Highgate's lockdown bottle shop upsizes to a licensed cafe

Bottle Highgate

Watch village life go by with a glass of wine on tap at Bottle in Highgate High Street - Credit: Courtesy of Bottle

Bottle opened in lockdown to supply thirsty Highgate locals with wine, beer, and cider while the pubs were closed.

In fact local landlord Paul McAstocker of the Prince of Wales and his partner Rebecca Smithson were behind the venture, which quickly grew to be a popular High Street independent.

When a more flexible corner unit came free a few doors up, they opened Bottle 2.0 in June as an all day destination serving coffee and pastries, segueing into after-work beers or wines by the glass with a "grazing menu" of nuts, olives, breads, cheese and charcuterie.

With big picture windows, the new site at 69 High Street has a great aspect for watching village life go by, and a relaxed atmosphere with friends popping in to share an early evening glass.

Bottle 2.0 opened in Highgate Village in June serving coffee, pastries, wines and beers and a grazing menu

Bottle 2.0 opened in Highgate Village in June serving coffee, pastries, wines and beers and a grazing menu of meats and cheeses - Credit: Courtesy of Bottle

"Try the wines on tap," we were told, and despite having hit and miss past experience, it was a revelation. It's come a long way since the dodgy piped Liebfraumilch of yesteryear. Now, stainless steel kegs hold around 27 bottles of wine, cutting out a load of recycling and energy. A chilled Austrian Gruner Veltliner (£6.80) offered beautifully balanced citrus and nectarine flavours, while the Le Paradou Grenache (£6.90) was an easy drinking Provencal red, full of black and red berries with spicy, peppery notes.

The nine wines by the glass include a sparkling and a rose, and the house beer, a craft Augustiner Helles, continues the trend for top quality suppliers. Another lockdown success story, Cricklewood-based Sean's Sourdough supply the bread and pastries, coffee is by AllPress and our trio of delicious charcuterie (bresaola, fennel and garlic salami and coppa) were from Islington's Cobble Lane Cured. The cheese board came courtesy of Mon Cheesemongers in Borough Market. Ours was a bit of a samey trio of hard cheeses, I might have hoped for a goat or a blue as variety - but the sea salted butter and knockout fig jam softened the blow.

There are also craft beers, ciders, and wines  to take away or drink in.

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Smithson is a former fashion buyer who set up events bar company TwentySix with McAstocker. It was busy catering for weddings and large events until the pandemic hit. But with the event and hospitality sector on hold it  was clear that people were still keen to enjoy a quality drink at home, and the first Bottle was born in November 2020 in the second lockdown.

She oversees branding and design, while McAstocker handles suppliers and operations. New clients include curating biodynamic and natural wines for Highgate event space and food project Omved Gardens, and plans include offering picnic hampers and running wine tastings and private events with a percentage of sales going to charities Doorstep, Solace, and Heath Hands.

Bottle in Highgate

Wines, beers and ciders to take away or drink in at Bottle in Highgate - Credit: Courtesy of Bottle

Smithson says: “Community is at the heart of everything Bottle does. Since we launched the shop over lockdown, our vision has been to provide a hub for the local community. We want our customers to meet, share and discover together in our cafe over lunch or through our regular tastings and events."

Bottle Highgate

Bottle is at 69 Highgate High Street hello@bottlelondon.com - Credit: Courtesy of Bottle

Bottle is at 69 Highgate High Street open 7am-6pm Mon-Tues and 7am-10pm Wed-Sat. www.bottlelondon.com