years of age, plus a bit of cabernet sauvignon, this delicious and deep-flavoured wine comes from California. With no oak it's an entirely fruit-driven red with an excellent body, and concentrated flavours. Chris described this bottle as a fun wine, one which he picked up at a tasting thanks to its engaging label, and whic works wonders on its own, with a plate of cheese or one of the bistro's famed steak frites.
Lodi, in northern central California, is proper wine country and this particlar bottle comes from the biggest vineyard for cabaret frank in the world. While the grape type is nomally seen in Loire Valley or in Bordeaux blends it usually carries medium cherry notes and tannis, however thanks to the hot American sun the new world versions are richer, riper and have deeper flavours.
"I try to stay away from gimmicky labels but this time it paid off to ignore my usual rules," says Chris.
THE SPECIAL BOTTLE
Morgon, Viellies Vignes, Daniel Bouland, 2011 £54
"This is a wine I fell in love with four years ago," says Chris as he starts to describe the Morgon. Hailing from an appellation and grape type which used to have a unfavourable reputation as cheap table wine - gamay from Beaujolais - the wine world's thoughts have been turned by recent exceptional years of production. Grown on a hill with sun exposure and good soil for the roots to dig down into and pick up flavour the wine is deep and concentrated like a good southern Burgundy pinot but for half the price.
"I wish people had more of it as it's a really fun, medium-bodied style wine with deep colours and savoury flavours. There's a ittle bit of red fruit and a tart jaminess which are amazing for our duck dish, great on its own or with a plate of dried meats. I also love it with the poached egg and black pudding starter," says Chris.
Book at Petit Pois on +4420 7613 3689.