Restaurant terminology and slang (Front of House)

I’ve worked in a number of restaurants, bars and pubs both in the UK and Canada and enjoy that hospitality has its own lingo. Some terms are used universally, some are used in specific styles of restaurant and there are differences in different countries. I have grouped together terminology that is predominantly used by Front of house staff as kitchen terminology probably deserves its own page! I haven’t included the brilliant traditional American diner slang as this is a specialty unto itself. I hope its useful for people getting into the business and maybe baffled by some of the terms heard around the restaurant.

86 – Something has run out and is not available to order. e.g. ‘Tarte Tatin is 86’ed’

À la carte – Menu where individual courses can be ordered freely. q.v. Set menu

All day – Usually used in the kitchen referring to how many of something is available to be ordered. e.g. ‘I’ve got 8 T-bone steaks all day’

Alongside – Usually accompanied by ‘on your right/left’. A warning to someone when approaching their side, usually holding plates/tray of drinks to make sure they don’t step into you.

Amuse (Bouche) – Pronounced ‘amooz’. Literally ‘amuse the mouth’. A small bite specially made for a customer that is off-menu. Usually offered by the restaurant as a favour to a VIP or for a special occasion.

Auction – When you come to at a table with food or drinks and don’t know who has what and have to ask, customers usually raise a hand like in an auction. e.g. ‘Who’s having the beef ? Who’s having the chicken?’

Away – Used as a term to make and serve drinks/food ASAP when they have been held. Courses are usually held waiting for the tables to be cleared of the previous course. Drinks can be held for a particular course to be served, especially when part of a pairing. e.g. ‘Drinks away on Table 60’

Backed up – When you have a lot of orders waiting to be prepared or made. Usually indicated by a crowded rail jam-packed full of order tickets

Back of house / BOH – Broadly speaking refers to the kitchen and its staff.

Backs – Called out in warning when you are behind someone, especially if you or they are carrying a tray or plates. If you hear this don’t step backwards or you can move forward slightly out of the way! q.v. behind

Banquette – An upholstered bench seat against a wall with a table in front, and chairs on the opposite side. Sometimes shortened to ‘bank’

Bar Service – Usually refers to a bar or pub where drinks and sometimes food has to be ordered at the bar with a bartender rather than via a server at the table. q.v. Table service

Barback – Someone who works at the bar but usually not making the drinks, although they can when asked. They are usually washing/polishing glassware, prepping garnishes, keeping fridges stocked, replenishing ice, washing cocktail tools. Often bussing tables to get glassware back to the bar or glasswasher

Behind – Called out in warning when you are behind someone, especially if you or they are carrying a tray or plates. q.v ‘Backs

Bevnap – Beverage napkin. A small black or white paper napkin used to serve drinks on or for general use at the bar. Also known as a ‘cocktail napkin

Bill – Usually in the UK rather than North America. An itemised run down on paper of what you ordered, their cost, service charges and total. This is what you pay for your meal and drinks. Ask for it to show you’re done and ready to leave! q.v Check/Cheque.

Bill-fold – (or Bill-folder) A leather, plastic or cardboard holder for the bill or check to go in when presented to a customer or dropped at a table.

Blocking Sheet – A list of all the reservations and times/tables allocated and for how long. Also known as a Reservation Sheet.

Booth – A partially enclosed seating area for diners, usually on three sides or else in a corner known as a ‘corner booth’

Briefing – A quick meeting before a service to let staff know relevant information. Usual information would be 86s, number of covers, dietries, VIPs, customer flow as well as specials, new menu items or any drinks/food to push.

Brigade – The kitchen team

Booking system – The computer program or application used to take bookings/reservations, keep guest notes and allocate tables.

Burn the ice / Burn the well – To pour hot water over the ice in the ice-well behind the bar. This is usually done if there is a chance of contamination of the ice with broken glass or food/drink.

Bus – To carry something to a table or more often, to clear and carry plates/glasses from a table back to the dish pit

Bus-pan – A plastic rectangular tub for carrying dirty glasses/plates to the kitchen or dish-pit.

Busser – A person who busses. i.e. runs food/drinks and clears tables, but doesn’t take orders from guests. Rather archaically still called bus-boy by some restaurants. q.v. food runner; commis waiter

Butler service1. A form of service where food is taken to the table and the customers’ side in serving dishes and the customer then serves themselves with serving spoons. Very rare these days, but still seen with dining in private homes.
2. Sometimes refers to servers walking around with trays of canapés at a reception.

Call – Used to indicate that a dish or drinks need to be made or served after being held. e.g. ‘Call wine for table 32, mains are being served’

Campers – Customers who have effectively finished their meal and drinks, sometimes have even paid their bill and are sat chatting and not ordering, sipping free tap water.

Captain or Waiter Captain – Used in the USA as a type of Head Waiter or Chef de rang. Oversees service for a particular section or the whole floor if in a smaller restaurant.

Carafe – A small, open glass container to serve wine from. Usually half bottle (375ml) or 500ml in size. Generally used to serve a portion to share of the by-the-glass wine selection.

Cash-out – Term used to indicate a table have paid their bill/check. e.g. ‘I cashed out table 20 just now’

Cash-up – Totting up of the days takings. Includes physical cash and card payments, making sure actual money taken matches money billed.

Casual dining – A form of dining or restaurant that has simpler food and settings. Usually food will come out quickly and service will be less formal. Prices are generally more affordable. q.v. Fine dining

Chef de rang – A French term for a Head Waiter that is charge of a section. In the US often known as a Captain

Check-back – A quick return to a table that has recently been served their meal. Checking that everything is as it should be and an opportunity for guests to ask any questions or mention any issues with the meal.

Check (cheque)1. Predominantly North America. An itemised run down on paper of what you ordered, their cost, service charges and total. This is what you pay for your meal and drinks. Ask for it to show you’re done and ready to leave! q.v Bill.
2. Another word for an order ticket or chit. The piece of paper that contains the drink or food ordered. Usually heard in the UK.

Chef’s Table – A table very close to the kitchen where the guests can watch the chef and kitchen brigade at work

Chit – The piece of paper that contains the drink or food ordered. Can be hand written or printed from the POS. Usually ordered at a station or terminal. The orders are then printed at the relevant station, i.e. food goes to the kitchen, drinks to the bar. Mostly North American. q.v. ticket, check.

Cloche – In the front of house it refers to a metal dome that can be placed on a customers meal to keep it warm when they are away from the table.

Cocktail napkin – A small black or white paper napkin used to serve drinks on or for general use at the bar. Also known as a ‘Bevnap

Commis (Waiter) – Commis is a French word for ‘clerk’ or ‘assistant’ and it is used widely in restaurants as a general term. Frequently for the ‘commis chefs’ who work under the Head chef and sous chef(s). For front of house it refers to junior members of the team who don’t take orders from customers but bus or run food from the pass to the table, as well as help clear tables. They also hold the trays of dishes when a restaurant uses tray service. They may well have other duties like polishing cutlery or folding napkins. q.v food runner; busser

Commis Somm – A junior or assistant sommelier. Their job is to support the sommeliers, and may well prepare wine, retrieve wine from a cellar, decant or pour the by the glass wines amongst other duties. Usually on their way to being a sommelier or taking sommelier certification or other wine qualification. Usually found in larger fine-dining restaurants.

Comp – To give something for free, from ‘complimentary’. e.g. ‘Comp the wine on table 30’

Complete 1. Often used when waiting for a table to be fully seated after guests arrive at different times for the same booking. e.g. ‘Is table 12 complete yet?
2. Also used as a term to make sure an order is finished and ready for service. e.g. ‘Is this ticket for table 41 complete?’

Corner – Called out in warning when walking around a blind corner, especially high traffic area where servers are carrying trays of drinks and plates of food.

Covers – Number of customers. e.g. ‘We have 80 covers booked for tonight’ this means that there will be a total of 80 people dining unless there are any walk-ins.

Crockery – Plates, dishes and bowls etc. q.v Flatware

Cut – When your shift is ended before your scheduled time. Usually because business is slow and not as many staff are needed and you get sent home.

Cutlery – Knives, forks and spoons q.v. Silverware

Cutlery roll – Or roll-up. A simple way of rolling up a knife and fork in a paper or linen napkin. Usually used in casual dining.

Dead (plate) – A plate of food that’s been sitting on the pass so long it cannot be served. Also a drink served with ice or chilled that’s been sitting on the service bar too long that it’s warmed up or the ice has melted and diluted the drink too much.

Decant – Pouring a whole bottle of wine (usually red) into a decanter for serving at a table. Generally to allow the wine to breathe, open up and soften tannins, or else to separate from sediment often found in older red wines.

Deuce – A 2-top, a table of two.

Dietaries – Dietary requirements and/or allergies for any customer. e.g. ‘Are there any dietaries on table 2?’

Dine & dash – Diners/customers who eat and walk out without paying.

Dish-pit or Dish-wash– The sinks and area where pot and dishwashing are done. q.v. Pot-wash

Double – Two shifts back to back in one day. Usually working a lunch and dinner service.

Double-seating  – When 2 tables (or potentially more – triple-seating etc.) are seated at the same time in one section. This means a tough time for the server to get them served quickly. Generally servers will discourage the host/hostess from doing this!

Drop – Take something to a table. e.g. drop the bill on table 14.

Drowning – When you are well and truly In the weeds, and overwhelmed by customers and orders and can’t get ahead. qv. Going down

Dry ice – An ice bucket that is filled with ice and no water, so that wines are not submerged and over-chilled. q.v. Wet ice

Dupe – Duplicate order ticket or chit. Some printers or pads have carbon copies so they can be used in two separate stations.

Dying – When a dish or sometimes drink served with ice has waited too long on the pass or service bar and is degrading. Food gets cold and ice melts into the drink. Eventually they will be dead if not served

English service – The serving of food at the table from serving dishes by a waiter/server. Also known as Silver service when served from silver serving platters. Can occasionally mean the head of a table serving food and diners passing it down to the appropriate person. This second meaning is not used in hospitality.

En suite – Next. e.g. ‘Finish pouring the wines for table 12 and I’ll have the beer for 14 en suite’

Event sheet – A document containing all the relevant information for a special or larger event booked at the restaurant or in a PDR. q.v Function sheet.

Expo – Expeditor. The person who checks and does final assembly for a dish at the pass and give the OK for it to be run to a table. Also can read out orders as they arrive. Often the sous chef or the Head Chef.

F & B – Food and Beverage. Used as a shortened term. Often in conjunction with another term. eg. F & B Manager.

Family meal – A staff meal for all the staff at a restaurant. Usually made by a junior chef and served before service commences. Also simply known as a ‘Staff meal/dinner’

Family style – A way of serving in some casual dining restaurants, mostly in North America where serving dishes are put in the middle of a table and diners help themselves.

FIFO – Pronounced ‘fee-fo’. Acronym for ‘First In, First Out’. Refers to stock rotation of any perishable goods including food, beer, mixers etc. Guided by ‘Use-by’ or ‘Best before’ dates (or ‘Brewed-on’ for some beers in the US). i.e. The products that were purchased first need to be sold first to ensure no product sits in fridge or shelves going ‘off’, loosing freshness or quality.
In the US sometimes can mean ‘full hands in, full hands out‘ akin to Hands in, hands out

Final order/ticket/check – The last food order of a service is taken and/or put through the POS. The end is in sight! q.v. Last ticket etc.

Fine Dining – A style of restaurant that has high levels of service, cuisine and wine list. Tables are often covered with white table linen. Usually very expensive and serves complex food.

Fire – Start cooking a certain dish, usually used in the kitchen or on a POS. Can also be used for drinks in the same way as ‘away’ . Often as a message sent via POS by a server when a customer has finished one course (appetisers for example) and the next course is due to be made, or simply called out by the Head Chef in a kitchen. e.g. ‘Fire mains on table 16’

First-in – First customers waking through the door of a particular service. Usually discretely called out to the FOH team to stop everyone chatting and drinking their coffee on the floor.

Flatware – North American term for plates and dishes etc. Can sometimes include cutlery. q.v. Crockery

Flip – To describe a table that has two or more seatings in a single service. The table will need to be cleared, cleaned and re-set for the next customers. e.g. ‘Table 20 needs to be flipped at for 8.30’ q.v relay; turn

Floor – Literally the restaurant where all the tables are, the Front of House e.g. ‘We have a total of 10 staff on the floor tonight’

Flow – The rate at which guests are due to arrive. Also ‘Customer flow‘ i.e. 12 at 6.30, 14 at 7.00, 18 at 7.30, 16 at 8.00. etc. Sometimes most reservations can all come within half an hour of each other. this would be a bad flow and could cause issues.

Food Runner – Takes food from the pass to the table, but doesn’t take orders from guests. Effectively the same as a busser or commis waiter.

Front of House/FOH – A term which refers to the room and staff who face and/or serve the customer and are not based in the kitchen. Includes the Bar staff, wine team, servers and managers.

Function sheet – A document containing all the relevant information for a function, often a meal in the PDR such as dietaries, pre-ordered wine, guest list, special menu etc. Also known as an Event sheet

Gratuity/Grat – An optional service charge or tip

Going down – Also ‘Going down hard‘. the term when you’re well and truly in the weeds and backed-up and are way behind on processing and taking orders. The restaurant or department (kitchen/bar etc.) is behind and can’t keep up with the orders coming in. q.v. In the weeds, Drowning

Gueridon – A trolly where food or wine is served from table-side.

Guest – Hospitality term for a customer.

Guest notes – Many top restaurants keep notes on their guests so they can better serve them next time. Usually noted are if they are a regular, table preferences, wine spend if high, complaints made in the past and dietary requirements amongst many things.

Gum check – The worst bit of side work. Turning over tables and chairs to clean off any gum that’s been stuck underneath.

Hands – Called out when help is needed to run food or clear a table.

Hands in, hands out – A motto that refers to making sure when you are on your way somewhere (kitchen, dish-wash, bar etc.) if there something you can take with you or return then do it. Walking empty handed when there are glasses, dirty dishes etc. that could be taken with you is a big no-no!

Hand-over – A quick briefing when finishing your shift mid-service and you hand off to another server who’ll look after your section.

Head Sommelier – Person in charge of wine for the restaurant. Usually qualified externally and experienced in the wine trade as well as hospitality. Oversees the wine team and often includes all bar staff in their remit. An Assistant Head Sommelier would be their second-in-command.

Head Waiter/Waitress – Lead server on the floor. Some large restaurants have more than one who would be in charge of a large section. Sometimes called ‘waiter captain‘ in the US.

Heard – Usually called out in the kitchen when an order is shouted out or vocalised, as an acknowledgement that it’s been heard and understood.

Held – Meals and drinks are often held or ‘on hold’ so they are served at the right point during the evening. Commonly wine that is part of a pairing is held until the relevant course is served.

Host/Hostess – This is the name of the person who greets customers at the door, checks their reservation or allocates tables to walk-ins. Sometimes known as reception.

Hump – The toughest, busiest part of a service.

Ice bucket – A bucket designed to be filled with ice or ice and water to chill wines or other chilled beverages.

In the weeds – (Sometimes ‘In the shit’) A term to describe a situation where the staff of a restaurant cannot keep up with the orders or demands of the customers in reasonable time and is extremely Backed-up. Can refer to both Front and Back of House. Not a good place to be in. q.v. Going down

Last call – Last chance to order drinks. Often due to liscencing restrictions. Usually used in North America. q.v. Last orders

Last order/ticket/check – Another term used for Final order etc.. The last food order of the service.

Last orders – Last chance to order drinks. Mainly UK term. q.v. Last Call

Last-in – The last reservation/table has come in on a particular service and been seated

Linens – Collective term for all the table cloths and napkins that are used in the restaurant. They get sent to a laundry every night.

KP – Kitchen Porter – A role within the kitchen. Usually does the washing up and other cleaning.

Maitre D’ – This is the person in charge of the floor of a restaurant. Sometimes referred to a restaurant manager or floor manager. Oversees all aspects of service and customer care.

Mise en place – A term used to mean everything in the correct place for service. Often shortened to ‘mise’. For the front of house this is usually the table setting. It can also refer to the bar set up of cocktail mixers and tools, fruit for garnish and knives etc. Sommelier stations also will have mise en place, with corkscrews, cork extractors, service linen, spittoons and a candle etc. A term also used widely in the kitchen.

Mods – Modifications. These are customer requested changes to an order. e.g. ‘Can I have the sauce on the side and no mushrooms?’ These changes get written on the ticket or entered into the POS when the order is made or sometimes communicated verbally to the kitchen.

No show – A customer who has made a reservation, hasn’t turned up for their booking and has failed to call and cancel. The enemy of all restaurants!

Off-site – Not at the restaurant. Usually refers to restaurants providing catering services with a mobile kitchen and service staff to cater private events. Known as Off-site catering

On Deck – An order that is in line to be made. The ticket will be on the rail and will be prepared/poured imminently. e.g. ‘I need the drinks for table 24!’ – ‘Yup it’s on deck’

On the fly – To request an order immediately, often jumping the queue of order tickets. Usually asked if something is very urgent, often when something has been forgotten to be ordered.

On the rail – Used to explain where an order ticket is. e.g. ‘Have you got the wine order for Table 4?’ – ‘Yes, got it on the rail

Out – With a number in front of the word, it refers to minutes until something is ready. e.g. ‘5 out for mains on 33’ means 5 minutes until the main course is ready for service.

Pairing – A drink, usually wine that has be chosen by a sommelier to be drunk with a particular course. The wine will compliment the food in this case. Sometimes pre-chosen as part of a tasting menu.

Party – A group of customers for a single table. eg. ‘Party of 6 have arrived for table 12’

Pass – The pass is the area that sits between the kitchen and the floor. It is a large shelf where plates are finished/checked by the expo and are then taken by either a commis waiter or a server to the table.

PDR Private Dining Room – A room or sectioned-off area which can be reserved or hired for a private meal or function for a group.

Petit-fours – Small sweet treat, usually bite-sized and served for free at the end of a meal.

Pipe and Drape – Literally tubes on stands that hold large black drapes to temporarily divide off areas at an event. Also a slang term for the off-site event catering industry.

(To) Plate – To put all the food on a plate ready for service. e.g I’m plating up the order for table 6 now’

POS – Point of Sale. The electronic touch-screen ordering system. q.v. terminal

Pot-wash – Station where dishes and kitchen pots etc. are cleaned q.v. Dish-pit

Prix fixe menu – A fixed price menu of a number of courses that usually can’t be mixed with other menu items.

Push1. To actively try to sell something. e.g. ‘Can everyone push the fish dish tonight’
2. To work hard and focus over a particularly busy period. e.g. ‘Let’s really push for the next hour and we’ll be over the hump‘.

Put a rush on it – asked when something is needed quickly.

Rail – The metal clip that holds order tickets in the kitchen and bar etc.

Relay – A term used when table is being turned for a second or third seating in a single service. e.g.’There’s a relay on Table 12 at 8pm’ qv. turn; flip

Reservation sheet – A list of the reservations, times and tables etc. for a given service. q.v. Blocking sheet

Reset – As in to reset a table. To lay cutlery and glassware on a table during a service when turning a table between reservations.

Reso – (pronounced ‘rezzo‘) Short for ‘reservation’.

Roll-up – A cutlery roll. Cutlery rolled up in a paper or linen napkin.

Run – To carry an item to a table. eg. ‘Can you run those drinks to table 15?’

Scripting – The act of describing a meal or the specials table side.

Seating/seated – Refers to a table being seated with guests. e.g. ‘There’s a seating on table 51 in 10 mins’ or ‘Have you seated table 12 yet?’

Section – An area of the restaurant where certain staff are allocated to serve. Each server may have their own section to work in.

Server – Modern, un-gendered term for a waiter or waitress

Service – Usually refers to the period of time that covers a meal with all the seatings in the restaurant. e.g. lunch service or dinner service. 2. Called out when a dish or drinks order is ready to be run to a table

Service bar – A bar where drinks are prepared, mixed and poured but is not open for customers to drink at or order anything.

Service charge – A formal way of charging a customer a gratuity or tip. Some restaurants add this to the bill as a preset percentage which the customer can choose not to pay. Sometimes compulsory for large group bookings.

Service linen – The cloth napkin that is used by servers or sommeliers to hold and wipe wine bottles or holding plates amongst other jobs.

Set Menu – A menu that is fixed and guests cannot choose different options.

Setting – The cutlery, napkin and glassware set on a table ready for a guest to sit down for their meal.

Shift – The period worked which covers prepping and clearing up time before and after service, unless you are cut

Shitty ice – Ice used for drinks and cocktails that has started to melt and looks bad in drinks as well as diluting cocktails too much.

Side work – (AKA side duties) Extra work that is required and done when staff aren’t busy with urgent tasks. Examples might be doing cutlery rolls, folding linens or the dreaded gum check

Silver service – Serving food from a silver serving dish by the table at the guest’s side. q.v. English service

Silverware – North American term for cutlery.

Slammed – Extremely busy with many guests. e.g. ‘We were slammed last night, I’m totally exhausted today’

Sommelier – A person with professional wine knowledge. Serves and recommends wine and pairings to the guests. q.v. wine team

Specials – Meals or sometimes drinks that aren’t on the regular menu and may only be available for a limited time of a day or two.

Spike – As a noun it refers to the metal spike that order tickets are speared onto when they have been made and served. As a verb it is the act of spearing the ticket on the spike. e.g. ‘Can you spike your tickets so I know they’ve been done?’

Station – For front of house this is an area with a cupboard/drawer and often a POS terminal that contains everything required for service such as napkins, cutlery, trays, bill-folds, cleaning sprays and just about anything that may be required by a server during service. A somm-station is one that is prepared for opening and decanting wine by a sommelier.

Still room – In larger fine dining restaurants a small area where teas and coffees are made and served from. They can also dispense water carafes for the tables.

Stemware – Wine glasses and other stemmed drinks glasses. Mainly North American.

Supplement (Supp) – An additional charge on a bill, usually for a dish that has an expensive ingredient when part of a set price for a number of courses. i.e. When you can pick 3 courses for a set price, but if you choose the fillet mignon there is a supplement on your bill.

Table service – Type of restaurant service where orders are taken at the customers’ table and food is delivered. Most restaurants use table service.

Tasting menu – A multi-course meal of 5 to 10 small courses showing off the skills of the chef and the kitchen, showing a variety of styles and cuisine. Offered with pairing wines or other beverages that compliment the different dishes.

Terminal – The POS screen that is usually located at a servers station where orders are put into the system.

Ticket – Or ‘order ticket’. The physical paper that orders are printed or written down on. They are either automatically printed at the relevant station, kitchen or bar or delivered by the person taking the order. also known as a chit. q.v. Check

Tip – A gratuity, usually a percentage of the bill added on for the staff, not the restaurant or its owners. q.v. Gratuity

Top1. Used in combination with a number referring to how many seats or guests seated at a table. e.g 2-top, 4-top etc.
2. Also refers to the actual interchangeable table-top you can put on the table legs to allow various numbers of guests. i.e. one set of legs with a ‘4-top’ on it may be upgraded to a ‘6-top’ by putting on a larger table-top.

Top-upServers and sommeliers keep the glass of a guest filled up at their table with wine and sometimes water from a bottle, carafe or decanter.

Tout suite – Immediately! eg. ‘I need those canapés tout suite!’

Tray service (food) – Style of service where all the dishes for a table are taken from the pass to the table on a tray, usually by a commis waiter or food runner and they are then placed in front of the customer by a server or waiter/waitress.

Tronc – A system used in the UK where all service charges are pooled and distributed via payroll. It allows the gratuities to be taxed. Many jobs advertise an annual salary, but in reality around 20 to 50% of it is paid via the tronc payments , not the restaurant itself.

Turn (Tables) – When a table has more than one seating in a single service, it needs to be cleaned and reset for the next guest. e.g. ‘we need to turn tables 10, 12, 20 and 32 tonight’ q.v. relay; flip

Turn and Burn – In casual dining when getting guests served and finished quickly to maximise sales and turnover of tables. (Mostly North American)

Up – Ready, in the context of food or sometimes drinks. e.g. ‘Foods up for table 2’ or ‘order up!’

VIP – Very Important Person. Usually noted on the reservation in the guest notes. Ideally everyone gets the best service, but VIPs may get a complimentary drink or an amuse bouche.

Vocalise – To relay an order or repeat an order verbally.

Walk-in1. Customers who don’t have a reservation and come in hopeful for a table with no prior warning.
2. Short for walk-in fridge or cooler, the large refrigerator used as the main chilled food storage unit.

Water a table – To pour the initial glasses of water for a table just after they sit down before any orders are taken.

Wax a table – To chat to a table of guests and make them feel welcome and special.

Wet Ice – An ice bucket filled with ice and water so that bottles can be partially or completely submerged. This is used to quickly chill wines down that are too warm or keep certain wines very well-chilled. q.v. Dry ice

Wine cooler – A walled metal or plastic container for bottles that keeps wine relatively cool with no ice that can be put on tables. Metal wine coolers can be kept in the freezer before being used for better effectiveness.

Wine fridge – A fridge specifically designed to store all wines for service. The temperature can be altered to suit sparkling wine to red wine. Some fridges have 2 or more zones so that different types/colours of wine can be stored at different temperatures in the same unit.

Wine Team – The group who buy, advise, serve and choose parings of wine for the restaurant. Led by the Head Sommelier (sometimes called a wine director but this can potentially be a role off the floor at group level if the restaurant is part of a larger company) with an Assistant Head Sommelier and possibly a few sommeliers and commis or assistant sommeliers. Other bar staff may come under the Head Sommelier’s management in smaller restaurants.


Sherry – A guide for keeping and serving

Sherry is one of the wine world’s under appreciated gems. Seen as old-fashioned or something cheap and sweet that your Gran drinks at Christmas, Sherry is passed by without a glimpse by many a wine-lover. A lot of the tentative approach can also be put down to lack of knowledge and understanding. There are different styles and sweetness levels from bone dry to sumptuously sweet, with a range of flavours to suit every oenophile palate. One of the gaps in many people’s knowledge is how long it lasts once open, and what temperature it should be served.

Wine Chaser’s Guide to Sherry Service

How long does on open bottle of sherry last?

Here is a handy guide that covers the main styles of Sherry so you need wonder no longer! One thing that is severely misunderstood (especially by pubs and restaurants) is how long a bottle of sherry lasts once it has been opened. All wines evolve and deteriorate when open to oxygen, but here I have been fairly conservative where I feel most Sherries will hold on to the qualities that we value before the decline is noticeable. Don’t be afraid of using wine saving devices like a Vacuvin to give a greater protection. Of course different styles can survive for different periods of time, but 3 key rules to follow are:

  • Keep sealed tightly
  • Keep dark
  • Keep cool/cold

What temperature should I serve sherry?

These are of course suggestions and personal preference on temperature may well vary. A rule of thumb is that the paler the Sherry, it is usually best consumed cooler. Also very sweet styles of sherry can benefit from being served ‘cellar’ temperature as it helps prevent the sugar become too cloying. Complex sherries shouldn’t be served too cold as many of the subtle nuances may well be lost. A quick note on the range of time given to VOS and VORS sherries. These are sherries of 20 and 30 years of age and advice from producers varies considerably so care needs to taken. (A delicious VORS sherry wouldn’t last anything like a year in my house so wouldn’t be a problem!!)

Summer bargain from Sicily

Great wine doesn’t always cost a fortune and having run out of wine at home (horror of horrors!) I rushed over to the little Co-op up the road with zero hope of finding something that would give my tastebuds a workout. I grabbed a white from Sicily from the Grillo grape. I have to admit the ‘retro’ label did appeal in the heat of the moment, but I was well rewarded for my £7 investment.

The Vanita Grillo has lovely lemony gold hue and bags of baked lemon flavour, with a dose of dried herbs and a touch of almond skin. This gives plenty of bang for your buck. All this refreshing flavour is matched by some balancing acidity, keeping this wine zippy and bright.

Grillo – The grape variety

Grillo is a grape that finds its home in Sicily and although it’s better known as one of the key grapes that makes the fortified (usually sweet) wine Marsala, It can make simple dry whites that offer ripe lemon and yellow apple flavours and better versions can add almond and savoury herbs. Coastal vineyards may give a whiff of salinity too.

Producer: Vanitá

Grape Variety: Grillo

Cost: £7 (Co-op)

canstock13419042 canstock13419042 canstock13419042  Recommended – 89 points

A day out at Denbies

IMG_20140419_105215My girlfriend took me out for a treat recently, and knowing my penchant for wine and vineyards whisked me away to our nearest winery. Denbies is a short walk from Dorking station, so unlike most wineries around the world, you don’t need a car or taxi which keeps the price down and more importantly allowed us to drink without a designated driver or handing over a wad of cash to a cabbie.

IMG_20140419_105828 (1)
Denbies main entrance

The lane leading up to the main building is flanked by vines and opens out to a strange architectural blend of Tuscan villa and English barn conversion where the visitor centre is located. The feel is of enthusiastic British amateurism rather than sleek professionalism and we are led into the 360 degree cinema ‘experience’ by a wonderful Camilla Dagey Fritton type lady (The headmistress from the St Trinian’s movies) with more than a touch of Joyce Grenfell about her. The 360º cinema was entertaining and informative if a little hard on stiff necks!

We progressed down to the nerve centre of the winery, where the tanks, barrels and crusher/distemmers were housed, and were given various titbits of information and knowledgeable answers to our questions. Past the gyro-pallets and now-redundant riddling racks we meandered, and stepped through to the cellars to be confronted with a giant map of all the blocks of different vines ( a bewildering 17 or so varietals), and a tasting. We paid extra for the sparkling tour, and I’m glad we did as that is where English wine boxes in an international weight class, and more than manages to stay on its feet. In fact we were told that John Worontschak, the head wine maker, wanted to devote a greater percentage of Denbies’ output to sparkling, but was over-ruled by the ownership. 

IMG_20140419_112358We started with the sparkling Seyval Blanc – Whitedowns Cuvée NV. It was a pleasant, light and fresh flavoured fizz with notes of citrus, a hint of breadiness and pleasing acidity. This offered surprising value for money and showed off a non-vinifera grape producing a quality wine.

The sparkling rosé was next made from 100% Pinot Noir, and although I was not overly impressed for the price, the others in the tour group loved it, so it definitively had its fans.

The final taster was the Broadwood’s Folly, made from Seyval Blanc and Reichensteiner. Simple, light stone fruit dominated with racy acidity and a crisp finish.


The next stage was a ride on the wine train through the vineyards with our entertaining guide. The ‘train’ was in fact a Land Rover pulling three wagons around the property, showing off the wonderful views of the Downs and the 107 hectares of vines.We were told of the history of the property pre-vineyard and about the journey from a spark of an idea to the founding in 1986 to the present day successes and gongs at international wine competitions. All this while sipping on a glass of sparkling wine.

Denbies is well worth a visit, and being a short trip from London makes it accessible to an awful lot of people, locals and tourists alike. Apart from a couple of strange wines made from imported grapes, only available in store, It’s well worth tasting the Surrey Gold (a best seller) and the crisp sauvignon-esque Bacchus as well as the fizz. English wine is improving all the time, with the sparkling leading the charge, so it’s time to try what it has to offer as vin anglais is not the punchline to a joke anymore.


Verget – Macon Charnay and Pouilly Fuissé

Verget are a relatively fresh face on the wine scene in Burgundy having only been founded in 1990. They make a number of wines from various Burgundian appellations but I wanted to focus on two choices from the Mâconnais. This district is often a by-word for fair but slightly generic chardonnay, with the village appellations being a hit and miss collection of producers in terms of quality.

Verget are keen to change people’s preconceptions about the Mâcon and want to show off their quality and terroir.

wwf250600_macon_charnayVerget Macon Charnay ‘Les Clos St. Pierre’  2010 £15

This type of appellation is a step up from the basic Mâconnais as it has the name of the village appended to it’s name. This means that the grapes are sourced from a more specific area. This Chardonnay from the village of Charnay has a light bready aroma with sweet pear and grapefruit aromas that pleasantly linger.

It has a balanced level of acidity on the palate and delicious notes of pears, ripe yellow apples, a hint of yellow peach and a note of light toast.

This is certainly an improvement on the more generic Mâcconais wines but the price is a step up too.

canstock13419042 canstock13419042 canstock13419042   (Recommended)

88 points

wwf318904_pouilly_fuisse_verget_vergisson_2011 Verget Pouilly Fuissé Terroir de Pouilly Les Combes Vieilles Vignes  2011 £23

A named village is another step up from the wine above, and Pouilly Fuissé is probably the best known one in this part of Burgundy. Verget have done this appellation proud with this delicious wine.

The aromas of peach, grapefruit and spiced pastry reach out of the glass. The flavours don’t disappoint either, with toasted brioche, nectarine, baking spice and ripe peaches that linger on the lengthy finish. This wine has a balance and finesse that makes it worth the extra money.

canstock13419042 canstock13419042 canstock13419042 canstock13419042  (Highly Recommended)

90 Points

The joy of buying wine – a bygone pleasure for most?

“Well that`s the cat food sorted, now for a bottle of Hardy`s!”

Wadebridge Wines
Wadebridge Wines in Cornwall- No Kitty Litter here!

It is the reports from the CBC that British Columbia is thinking about allowing liquor sales in supermarkets that inspired me to turn the TV off and write. Many Canadians feel left behind more ‘progressive’ nations like the US and UK, that have had alcohol available in grocery stores. In those ‘progressive’ countries years ago, supermarkets like Costco, Tesco and other large grocery chains  did not stock wine, and when they did it was only a small selection of some basic mainstream stuff, a few Lindeman`s,the Le Piat d`Or range and a selection of Gallo wines. The real wine lover would make their way to the high street specialist store or a good independent wine merchant. Perusing the shelves, glancing at labels, and taking the bottles out, twisting them in your hand to feel the glass and their weight,  and the best part, talking to those who plied their trade in a side of the industry that certainly did not pay well, but gave an income to those whose passion lay inside dark green glass.  The chat to a good wine store clerk or manager was part of a continuing relationship, the more regularly you visited the better the recommendation would be suited to your taste. I may be accused of some misty eyed romanticism, but the local wine merchant was one of the last traditional shops that graced almost every high street; it is now only in a relative few towns and cities that still have a store with experienced wine-obsessed staff.

It`s not just the UK, but the spiritual home of wine, France, has lost many of its small independent stores, with the now ubiquitous hypermarché on the outskirts stocking a myriad of mostly French wines, where the majority of French drinkers do their shopping. The US mega grocery chains like Costco and now Walmart stock many branded wines at knock-down prices, edging out the small guy.

supermkt wine
I wonder if this is any good?

The figures make depressing reading. In the UK almost 90% of wine is bought at a supermarket and 80% of that is bought on a deal. Think of those 3 for 2 “bargains” that Oz Clarke recently questioned the veracity of on the  BBC`s consumer affairs program `Watchdog`. So why should we mourn the declining numbers of specialists? Well the God of convenience and keen prices can be a rather disloyal deity for those worshipers, as supermarkets are starting to reduce their range as they have discovered that some of the more interesting wines are hard to sell when the average punter is staring at rows of bottles on their own, with no-one to guide them.

Now there’s a store clerk whose opinion I can trust!

So with the closure of many stores, the supermarkets have a massive share of the market and are reducing choice, leaving us with rows of brand name `cheap` deals, but far less competition in the high street. It`s up to us, the consumer, to vote with our wallets, but more importantly get back to building a relationship with an expert merchant, not just with wine but meat, fish, bread and beer too and leave the supermarkets for the dull things that require no thought or expertise.

So while British Columbia,Canada, my former home, considers to allow liquor sales in supermarkets and grocery stores, remember that while you may gain convenience, you will lose personality, choice, real value and the human experience that makes shopping for wine a genuine joy.

Domaine de Vaufuget Vouvray 2009

vaufugetDomaine de Vaufuget Vouvray 2009 $29 (Spec)

I tasted this one a long while ago and bought it for a store I was the buyer for at the time. On a visit to Firefly Fine Wines and Ales in Maple Ridge, BC to say hello to some old colleagues (and check out how the selection was progressing!) I saw a few bottles on the shelf and knew I had to have one!

This Vouvray is a medium dry style (made from Chenin Blanc) and has a lovely aroma of acacia honey, honeysuckle flowers, ripe golden yellow apples, and juicy pears. The palate delivered a great balance of mouth-watering acidity, ripe cantaloupe, apples, pears and touch of minerality in the background. This is delicious and worked well with the chunk of Port Salut (washed rind) cheese I had with it. You could easily try this a Goan fish curry or some fruity, spicy Thai food.

If you don’t know Chenin or a scared of an unfamiliar French appellation then I assure you won’t be disappointed with this wine – so give it a go!

canstock13419042 canstock13419042 canstock13419042   (Recommended)

89 points

Where’s my French Paradox?

french-paradoxMy dreams of a healthy, cheese and wine filled life were dashed on the rocks of cholesterol and liver health yesterday, when my doctor broke the news that I drank too much and probably ate too much rich dairy produce. My usual, cheerful reliance on what is known as the “French Paradox” as I guzzle down as much Brie and Bordeaux as possible (not necessarily at the same time!), is now a distant memory as I try to rebuild a rather broken liver and reduce worryingly high cholesterol levels with green tea and leafy vegetables.

For the uninitiated, the French Paradox is based on the fact that the French consume large amounts of wine and cheese and seemingly have an ability to remain in rude health. (it is of course more complicated than that and the fact that the Mediterranean French don’t live on fried eggs, pizza and chips might  just have something to do with it)

I knew it was probably too good to be true as I can only dream of the Mediterranean lifestyle, and probably fell well short of the other part of this particular paradox, that is consuming more fish and vegetables than a shark with a salad problem. I had better learn a bit of restraint – well at least if I have to drink less, I will make damn sure I will drink better! Always look for that silver lining!

Girard Petite Sirah 2010: A Vancouver Wine Festival re-visit

ImageGirard Petite Sirah (Napa Valley) 2010 $45 (Spec) BC

I tasted this delicious wine at the Vancouver International Wine Festival a month ago, and decided to buy a bottle before I left as I wasn’t sure if it was available outside the special festival wine store. As with any re-visits, whether new friends, wine or house-hunting, one is never sure if that first impression was  a true one or not. Those new friends aren’t nearly as fun and charming as you remember; that amazing house you were just about to put an offer on seems to be situated in a not-so-salubrious street, and that wine you had a sip of (after an afternoon of copious tasting) might not be that ‘100 pointer’ you were waxing lyrical about in the wine bar afterwards.

Well, I took advantage of the fairly new ‘Bring your own bottle’ laws in British Columbia, and made use of a gift certificate for a franchise of steak restaurants for my birthday dinner. The service was good, and after the manager checked our bottle (to bring a bottle on their wine list would have been a faux pas punishable by refusal of corkage) we were led to our table where we ordered cocktails. I had to explain to the young server that a classic margharita is served in a cocktail glass without ice, or extraneous exotic fruit, but I was well accommodated, and a decanter was provided for the wine.

Petite Sirah is not a grape I drink much of as a single varietal, but I will happily search more out after my experience with the Girard. (or should I just search out more Girard wines?)

There was an intense nose with cocoa bean, black cherry and blueberry jam, and the palate picked up where the nose left off. Great concentration of fruit without being cloying or flabby and a waft of sweet herbs and cocoa powder on the finish. There was a touch of grip to the tannins, but not enough to detract from my enjoyment, in fact the meat seemed to suit them.  This wine had a decently long finish and went well with my sirloin steak. It should keep quite well for 5 years or more, getting spicier with age no doubt!

If it wasn’t for the complimentary ice cream cake for my birthday, I would have been tasting the Girard Petite Sirah all the way home, but I couldn’t resist free pudding!!

canstock13419042 canstock13419042 canstock13419042 canstock13419042  (Highly Recommended)

90 Points

Does the world need another wine blog?

After blogging about beer for three years at The Beer Wrangler, I was often asked why beer and not wine? This might seem a strange question, but those who know me knew I was spending vast sums of money and much of my spare time (not much with a full time job and baby girl) learning about wine. I had started my  3 year part time WSET level 4 Diploma, as well studying for my Court of Master Sommeliers certification. It would make much more sense to write about the subject I was studying morning, noon and night.

Well craft beer became my escape from my studies, my down time and palate cleanser… oh and I love good craft beer, but that’s another story (well, blog anyway!) In September last year I finally passed the WSET Diploma (I did the CMS Certified Sommelier 18 months before) and could really start enjoying wine without the pressure of study and exams.

So does this answer the question: does the world need another wine blog? The answer is absolutely not, but I will start one anyway! I hope that it is interesting to at least one person other than me, and I would love any thoughts from other wine lovers, amateur or professional (I don’t discriminate!) as all are welcome.

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