“We pushed open the route to wine experiences that the wine trade takes for granted.” Vagabond Wines
A Saturday spring afternoon stroll down the Northcote Road in Clapham (or is it Battersea, those who live in those parts beg to differ) turned out to be better than expected in terms of food and drink with the discovery of Vagabond Wines.
The Northcote Road is a mecca for the Bugaboo set and we spent the best part of the afternoon dodging the army of young middle-class families who descend on the street for their weekend retail and coffee fix. Artisan breads, cakes, cheeses, fresh fruit and vegetables all vie for shoppers attention at stalls set up along the curb as well as beautiful displays of flowers. Dotted between the high street stores are lots of cafes, restaurants and bars that were packed on this particular Saturday with English rugby fans ensembled for the last matches of this year’s Six Nations tournament. We tried a few pubs, the only one with empty space put us off with its sticky floors, weird smell and plastic glasses so we kept looking and as fate would have it discovered the award winning Vagabond’s.
One hundred wines on tap certainly seemed an attractive proposition as did the help yourself concept paired with cheeses, charcuterie and sharing platters. Vagabond opened several years ago, initially in Fulham, to offer customers a glimpse into the independent wine scene that was in danger of dying out due to the growing availability of affordable wines in supermarkets. The interactive experience allows patrons to sample different wines from the tasting machines, top-up cards (described to us as ‘the oyster card for wine’) are loaded with preferred credit amount (£5 returnable deposit) and it’s game on.
It’s simple, place the card in the machine and press the button for the desired vintage available in three sizes, a sample, a regular glass or bigger size. Tasting notes are available above the individual wines and staff are on hand to give guidance if required, wines are grouped according to their style of drinking so it’s easy to sample new wines and old favourites. Regular customers can keep the card for return visits, those one-off guests can return the card at the end of the visit and get the deposit back or take if off the food bill. Favourite wines can be purchased as a whole bottle to drink in or takeaway which is undoubtedly cheaper than the by the glass option.
We choose a cheese platter to go with our red wines, a selection of delicious hard and soft cheeses served with warm sourdough, French salted butter and quince paste, the Cave Aged Cheddar was so good we ordered extra. Alongside the selection of cow’s milk cheeses, there are Spanish and Italian charcuterie options and a sizable menu of nibbles, small plates and sharing platters that include foie gras, duck, chicken, steaks and prawns amongst other dishes. A range of craft beers and ciders are also available for non-wine drinkers.
Vagabond’s Northcote Road is a charming venue, it actually feels like you are sitting in cosy nook in someone’s well stocked cellar. The main area (where all the wine machines are located) has a few high tables and a small area that resembles someone’s lounge, the outdoor front veranda is a perfect spot for the local area’s dog lovers (and smokers) and out back is their bigger ‘secret’ surf shack terrace area. If you find yourself in SW11 or near one of the other four London venues pop in and indulge in a glass or two.
Location: 4 Northcote Road, London. SW11 1NT
Telephone: 0207 738 0540
Opening Hours: Monday – Wednesday 11:00am – 23:00pm, Thursday – Saturday 11:00am – midnight and Sunday 11:00am – 22:00pm
Other Vagabond locations: Fulham, Charlotte Street, Spitalfields and Victoria
All views are my own. Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this page © Jo Brett 2017. All rights reserved. Four additional photos used with courtesy of www.vagabondwines.co.uk