Fine diners are drinking premier cru wines at plonk prices as a bring-your-own booze revolution gathers pace in Britain’s best restaurants. Worried by empty tables as a result of the economic slump, a group of Michelin-starred establishments are letting customers bring their own favourite bottles for no extra charge, or a modest corkage fee, instead of paying often huge mark-ups on the house wine list.
Tom Aikens, a one-starred restaurant in Chelsea, and the Ledbury, with two stars in Notting Hill, are among those leading the trend, which has also spread among some of the best restaurants in Glasgow, Manchester and Edinburgh. Others which this month admitted BYO include Aubergine, Arbutus, Club Gascon and Boisdale, £50-a-head restaurants (without wine) which are a far cry from the cheap curry houses associated with the practice.
“There is a new thinking about what BYO is for,” said Tom Cannavan, a writer whose wine-pages.com website lists several hundred restaurants which offer free BYO or corkage. “It has been the province of low-end restaurants which didn’t have a licence and for customers who want to drink on the cheap. The new movement is for people who are serious about their food and wine, but really resent that restaurants mark their wines up so highly that they can’t afford wine to match the quality of the food they are eating.”