Le Metro, Knightsbridge SW3

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Over FIFTY wines by the glass!
- Clifford Mould went in for snack and ended up with a tasting!

If I said this was buzzy little back street basement, you'd get quite the wrong idea. This super cellar, underneath L'Hotel, is sort of behind Harrods and Harvey Nichols, so it's a smart back street. The most exciting thing is the amazing range of wines by the glass. Modern technology, in the shape of the Vacu-Vin, means that bottles can be opened and the air pumped out thus increasing the life of the opened bottle. Why then don't more pubs use the same kit? Some do, but when I went into Hart's boatyard on the river at Kingston, I was dismayed to find that the staff there couldn't be bothered to use the machine. It's a different story at Le Metro where the wines are sourced by Nigel Buchanan, a protégé of Gerard Basset of the Hotel du Vin, Winchester, who is currently the holder of the Ruinart Trophy for the best European Sommelier. Nigel is justifiably proud of his collection and generously acknowleges the help and enthusiasm of his wine loving boss David Levin, the proprietor of the Capital Hotel, and the Greenhouse and the People's Palace at the Royal Festival Hall.

I kicked off with the Muscadet, working on the assumption that if you can present the customer with a half way decent bottle these days then you're doing alright. This one, a Sur Lie from Domaine Perd Son Pain 1993, sells for 2.45 glass. It was three quarters decent - like a razor, it would have cut a lobster thermidor to ribbons. Lobster thermidor wasn't on the menu, but there was a fair selection of Brit-Med starters such as Bruschetta of anchovies, leeks, tomatoes and olives.

Wines are measured in generous 175ml dollops into nice large glasses with plenty of room for your nose to poke into. Next I tried a Bordeaux, Chateau Grand Balestar 1995 2.85, which had a pronounced Southern Hemispherical flavour, the Sauvignon Blanc came over with all the gooseberry fool you could ever want. By contrast, a new world Riesling from Mount Langi 1995 4.00 showed that mastery of this grape still eludes the non German world. The nose was pretty authentic, but this promise did not quite extend to the palate which was dry and short. Why oh why won't British wine drinkers trust the Germans and realise that all is not Liebfraumilch? A charming Chenin Blanc from the Cape showed an attractive floral nose that carried over onto the palate with an agreeable aromatic pear drop fruitiness. This would be nice on its own, or perhaps with a starter of warm potato salad, chorizo, argula and endive 4.75.

Even more powerful was a pure Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, a 1996 from the Isabel Estate, which I thought was every bit as good as that vintage from the illustrious Cloudy Bay; mind you, it's a few months since I tasted the CB, so the memory may have faded a little. This wine would go nicely with the smoked salmon, haddock and broccoli pancakes 6.25.

Amongst the main dishes of the day, there was roasted best end of lamb, six sumptuous chops, all pink and tender with a nicely seared exterior, served with braised cabbage stuffed with bacon cubes, 8.00. Tasty, plentiful, and very professionally cooked by the Portugese chef. I washed this down with a glass of Petaluma Shiraz 1994 from Bridgewater Mill 4.35 - a very spicy Rhone Ranger from down under this. Seeing we were serious about our wines, we were treated to a tasting of a hefty Zinfandel from Ravenswood, Sonoma 5.25. This was earthy and gamey and if not quite a blockbuster,it was powerful enough to partner some confit of duck with lentils garlic and shallots, 8.25. Finally I gratefully accpeted a smidgin of the Ponzi Oregon Chardonnay 1993, which had a wicked nose of burnt butter, and whose palate was so fat it made the much vaunted Fat Bastard Chardonnay from the Vin de Pays d'Oc seem positively bulimic!

Only the two Americans cost a bit over twenty pounds a bottle. This is a stunning list at bargain prices. You might think that there's a sting in the tail when you get to the classics. But you'd be wrong - Chateau Leoville Barton 1982, I kid you not darlings, is fifty quid a bottle. Quickly I reached for the first merchants' catalogues that came to hand: at the Rare wine cellar the '82 goes for 60.00 ex VAT, so I tried Mayor Sworder, usually good value - phew! it pipped in at 49.95. So there you are then - five pence corkage!!

Fifty wines by the bottle - you could pop in once a week for a year and try a different glass each time. You wouldn't end up a master of wine, but you'd be well on your way to the diploma!

P.S. and the food is very good too...

Le Metro, 28 Basil Street, SW3 Tel: 020 7589 6296

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