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Discover Proper Sherry: London’s first sherry bar opens

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Published 11 May 2010

Where bars are concerned, it is easy to  think that London has it all. Wine bars, cocktail bars, champagne bars, rum bars, tequila bars, whisky bars, gin bars… the list goes on. Until now, though, there has never been a sherry bar. Tapas bars were as close as it got, but the selection of sherry at these places was poor to say the least.

The problem? Sherry has fallen out of fashion and just isn’t trendy. It’s that stuff that granny drinks which occasionally makes its way into a trifle, it’s sickly sweet and a bottle can last for years. This can all be true in the case of sherries such as Crofts Original or Harvey’s Bristol Cream, which are highly sweetened and made especially for the (elderly) British market. But as I discovered on a recent sherry tasting course, these big brands are about as good a representation of the true Spanish drink as Pizza Hut is of Italian cuisine, which is why it’s about time Londoners got to try some of the good stuff.

The person who’s been bold enough to open up a bar dedicated to something as un-cool as sherry is Richard Bigg, founder of numerous trendy spots including East End favourites Cantaloupe and Cargo; London institution The Big Chill; and most importantly Camino, the award-winning Spanish restaurant at Kings Cross.

Bar Pepito is set in what can only be described as a shed within the Regent’s Quarter complex off Pentonville Road, right opposite big sister Camino. In fact, the venue was a mere storeroom for the restaurant in a not-so-long-ago previous life. Inside, there’s no gloss and not a lot of space, but combine this with small touches of detail such as genuine Moorish floor tiles and an odd leg of ham or two, and  a more Spanish feeling a place could not be imagined short of heading back to St. Pancras and heading to Europe on a Eurostar train.

On a mission to introduce sherry to all, Bar Pepito goes a step further than just stocking a wide selection of sherries. In fact, you could even think of a trip there as an educational experience. There’s a fascinating and heavy guide book featuring each and every sherry available on the tables for those who want all the info, whilst their tapas dishes (prepared in the Camino kitchens) each have a recommended sherry to match with them if you prefer to approach from a food angle. The staff are also extremely knowledgeable and happy to explain and recommend, so you could do worse than leave it in their hands – but the real stroke of genius is that every glass comes tagged with the name of the sherry that’s in it, ensuring you don’t lose track no matter how many you’ve had. There’s also six themed ‘flights’, each featuring three comparable sherries. As the Spanish would never dream of drinking without eating, there’s a tapas dish provided with each selection, too.

What to order depends what you’re in the mood for. There’s bone-dry, refreshing sherries such as Fino (including the best known Tio Pepe), through to more gutsy Amontillado right up to syrupy Pedro Ximenez, which is so sweet it’s often poured over ice cream but also goes very well with desserts such as Bar Pepito’s Higos en chocolate – dried figs coated in chocolate.

If you’re a sherry novice, go and explore the range at Bar Pepito – the 100ml tasting portions are the ideal opportunity. You can see the full sherry selection here. If, like me, you already call yourself a sherry fan, I imagine you already have one foot out the door…

Bring on the sherry revolution!

Address: Bar Pepito, Varnishers Yard, The Regent Quarter (off Pentonville Road), Kings Cross, N1 9DF (location map)
Nearest Tube Station: Kings Cross St. Pancras (5 minutes walk), Angel Tube Station (10 minutes walk)
Tel: +44 020 7841 7331
Website: www.camino.uk.com/pepito

Article written by Ben Norum.