Bottles, The Mailbox

Having set ourselves a no-midweek drinking rule, Bottles probably wasn’t the greatest choice for a Tuesday lunchtime. With 250 wines and counting, we ditched the car pronto and embraced the grape.

On the site of what was Bar Epernay, the restaurant’s an impressive space with swish decor, a firepit, private room at the rear and as you’d imagine a lot of bottles. The wine list might have overwhelmed had it not been for the lovely Nick who talked us through the concept and introduced us to the perfectly tempered wine dispensing machines.

Like most wine drinkers we know what we enjoy and tend to stick with that, but the dispenser meant we sampled wines that we wouldn’t have had the confidence or the desire to shell out for on a bottle without trying. The dispenser’s bottles are rotated every month to keep it interesting.

Nick selected a handful of wines – four white, two red – to match the food we’d chosen from the Spanish-inspired grazing menu. The selection took us out of our Chardonnay comfort zone with the stand-outs being Dr Loosen Reisling and a Valpolicella Ripasso.

We’d assumed wrongly that Bottles would be more glorified off-licence than fully-fledged restaurant and the food would be an afterthought. Perhaps a few nibbles thrown in. Not so. We ordered a handful of tapas dishes that were all very different but equally brilliant. To give you a flavour, we sampled beef and pork meatballs, griddled lamb koftas with tzatziki, roasted vegetables with goat’s cheese and a red pepper fondue, Moroccan-style chicken skewers and sobrasada chorizo pintxos with honeyed aubergine. It was wonderfully sociable, really interesting and definitely not playing second fiddle to the wine.

The restaurant was pretty quiet, but it’s still early days. We reckon once the word’s out you’ll be lucky to get a table or even standing room around the firepit. It’s already a winner with the post-work drink crowd and popularity is growing.

The Mailbox, 180 Wharfside, Birmingham B1 1RN. Tel: 0121 643 2072 www.bottleswine.co.uk