Uncorked: Harry Lobek

By Joe Lutrario

- Last updated on GMT

Harry Lobek London Shell Co. co-founder on pairing champagne and crisps

Related tags London Shell Co. Casual dining London Seafood Wine Uncorked

The London Shell Co. co-founder on pairing champagne and crisps, why Greece is an underrated wine region, and drinking a Chateau Palmer 1990 from the pavement having dropped it.

Tell us about the moment you first became interested in wine
At the age of 24, I spent 12 months in the back of a van touring an Oscar Wilde play around Italy. Our shows were generally always performed in the morning, which meant we spent all our nights eating and drinking. I finished the tour penniless but came home with a love for Sicilian white wines and Barolo.

Describe your wine list at London Shell Co.
Short, idiosyncratic, beautiful.

Over the course of your career, have you had any wine-related disasters?
I dropped a Chateau Palmer 1990 on the pavement walking between restaurants once. I dropped to my knees and pressed my tongue into that blood red claret. I needed to taste it. I also cracked a £200 Riedel decanter, when I worked as a somm at Pollen Street Social. This is the first time I’ve been brave enough to admit it. I’ve been unlucky.

Name your top three restaurant wine lists (excluding your own!)
Drapers Arms; Hunan; and 10 Greek Street with their 'little black book'. Luke Wilson pioneered so many things that people think are industry norms these days. 

Who do you most respect in the wine world? 
Our wine suppliers sales reps. They work hard, play hard and the best ones are always there for us. Thank you! 

What’s the most interesting wine you’ve come across recently? 
Vinca Minor, Sonoma Chardonnay, brought in by Nekter. It tastes like Jura Chardonnay from Les Dolomies. A light funk, but nervy and exciting.

What are the three most overused tasting notes?
Personally, I use the word delicious way too much. I love wine and we’re very fortunate that most of our suppliers only bring us banging bottles. Yummy is another one I hear a lot.

What’s the best value wine on your list at the moment?
Juanjo Tellaetxe Tantaka, 2021 – a grown up Txakoli. Citrus like a razors edge, lemon oil, savoury, salty, a wine of mountain and sea influence. Paired with grilled white fish or turbot and you’ll start fizzing above the ground in the a state of ecstasy.  

What is your ultimate food and drink match?
Champagne and crisps. That moment before a meal aperitif in hand, snack in mouth, the next few hours dedicated to indulgent enjoyment.

Old World or New World?
Annoyingly I drink more Old World than I do New World. I’m a Francophile at heart. I love direct wines and I love acid. That said Aussie Rieslings are excellent wines and going wonderfully with raw fish. 

What is your pet hate when it comes to wine service in other restaurants? 
This isn’t something that works for everyone, but I hate waiting ages for a drink. I think you should be offered something almost upon arrival, preferably before I’ve even taken my seat. The best welcome I’ve ever had was “you look like you need a beer.” It was hot and a cold beer was exactly what I needed.

Who is your favourite producer right now?
I have two. Mac Forbes Experimental Batches. He was over recently Concrete Rebellion was off the charts good. And Julien Scheid Riesling from Joe at Penzer Wines. So hot right now!

As a owner of London Shell Co., what question do you most get asked by customers?  
Either: "Covid must have been tough", "where do you find your staff", or "are you ok".

Which wine producing region or country is underrated at the moment?
I think Greece is really having it’s moment. Indigenous varieties have taken over, the kids are in charge now and the wines are so varied. Assyrtiko & Xinomavro move over, Vidiano and Mavrodaphne are on the scene.

It’s your last meal and you can have a bottle of any wine in the world. What is it and why? 
Very old and very dry madeira. Sercial or Verdelho. It has acid, length for a lifetime and had layers and layers of complexity. It also gets you top pissed.

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