The Kensington Wine Rooms comprises a wine bar, restaurant and shop, and allows you to experience a do-it-yourself wine tasting tour, fantastic service and a surprisingly informal atmosphere.
Along the main thoroughfare between Notting Hill Gate and High Street Kensington, nestled between boutique and antique shops, you will find Kensington Wine Rooms. Dried chillies hang from the mirrored petit bar as you enter, surrounded by bottles of neatly displayed wine. Five enomatic wine machines house eight red and white wines complete with a dispenser, ready for you to redeem your credit and pour into a glass.
Seating is arranged around the windows, which open up in the summertime, and modern bar stools line the small bar with two tall tables in the centre made of the same dark wood as the rest of the furnishings. The restaurant, reached through the alcoves or accessible via its own entrance, is located towards the back of the venue.
The staff are welcoming and the service is friendly and helpful. Once whisked to a table, they are happy to talk you through the tasting charge card and explain how it works.
The crowd mainly consists of local Kensington and Notting Hill residents and the atmosphere is very laid back and informal. Seating is in close quarters but people are friendly and courteous and you don’t feel squashed in. Be aware, however, that Wednesday to Saturday the Kensington Wine Rooms is very popular and gets booked up quickly, so it’s advisable to reserve a table. During the more quiet parts of the day, it’s a wonderful place to sit on your own, catch up on some work or while away the hours watching the world go by through the windows.
Kensington Wine Rooms offers a tapas menu with a good deal of variety. Along with the usual olives and nuts, there is the choice of three jamon ham cuts, pimientos del padron, poponcini peppers, tapenade and cheese. All are available with bread, which arrives in a basket with olive oil.
The menu offered in the main dining room is also offered in the wine bar and is simple. There are a variety of dishes available like foie gras and salad to start and rump steak or fish and chips for mains. Of course, all dishes come with a wine recommendation.
Kensington Wine Rooms offers over 100 wines from countries like Spain, France, Portugal, Italy, Argentina, Australia, America and New Zealand. The tasting dispensers give you a choice of 40 different wines including both red and white, eight of which rotate bi-weekly. The dispensing bottles are easy to get the hang of and rather addictive. To use them you simply charge up a wine card for £10 upward and slot it into the machine, much like a chip and pin card. Then you can select the wine and the measure. Prices range from just over £1 for 125ml. If browsing through the lists is too overwhelming then the staff are always on hand to find a wine to suit you.
If you’d rather go it alone, the wine is divided into helpful categories to make your choice easier. Reds are grouped into four categories: pure, bright and refreshing; fleshy, fruit driven and accessible; rustic, textured and characterful; and sophisticated, complex and developed. Similarly, whites are grouped into three categories: ripe, balanced and fruity; fresh, crisp and clean; and complex, rich and rounded. One of the tasting cabinets contains eight of some of the world’s finest and most decadent wines, with the Chateau Margaux, a 1999 Bordeaux, priced at just under £65 for a 125ml glass. If you don’t use all of your credit on one visit then you can come back another time. Bottles of wine are also available to buy and take home.
In addition to the wine, there are over 10 different types of Champagne available as well as a Kir Royale cocktail. Non-wine drinkers can enjoy port, sherry, sweet wine, calvados and cognac from around the world. A couple of beers are also included along with the usual soft drinks and a range of coffee and tea.
The Last Word
The Kensington Wine Rooms gives everyone from wine connoisseurs to complete novices a chance to sample a range of wines without breaking the bank. If you want to learn more about wine but feel intimidated by structured tastings then this is definitely worth checking out.