Part of the hazards of doing a bar or restaurant review is that I often waltz into the venue after a day of work; hair scraped back into a ponytail, rucksack sagging at my back. I don’t look like the sort of sophisticated clientele that the waiters are used to, and give off the impression that I might just be a bit lost. I also am usually alone which means I normally get treated very kindly, as my apparent loneliness possibly gives off the vibe of being stood up. I wandered tentatively up to the bar at Salut Wines, about a foot shorter in my Vans than all the other ladies in their heels, and right away I get a warm smile from the waiter. “You’ve not been here before?” he said after I asked whether I should just take a seat.
He then went on to explain how Salut Wines worked and I was amazed that this is a concept that isn’t more widely used. Patrons are given a card at the bar, which they top up to a minimum of ten pounds. They then use this card to choose a selection of wines from the Enomatic Wine Machines that run along a single wall. Think a row of fancier water pumps where you insert your card and choose a precise measurement. You can choose to have a measurement of 50 ml, 125 ml or 175 ml, each measurement priced accordingly.
I have a confession. I don’t know half as much about wine as I should, despite it being a particular vice of mine. I’m quite happy to knock back supermarket rose in a manner that would probably turn the staff at Salut a dark shade of merlot. When in a nice wine bar I often get in a flap about what wine to order. The quasi poetic descriptions often elude me. I therefore panic and flap about a bit when it comes to ordering wine in a nice bar or restaurant. Should I, for example, play it safe with a crisp apple white or, more daringly, opt for the dark earthy red with the complex flavorings?
Price ranges and fear of order-regret have therefore always prevented me from fully exploring my tastes wine wise. So Salut’s manner of doing business is as refreshing to me as a nice glass of summer chardonnay. I was able to try out a wide range of very good wines on a shoestring budget. The choice of wines that you can select from the wine machines is impressively diverse and broad. There are 42 wines to choose from in total and every one looked tempting. I was able to try out four wines in total, each one distinctive and interesting.
Salut has a cosy, familiar feel to it, despite its trendiness and feels very European. The music was well chosen by someone with a good understanding of electronic jazz and helps to create a fun, relaxed atmosphere. I was led to the table by the very patient Waiter who showed me how to use the wine machines, which may at first look daunting but are very simple to use. Admirably, a tall bottle of water was brought to my table on the house without my even asking. When combining a wide variety of wines in a relatively short period of time, it is super easy to get dehydrated so its brilliant when bars don’t take advantage of this by charging for water.
There are a variety of sides to choose from, with very fresh ingredients from local suppliers such as North Star Delicatessen. Platters include a cured meats selection and a humous and pitta bread plate. There are also lighter snacks such as lightly salted popcorn, olives and pork pies. As I firmly believe that I must have been a mouse in a past life, I ordered the cheese board. This included a rich, flavorful stilton, a butter soft brie and a mild but very tasty cheddar. This was accompanied by two miniature loaves of fresh bread, a pot of moreish tangy chutney and a tiny pot of very round white grapes. This was a lovely, good quality little platter that was complemented by both the red and white wine flavorings. I would however have appreciated a cheese knife in order to slice the cheese in a more delicate manner.
All in all I would certainly recommend a trip to Salut Wines, both for wine experts and complete beginners. Salut Wines really is what all wine bars should aspire to be: innovative, forward thinking and also extremely ethical. I was pleased to learn that Salut Wines work with local businesses to support the local economy, as well as supporting organic producers. All staff members at Salut Wines are paid at least Living Wage, and are allowed full tips. The fair treatment of the staff is reflected in the high standard of customer service, where you get the feeling that Salut Wines staff genuinely enjoy their work and have a real passion for wine. This passion is somewhat infectious, and by the end of the evening I found that I wanted to expand my knowledge of different wines. I must say that I am now very tempted to sign up for one of Salut Wines Wine School Courses!