Drink in the atmosphere at wine shop and deli Bottles 'N' Jars
- Credit: Courtesy of Bottles 'N' Jars
From vintage cars to vintage wine might seem a leap for Highgate entrepreneur Paul Michaels.
For many years his luxury car dealership, Hexagon Classics has been a feature of East Finchley. But when his beloved wife died last year, he converted her former interior design gallery on the site into a specialist wine shop and deli.
"My wife was very much a foodie and loved Mediterranean type dishes," Michaels explains. "I wanted to use her studio to make something she would really be proud of. We used to drag all over London on Saturday mornings to find good olive oils and ingredients, and the idea started to create a place where you could find the best wine, coffee, oil, or vinegar that would be a worthwhile detour. We are getting plenty of people coming in saying 'I wish you had been here a long time ago.'"
Bottles N Jars is run in partnership with Bert Blaize, author of bestselling Which Wine When? Since it opened in November, the former restaurant manager and sommelier has been busy sourcing the best wines and ingredients - from bread to beer.
"People have more time at the moment to think about what they eat and drink, they are experimenting more and delighted to find an incredible shop locally that's full of good quality difficult to source products but at an affordable price," says Blaize.
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"They are coming in saying 'I was supposed to be in Italy I will buy nice anchovies and bottle of wine to recreate the holiday at home'."
From sriracha sauce made locally, to Notes coffee, and ales from Highgate's Gorgeous Brewery, Blaize is on the lookout for other local producers to supply the shop.
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"Paul and I are passionate about eating and drinking and it's been easy to find these products, but are we still looking for other people's passion projects."
When restrictions lift, the coffee truck outside, which Michaels says "created a social environment" will reopen. As will new Ottolenghi-style Mediterranean restaurant The Engine Room. With an Italian chef lined up and plenty of outside heated and covered space, the former industrial car cleaning shed will come into its own as we emerge from the pandemic.
Michaels who continues to sell vintage cars on the site, is proud of the industrial-meets-the Med design which includes a Jaguar engine "beautiful, full size broken in half to see into it" and an old Shell petrol pump.
In the meantime Bottles 'N' Jars is offering both nationwide delivery and a click and collect service for deli items and wines with Blaize on a mission to encourage customers out of their comfort zone with his expert wine knowledge.
"People get set on their safe buys, but I try to encourage people to try something new. Austrian Zweigelt for example is similar to a Pinot Noir for a fraction of the price. We build on that trust with a customer and they come back for more recommendations."
Michaels adds: "Great food in a great atmosphere is what we are trying to achieve, somewhere people want to spend time. Bottles 'N' Jars already has a real atmosphere with friends and people we know coming in, and everything good quality. My wife would have loved it."
Ham and High readers can get 10 percent off all orders over £50 with the code: HH10