RAL MANAGER, THE MERCER
Before he made the move to Threadneedle Street restaurant The Mercer, Bedford ran restaurants such as Dakota in Notting Hill, The Collection in Chelsea and Mocota in Knightsbridge. Although he enjoys all aspects of managing a restaurant, wine is a special interest that has only intensified during his time in the City. “It’s a very complicated subject, obviously I enjoy it, especially the buying and the sourcing of the wine.”
Bedford used to go to Champagne once a year but these days he is busier and tends to work with the suppliers. “They bring samples along and we try them.” What makes it tricky is that the quality of the wine changes with every vintage, so that the 2007 version of a wine is totally different form the 2008. With wines from the Old and the New Worlds arriving at six-month gaps this is a regular and time-consuming job, made even more so by the fact that Bedford looks after 500 bins.
At the moment, says Bedford, people are drinking a lot of Argentinian Malbec and Chablis, especially a new one called Patrick Piuze. The average price for a bottle sold at The Mercer is £35-40 at lunchtime and £50-55 on an evening although “we get in a good mix, a lot of people choosing bottles for £20-25 and a lot around the £100 mark”.
The most expensive wine he has sold was a 1982 Margaux that went for £1,300, “but we’ve never yet sold the magnum of Petrus, which is on the menu for £3,100.” The mark-up on a bottle at the top end of the list will be around 40 per cent, he says, and closer to 70 at the bottom.
So has the City wine scene been looking up? “It has come back a bit in the last few months,” Bedford says, “but we are looking forward to Christmas now, when we sell more champagne. The bigger bottles sell very well, especially magnums, which is the best way to drink champagne.”
He adds that he sells a lot of vintage champagne, which is far better than non-vintage. “The City is much more knowledgeable about their wine than most other markets, some customers have their own cellars, they know what they are drinking, know what goes with food too. If they know what they want, I love that.”
Interview by Jeremy Hazlehurst