Talking wine with Christopher Lecoufle of Les 110 de Taillevent London
When I’m asked for my favourite restaurants in London, Les 110 de Taillevent is always on my list. I can’t quite remember how I came across it, but I do remember choosing to dine there for my birthday a year ago and had a fantastic tasting menu with wine that was expertly paired by the Head Sommelier.
Aside from the lobster spelt risotto—which is one of the best things I’ve ever tried in my life—our interaction with Christopher Lecoufle is one that stood out. At the time, my fiancé and I were thinking of doing a road trip to Bordeaux, and Christopher took his time to help us with our route and write down the names of some wineries that he suggested we visit. I’ve been back to the restaurant since and have recommended it to countless friends.
As Christopher was recently named one of the top 10 most powerful sommeliers in London, I thought this would be the perfect time to find out more about his journey into wine and how Les 110 de Taillevent continues to lead the charge in this competitive landscape.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I trained as a fireman before moving to hospitality. Both are very active and require a lot of passion.
Did you always want to work in wine? How did you get started?
The wine world came later in life. When I started, I wanted to be a maitre d’hotel. I was passionate about forming relationships with guests. My training in Paris allowed me to meet my first mentor, Antoine Petrus, who shared with me his knowledge about arts de la table and service.
Working and studying for two years with the entire team made me even more passionate and curious. I asked Mr. Petrus during my last couple of months with him if I could stay for one more year working next to his team and learning about wine with him. This is how it all started.
How different has it been working in Paris and then working in London?
Everything is different. Firstly, the guest doesn’t have the same vision about food and wine. At the time, Paris was, for me, still very focussed on classics like Bordeaux, Bourgogne, but I remember that we were already pushing some wine from other parts of the world such as Italy, Spain, Australia, Hungary, Austria. This was all by the glass, but the ones that were selling by the bottle were around the classic Château in Bordeaux, Domaine in Burgundy, also the Loire and Rhone Valleys were present.
You’ve taken part in a number of competitions. What was that experience like?
Doing competitions is, for me, the best process of learning, because to be the best you will push yourself to learn and be wilder in your knowledge. Also, from the competition I did in the UK, what interested me the most was the number of people that you meet before, during, and after the competition who are supporting you to always be positive.
Can you tell me more about how you got started with Les 110 de Taillevent and what your involvement with the restaurant has been like since you joined?
Les 110 de Taillevent has been my first step into the London scene. I was previously working in the countryside, and arriving first as a sommelier for the opening in 2015 and gradually getting promoted to Head Sommelier and now General Manager is probably the best working environment for me. Especially considering that we have regular guests who I’ve known for around 3 years now.
Are there any upcoming events at the restaurant that we should know about?
Yes, there are. Every month, we have a winemaker come over for a wine evening. We are calling them “Secrets de Terroirs “. The idea is to have one table for 12 guests who are there to share the secret of the winemaker and also better understand the philosophies behind the winemaking. We create a unique menu to pair with the wine too.
Some people find wine to be unwelcoming and intimidating. What would you suggest for someone who was interested in learning more about wine?
Just jump in! I think it is a very complex world, but it is also so much fun to discover a new wine everyday.
What is your favourite wine of the moment?
Being just back from Vinitaly in Verona, I would say the 2014 Rosso di Montalcino by Poggio di Sotto. It is a great expression of Sangiovese.
What is your favourite dish at the restaurant and what would you suggest a diner pair with it?
Right now, we have an amazing rack of milk-fed lamb, served with green asparagus, morels, and black garlic. All the best products of the season on one plate! I like to pair this dish with some Syrah from Côte-Rôtie in the north of the Rhone Valley, the 2010 Barbarine from the Domaine Yves Gangloff. It’s a pure wonder with remarkable acidity.
What makes Les 110 de Taillevent the perfect place for wine lovers?
Firstly, just the number of wines by the glass that we offer — 110 wines to taste is already a lot, and then there’s the tasting wines that we organise with our Tasting Menu. Secondly, our wine list, what we call “The Bible”, has over 1,500 different wines from all around the world.
Thirdly, our “Secrets de Terroirs”. Once a month, we have a winemaker coming over for a very limited dinner with a bespoke menu specially created for the evening. We then have the winemaker talk about the wine and all its secrets.
Aside from your workplace, can you suggest another place in London where you go to find great wine?
I like the Compagnie des Vins Surnaturelle. I think the list is great there and I like the space a lot. Noble Rot is pretty good too.
What are some of the emerging trends in wine that you’re excited about?
I think Portugal is doing very well right now. Some big estates are making some great wine, both white and red. This is the wine I’ll be following in the next couple of years. I’ve also tasted some smaller estates who are making some remarkable whites!