Review: The Grape Variety
There are many great reasons to love The Grape Variety, a cool urbane wine bar in Chipstead, and they all start and end with wine.
Why, oh why, have I never managed to make it to The Grape Variety in Chipstead until now? This cool wine bar and shop, tucked away near the train station in Chipstead, opened a couple of years – and I’ve heard plenty of positive rumblings about it.
They’re all true. This bijou bar is relaxed, cool, a great place to hangout and something unique to Chipstead and the surrounding towns. Already it’s a popular venue for the locals, with a regular and loyal fan base.
And now you can add me to that club – I’ve already booked my return.
Small and artisan-like from the outside, it’s set over two floors. The ground floor is an open plan arrangement where the wine takes centre stage lining the dusky rose red walls in floor to ceiling racks and the bar. The seating is an eclectic mix of cushion-filled pews, vintage dining chairs and high bistro-style stools. In the evening it’s softly lit with lamps and candles.
Downstairs, it’s snug and cosy – walls are painted a dark teal, and seating is a mix of leather armchairs and velvet slipper chairs arranged around vintage coffee tables, high tables and button-backed chairs and a large rustic timber dining table and chairs. Lamps glow in each corner, and in the nook under the stairs a wine rack is heaving with bottles. There’s a distinctly Parisian vibe going on, which flows throughout the interiors and extends to the pavement style table and chairs that sit beneath the oversized awning out the front.
There are fewer tables, to allow for social distancing, but the vibe is still buzzy and busy. It’s table service only, and I’d definitely recommend you book in advance.
SCOFF & QUAFF
The wine menu is the main event here – which you can access by scanning a Q code onto your phone that’s attached to a bottle on each table (in a bid to cut down on paper menus and make things more Covid compliant).
The founder Thomas Johnson is passionate about wine – and his aim is to bring a fresh approach and a new look to the wine market. The Grape Variety is a shop by day, open from 12 noon, and also offers a wine subscription service.
As well as the wine though, there’s also a choice of cheese and charcuterie boards (£14-£17 for 2) as well as a range of nibbles including baked Camembert (£9), olives (£2.50) and paté (£6.50).
Most of the wines are priced between £20-£30, so if you want a seriously sassy bottle of something good, you won’t need to remortgage the house to pay for it and there are also lots of options by the glass.
Of course, there are also some seriously special wines on the list too – a French 2017 Corton Clos du Roi for £108.99 (said to be rich and velvety with a smooth and seductive character) – for the more serious wine drinker.
Happily for a wine numpty like me, the wine list includes tasting notes and suggestions for what the wine goes well with. I was at The Grape Variety on a wet and windy autumn night, so a bottle (or two, as it played out) was the order of the night. I wanted something smooth and light, and after deliberating between two, was advised to go for the Chãteau Haute Grelot (£21.99), a 2016 Bordeaux described as ’round a fruity’ and said to go well ‘on its own or with charcuteries’. Parfait!
And perfect it was! Perhaps, too easy to drink, perhaps. Because pretty soon the bottle was empty and I was contemplating another. Did someone say lush? Moi?
We kept with red, but moved from France to the Spanish Rioja for a 2016 Montecillo (£20.99). The wine was the perfect accompaniment for the mixed board we ordered – or perhaps at The Grape Variety it’s the food that’s a good match for the wine. Either way it was a lovely mix of meats and cheeses, fruits and nuts.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Anyone who loves wine (obvs!) or fancies an alternative to the pub. It’s a great spot for girlie get-togethers, cosy date nights, and after-work gatherings.
Not for: Those wanting to go the full 3 courses with an extensive food menu.
The damage: The food is good value – the cheese board and charcuterie board for two are both £14, the mixed board for 2 is £17. A mixed board for four is £26, and the extra large mixed board for 6-8 is £38. Wine is priced from £5.50-£8 a glass, and from £17.50 for a bottle (with most in the £20-30 range).