Crown Cellars has worked closely with the chef owners of HOME restaurant in Leeds from the day it opened to ensure its wine list stands up to its award winning food offer.
Liz Cottam and Mark Owens HOME restaurant in Leeds certainly lives up to its name. The whole concept is about creating an experience that makes its customers feel as comfortable about eating out as they would do, well, at home.
The two chefs have worked hard to create an atmosphere, and a food and wine offer, that offers a genuine relaxing experience that in their words means their guests “arrive as customers and leave as friends”.
To do so they have created a menu where every dish is made up with fresh, seasonal ingredients that changes on a monthly basis.
Some guests will feel as though they have met Liz Cottam before as she has been a guest in their own homes as a contestant on BBC’s Masterchef in 2016. Mark Owens brings with him a Michelin star background having worked at both the two star Le Gavroche in London, the Star at Harome which, appropriately enough, has one star and The Box Tree which also has a Michelin star.
Cottam explains what they are both trying to achieve with their menu: “We offer a series of tasting menus inspired by seasonal British produce. There’s “The Season” which is the full experience of what we’re all about, “The Selection” which is a shorter version of The Season, because sometimes a three-hour lunch or dinner just isn’t practical, and our Sunday lunch-inspired tasting menu. All of these change every month.”
These are chefs that are just as interested in the wines that their customers are going to pair with their carefully assembled dishes.
“The kitchen and front of house teams work together to pair every dish we serve with at least one wine to enhance the overall experience,” says Cottam. “That means that our drink selection is also constantly evolving. By changing the wine pairings every month it means as a team we are constantly trying and discovering new wines and developing our knowledge one wine at a time.”
Choosing the right wines for the list is as challenging an exercise for the two chefs as it is creating their award winning menu. To get it right Cottam was quite happy to bring in outside expertise to offer them the support they needed. Crown Cellars has been working with the HOME team from the day it opened.
“We work with Crown Cellars because we love a lot of their wines,” says Cottam. “We have been very lucky to have an amazing rep who goes above and beyond to help up with our monthly tastings and pairings. He also really helps us find the best match for each dish.”
Food and wine together
Together they have looked to create a list that is both practical, and supports the restaurant’s menu, but also flexible enough to suit the changing tastes of its customers.
“There’s not really a ‘typical’ HOME customer,” says Cottam. “We’ve got a vast and varied array of regulars and new customers each month who are coming in for different reasons – the only common trait they all share is a love of great food.”
And for great food to really work then you need a great wine list to go with it. It’s why Cottam says she is so happy to work with the Crown Cellars team to help them choose the right styles of wine that are going to match their ever changing menu.
“Generally the clue lies in what sells well and what doesn’t,” says Cottam.
Fresh and interesting
Rather than have a list that remains the same for months on end, she is keen to be always looks to adjust the choice to keep it fresh and interesting for its customers.
Each month Cottam will introduce a new flight of wines to give guests the chance to try something new. That also means making hard decisions about “older wines that have kind of run their course” which “sometimes have to come off to make room for them,” she adds.
“We’d rather have a concise list of wines we’re passionate about and know inside out than a big one just for show. We have fallen in love with English wine recently and consequently have a bigger selection of English white wines than we do Italian or American whites.”
With such an ever changing list it is vital the staff are also constantly on top of the wines they are being asked to sell. To do so means Crown Cellars is offering regular, on site, training and support.
“We have monthly tastings where as a team we discuss certain wines and come to a unanimous decision on what to pair with what. Once something’s declared a “double dinger” we lock it in for that flight,” says Cottam.
That way the team also feel like they are part of the decision making process and are more likely to recommend wines that they personally have been partly responsible for being on the list.
It means HOME is able to present as personal a wine list as the food it is serving. Which, in turn, is reflected in the premium price points it is able to achieve.
Cottam says the “average price for a bottle is around the £35-£45 mark, with glasses coming in at anything between £6 and £11”.
Attention to detail
This attention to detail and working closely with Crown Cellars has helped HOME achieve a strong uplift in its overall drinks offer, says Cottam.
“Over the last eight months our total wet sales have gone up and are now around 45% of our sales come from drinks.”
Looking ahead Cottam hopes and expects to build on its wine and food reputation by constantly adapting and offering new choices to its customers.
“We’re looking to expand our list in breadth, rather than just size – so bringing in more premium and unusual wines. We offer a Premium Wine Flight as well as our standard which a lot more guests are going for, so we want to be able to offer a truly premium experience, rather than simply filling the flight with more expensive bottles.”
She adds: “We’ve very recently been able to hire a full-time member of staff dedicated to the bar, too, so we’re looking forward to being able to develop our spirit list and cocktail offering, working closely with the kitchen.”
As part of the restaurant’s £70 seven-course seasonal tasting menu, which is changed on a monthly basis, a 100ml glass of wine is carefully selected to complement every course, plus a 50ml glass of dessert wine.
The selections for the May menu include a 2013 Vinho Verde Adega de Moncao to accompany cod cheek and mushy peas; a Crozes Hermitage Domaine Pradelle from the same vintage to team with the spring lamb; a 2014 Vouvray Bougrier to complement a dish of stone bass, and a 2015 Feral Fox Pinot Noir to partner duck breast and cherry. English sparkling wine – a non vintage Chapel Down Brut is served with a lemon verbena parfait for dessert, while a 2014 Muscat de Beaumes de Venise is perfectly paired with carrot cake.