Why don’t we have more BYOB in London?
Bring Your Own Booze. Like doggie bags, it’s a concept that hasn’t quite made it over the pond to the shores of Ol’ Blighty. Ask for a doggie bag and you more often than not get a look like you just asked for doggie style.
BYOB? It seems you might as well be asking to bring your own food to a restaurant. But why not bring your own wine for a reasonable or no corkage fee? BYOB has been around for ages in various manifestations, I found it being traced back to the 19th century on Wikipedia, the last B standing for Basket (for picnic baskets which invariably had a bottle or two nestled amongst the food, I presume). Nowadays, the last B stands for Bottle or Booze. Of course, BYOB is an economical way to have a night out but when I worked in fine dining in the States, it was more often than not that guests brought in their best bottles to celebrate and/or enjoy with their meals. Corkage fees varied but the average seemed to be around $20, oftentimes less and those who brought their own wine were wise to the fact that they couldn’t bring a wine that was already on the restaurant list.
So, if even fine dining restaurants do it in America, why not here? London has some of the best wines in the world readily available yet unless they’re on the winelist, you’re out of luck (unless you don’t mind coughing up plenty of dough if they are on the winelist). There are however, some restaurants that allow you to BYOB in London, most of them feature Asian cuisine for some reason, those that don’t include; The Hawksmoor in Shoreditch, Cafe Anglais in Bayswater, Racine in South Ken, St. John in Farringdon, The Bloody French in Westbourne Grove and, of course, the Foodie bloggers favourite (which happens to be Asian), Tayyabs in East London. Texture in Central London is doing a special offer at the moment, waiving their corkage fee (normally £25) from Jan 5th-31st.
You can find lists of the London restaurants that do allow BYOB with or without corkage fees at Wine pages, London Eating, and Square Meal. It’s always worth phoning up beforehand just to make sure they allow BYOB and to reconfirm corkage fee, if any. It’s also nice to offer the server a taste. I remember when I waited tables that was always a nice little perk.
I know I’ve got a couple of bottles I’m thinking of taking to The Hawksmoor for lunch to enjoy with, what everyone tells me, is the best burger in London. So how about it London restaurants? Why not introduce reasonable or no corkage fees? Or if you have a BYOB policy, let us know about it! If people are staying in pleading penury, this may be a way of coaxing punters out of the cold and into your warm dining rooms.