Honey Spencer is one of the most sought-after sommeliers in London. After cutting her teeth at legendary wine bar Sager + Wilde and working for several big-name restaurants, she is currently wine director for Studio Paskin (Evelyn’s Table, The Barbary, The Palomar) and this November opened Sune with her partner Charlie Sims, a neighbourhood restaurant in Broadway Market. Here, Honey shares her favourite bars in the capital.
Where The Chefs Eat
Honey Spencer’s favourite bars in London
The Sun Tavern
This spot on Bethnal Green Road always has a great vibe and is one of my favourite bars in the capital. The space is very dark and brooding – it was inspired by The Dead Rabbit in New York – and the music is amazing. It scratches a particular millennial itch, ranging from Fat Boy Slim one minute to The Killers the next. There’s a DJ playing at the end of the bar, which adds a fun theatrical edge. I’ll usually go with a friend to have a pint, served in these big frozen flagons, or I’ll order an Americano, a short bitter drink topped up with soda. My husband and I live in the neighbourhood; he is in the restaurant business, so if he finishes early – which is, like, midnight – we’ll often head here to sit at the bar and decompress together.
441 Bethnal Green Road, Bethnal Green, London E2 0AN
Equal Parts is a cocktail bar opened by my old boss at Sager + Wilde, Michael Sager. It’s halfway down Hackney Road in a part I never thought would fully transition from sketchy to highbrow, but it has. It’s housed in a beautiful space that we used to call the avocado shop, because it’s got these gorgeous green tiles on the outside. Before Michael got into wines, he was a cocktail guy, so this opening harks back to his past. It’s an aperitivo and amaro bar by night, but during the day it’s a coffee and bottle shop, so they have an exceptional wine selection on offer.
245 Hackney Road, Hackney, London E2 8NA
My absolute favourite natural wine bar must be Naughty Piglets. Margaux, the lady who co-founded it, is the biggest punk I’ve ever met – in a great way. She’s just the coolest French girl and everyone that she hires is so epic and has so much attitude. What makes it, though, is the food, because they’ve got the grill going and not many wine bars can deliver that lively wine bar vibe as well as fantastic food in such a fluid way. Margaux also works with a lot of producers that have tiny allocations but because of who she is, she gets quite high quantities of sought-after wines. So if you like a natural wine producer that’s sold out everywhere else, chances are Margaux has a few bottles.
28 Brixton Water Lane, Brixton, London SW2 1PE
This wine bar in Camberwell is beautiful – it’s got gorgeous dark panelling and these old-school cabinets that give a European vibe, so you feel like you could be in Venice or similar. The founder Patryjca Lorek used to work for 10 Cases and her husband John is director of The Winemakers Club, so they know their stuff. She’s super easy-going and they host lots of relaxed wine tastings which I love. It’s the place I go if I want a proper catch up with a friend I haven’t seen for ages, or it’d be a perfect spot for a date with someone you really like.
78 Camberwell Church Street, Camberwell, London SE5 8QZ
If I’m looking for somewhere for a celebration or birthday drinks, it has to be The Connaught. It’s flawless. I adore their Martini trolley – sure, it’s £20 for a cocktail, but they wheel it over and make it right in front of you. It’s all about the experience. The service is incredible. Whenever I go, they always make a note of coming over and saying hello, asking how I am. In a city where you can be so anonymous, I think it’s really special to be able to experience that sometimes. They also serve truly superior nibbles, which always helps.
16 Carlos Places, Mayfair, London W1K 2AL
Bar Termini in Soho is another classic – I cannot overstate how good this place is. They’re so smiley. Even though there’s no room for you, they’re always like, ‘Oh come and stand in this one centimetre by the bar and we’ll make it work’. It’s way too dark, but in the most brilliant way. As soon as you walk in, you immediately forget whatever you were thinking about and just focus on standing in the right place and drinking your drink. There’s an unmistakable Italian romance and chaos about the place. Last time I went I drank a Marsala Martini, made with Marsala Dolce and almond bitters, which was absolutely delicious.
7 Old Compton Street, Soho, London W1D 5JE
If I’m not drinking wine or a pint, I’m usually drinking sake. My favourite spot for sake tasting in London is The Mulwray, a wine bar that’s tucked away above The Blue Posts in Soho. There’s such a big interest in sake but no one really knows where to drink it and I think sometimes sake bars can be a little intimidating. The Mulwray has always been a cocooning environment – it’s an all-female team and such a comfy space – which means it’s somewhere people are willing to try new things. If you are in a wine bar that you love, and you trust what they’re doing, it’s nice to be able to try a couple of sakes followed by a bottle of wine. It’s interesting tasting sake, because they are very different and the good ones are so pure it’s almost like you’re having some sort of spiritual experience.
The Blue Posts, 28 Rupert Street, Soho, London W1D 6DJ
My friend Jasper has opened a brilliant wine bar called Oranj. It’s a gorgeous space in Shoreditch and as well as terrific wines, they’re also running some brilliant chef residencies. They did a residency with one of the best chefs that I worked with, Budgie Montoya, who runs Sarap. He specialises in Filipino coal fire cooking and his food is exquisite. Another recent one was with Felix Reade and sommelier Nominoe Guillebot, who did a Southern French inspired residency. At the moment SeeYouSoon are in the kitchen, three chefs Keith Siu, Michael Ovejas and Kevin Le from Toronto, cooking up dishes with flavours from China, Vietnam and the Philippines.
14 Bacon Street, Shoreditch, London E1 6LF
Sune, 129A Pritchard’s Road, Hackney, London E2 9AP