Humble Grape, the wine bar and shop from James Dawson opened its new spectacularly located and designed wine bar by the bottom (east end) of Fleet Street on May 11th. Following the success of its Battersea opening last year, Humble Grape is bringing its innovative concept to a spectacular 3,600 square foot space in St Bride’s Passage, a tiny alley in behind St Brides Church (also known as the Cathedral of Fleet Street), and just along from the Brideswell Theatre. There was a launch party for friends and media yesterday evening and we were hugely impressed with the space and decor. If all goes well it will become a great venue for local business people and those from further afield. It is about a 15 minute walk from the Barbican so hopefully will also pull in custom from the Estate.
The site, formerly The Press House Wine Bar, once a famous drinking den for journalists in Fleet Street’s heyday as the centre of the UK newspaper industry, is somewhat tucked away down a cobbled street and hidden in the vaults of the magnificent St Bride’s Church, redesigned by Sir Christopher Wren after one of the previous churches on the site was destroyed in the Great Fire of London. Unoccupied for several years, it has been revived to comprise a 200 seat wine bar, shop, events space, private dining room and wine cellar.
(The church has a remarkable history, and most recently was rebuilt to Wren’s design after it was gutted by German incendiary bombs in World War 2. To read up about its long history dating back to Roman times check out the St Brides website.)
The Humble Grape concept is to directly import handcrafted wine from small, sustainable, independent vineyards worldwide, avoiding the industry-standard markups from agents, importers or distributors. Here, as with Battersea, customers are invited to enjoy wine on their terms, whether seated in the bar, attending a tasting or winemaker dinner or buying bottles to take away.
The wine list features around 30 wines available by the glass or carafe and over 200 wines available by the bottle to drink in or take away.
Head Chef Anna Allan has devised wine-friendly ‘Humble Plates’. Like the wines, the ingredients will be sourced from independent suppliers, whose produce can be traced straight back to the farm.
Dishes will include Galician octopus with chargrilled leeks & triple cooked new potatoes; roast bone marrow with dipping soldiers; and Lamb Ribollita stew. The menu still appears to be a work in progress and will develop as custom builds up. Initially mostly cold platters will be available.
Dawson worked with acclaimed architect Jean Dumas of Trellik Design Studios. Aged woods, cork, concrete and Portuguese tiles complement the stunning stone arches, which are thought to be the original design of Sir Christopher Wren. The colour palette is a mixture of natural ambers and smoky greys with rich and lively undertones. The main bar is crafted from old Champagne riddling racks and a central teal leather banquette is centred beneath dramatic industrial lighting. Towards the back of the venue is the cavernous events space which features a striking glass-fronted wine cellar behind the arches, and an 18 seater private dinning room nwhich should become a popular space for small private events.
James comments: “I started Humble Grape in 2009 with a handful of wines that I’d discovered on my travels. I ran wine tastings for my friends and family and delivered cases on the back of my motorbike. Now we import over two-hundred wines, and have a loyal following. Many of my customers invested in our crowdfunding raise on Seedrs enabling me to launch the first Humble Grape wine bar and shop in Battersea, the mission being to make great quality wines accessible for all. The bar was so well received, we’re now in the position to bring the concept to Central London.