It's not every day that restaurants open to more or less rave reviews, particularly when the chef is not that well known outside the ranks of professionals and foodies. Theo Randall at the Intercontinental has done just that. Long time Head Chef at London's River Café, Theo has moved into the heart of the West End to open a 124-cover restaurant, serving a daily-changing menu and using only seasonal ingredients. It's open plan with a contemporary yet warm and relaxed feel. You can either eat a leisurely two or three-course meal in the dining area or antipasti in the bar. The 150-bin list is wide-ranging with a strong Italian bias.
? Who wrote your wine list? I wrote the wine list with the help of David Gleave of Liberty Wines.
? Do you have a sommelier? Yes.
I need someone to help expand and develop my wine list, but also to share my passion for wine and mature [the list] with my style of cooking.
? What is different about your list?
My wine list doesn't have ridiculous mark-ups. It also has wines from all over the world and includes some from some wine-makers who I think will be big stars in the future.
? You have grouped your wines more or less by style but with varietal ‘cues' or just varietal. Why?
I felt that the wine list should be userfriendly as most people know their grape varieties. I also wanted my waiting staff to have the confidence and knowledge to recommend wines without having to refer back to the sommelier.
? Apart from Italy, what country interests you? Obviously France because they still produce great wines, particularly white Burgundy. Spain is becoming an exciting producer of some very well-made wines that don't rely on too much oak. I also like California because of the Pinot Noir.
? While there are some ‘big name'
French wines, there aren't that many, given your location. Do you think you might miss out on sales?
I wanted more than a list of big-named French wines. I wanted a list of exciting wines that people would be drawn to, experiment with and learn from.
? How does the house selection work? There are five whites and reds, and one rosé, but only three of the whites are available by the glass.
As the restaurant becomes more established we will increase the number of wines offered by the glass. I think it is important to serve wines in good condition so limiting the selection ensures that we don't have too much wastage.
? How important is matching the food with the wine? The wine should complement the food without overpowering it.