While the Italian food and drink at Monty’s Wine Bar & Restaurant in London’s West End is made with authentic and often traditional ingredients, it is otherwise defying convention. The warm interior by Steve Howie Design has classic elements but has a fresh, clean contemporary style that is worlds away from an everyday trattoria. And while manager and sommelier Antonio Cerilli has created an impressive wine list, he has not been resistant to adding a range of wine-based cocktails.
Monty’s is the first bar and restaurant venture for Guzaliya Bektemissova, working with Antonio who was previously at top restaurants including Le Pont de la Tour and Locanda Locatelli in London. Tucked away down a quiet street off bustling Oxford Street, it has been created in the former premises of Asian restaurant Japan Soho.
Dining and drinking are on the ground floor in a space dominated by a central curved bar. The sophisticated stylish design features neutral tones of grey, green and cream, from the rounded banquettes to the high stools lining the bar. The look is continued downstairs into the private events space, which can accommodate up to 28 for a seated dinner and up to 50 for a cocktail party, with the option of a TV screen for presentations. Suspended frames of wine adorn the walls throughout the main bar and restaurant alongside retro lighting fixtures. The venue also has an outside area that is a calm oasis compared to the busy streets only a few minutes’ walk away.
The extensive wine list inevitably has a strong Italian flavour, including some natural wines, but it features several from other countries including Slovenia, Austria and the New World. Most of the wines are under £30 a bottle, with several available by the glass. While called a wine bar, Monty’s is increasingly attracting people who are looking for food with their drink, especially with its selection of cicchetti small dishes. These range from well-known classics such as bruschetta, olives or salads to prawns with avocado and salsa or smoked swordfish carpaccio.
A charcuterie menu includes hams handpicked from the farms of Italy, including the Sardinian sheep ham and organic smoked Friuli ham. The bar also offers the northern Italian tradition of after-work “aperitivo” drinks and snacks, with olives, bruschetta and arancini rice balls available with drinks from 4pm onwards.
Antonio has added a list of wine-based cocktails using red, white and rosé still wines as well as sparkling wines. Drinks include the Long Campari Night, combining white wine, prosecco, Campari, Martini Rosso vermouth and orange juice, garnished with fresh orange. Other cocktails include the Ruby and Peach Sangria and the refreshing Orange Spring, mixing white wine with Cointreau and soda.
This builds on the bar’s existing cocktail list which includes many of the Italian classics including a Negroni, Americano, Aperol Spritz and a variety of Bellinis. There are also twists such as a variation on a Mojito, replacing the rum with Campari. Antonio has also sourced authentic Italian bottled beers such as Ichnusa from Sardinia, Menabrea from Piedmont and Loertis pilsner in Via Pruila from San Pellegrino Terme in Lombardy. The cider is the artisanal Bolée d’Armorique Brut from Brittany. Antonio has stuck to tradition by including grappa on the drinks list but he has sourced some fine premium examples such as Fragolino Nonino, Capovilla Moscato and Filu e Ferru.
Monty’s is open Mondays to Fridays from midday to 11pm on Saturdays from 6pm. The head chef is Dionisio Randazzo whose background includes top London restaurants such as Ristorante Semplice in Mayfair and 11 Park Walk in Chelsea. He has also developed a speciality menu featuring homemade pasta, fish and meat options, such as homemade tagliolini fresh crab and bottagra, grilled cuttlefish fennel salad with salmoriglio dressing, and a 35-day aged grilled rib eye steak. “People come to Monty’s Wine Bar to drink but they stay for food,” Antonio adds.
Monty’s Wine Bar & Restaurant, 52 Wells Street, London W1T 3PR
Tel: 020 7637 2666
Originally published in the October 2013 issue of Bar magazine