Thor Gudmundsson and Richard Okroj: The Brackenbury Wine Rooms

Thor Gudmundsson and Richard Okroj: The Brackenbury Wine Rooms
The Brackenbury Wine Rooms is the smoking hot destination where more than just the wine is red
‘Bewildered locals spotted the head of a cigarette puffing red stag being carried inside.’

For months the former restaurant on a corner of Hammersmith Grove was, quite literally, a building site. Rumours were rife about what was going to open on one of Brackenbury Village’s busiest roads. Speculation reached fever pitch when bewildered locals spotted the head of a cigarette puffing red stag being carried inside. Then, a life size model of a cow’s head was seen being led into the adjoining shop. Fears that a taxidermy store was coming were scotched this August when the Brackenbury Wine Rooms opened for the area’s many food and drink lovers.

The bistro-style venue is a relative of the popular Kensington Wine Rooms and Fulham Wine Rooms. Perched on the wall in pride of place is the stag, a papier mâché work of art by British sculptor David Farrer. In the neighbouring delicatessen, called La Cave, the cow is on guard.

Thor Gudmundsson, a Brackenbury resident, and Richard Okroj are the entrepreneurs behind the wine rooms. Their concept is as simple as it is, well, complex. The pair wanted to ensure all their customers received the perfect glass of wine. But wine kept overnight in an already opened bottle can become unpalatable very quickly. The oxygen trapped in the bottle degrades its body, aroma and colour. So, Thor and Richard use £8,000 high-tech Enomatic wine dispensers which guarantee a fresh glass served at exactly the right temperature. ‘We give you a free card that you charge up with cash, then insert it into the dispenser and select either a sample or small or large glass.’ says Richard. ‘The beauty of it is that these machines keep wine fresh allowing us to offer a range of up to 40 wines, starting from £3 and going up to £90.’ Thor adds, ‘For those who don’t want to spend hundreds of pounds on, say a bottle of Château Lafite, they can have a taster or just a small glass at a manageable price.’

For those needing to hear the comforting sound of a popping cork or want advice on what to choose, the wine room’s staff will serve a bottle ranging from £18 to £340 for 1994 Château Angelus, a Grand Cru Classé from St Emilion in Bordeaux, at your table. ‘We ask customers what their tastes are. For a red the question would be whether they want something light and refreshing, something medium, or something full and bold,’ continues Richard. ‘Because we have a large selection we can pinpoint what they are after.’

‘Coincidentally we are on the corner with Amor Road, which must be good karma for dating.’

For Thor, whose parents are Icelandic and who spent much of his early life in France, the wine bar is very much back in fashion, in part because it is family and female friendly, whereas pubs can be perceived as still dominated by men. ‘Women can come here without worrying about getting hit on,’ he says, adding that the terrace for 50 people has proven a romantic spot for first dates. ‘Coincidentally we are on the corner with Amor Road, which must be good karma for dating. ‘We’ve seen the wine dispensers act as an ice-breaker because couples get up, move around and have fun choosing their wine. It certainly avoids any awkward moments of staring blankly across the table.’

Visitors can also choose from a range of bar plates as well as a competitively priced a la carte menu. There is also a children’s menu.

Their next door deli, La Cave (open 7.30am to 7pm), is a wine shop and café serving Workshop Coffee from Clerkenwell and a selection of pastries. ‘The pastries have to be spot on because the area has a growing French population,’ Thor adds.

The two businessmen met when Thor, who was born in London, set up pubs and micro-breweries in France, and Richard, originally from Nottingham, became a manager. They opened their first wine rooms in Kensington in 2009 and then Fulham the following year. Thor says that Brackenbury seemed the next logical location. ‘The area has a lively community and village atmosphere which helps any new business,’ he says under the watchful eye of the red stag. SB

The Brackenbury Wine Rooms
020 3696 8240
111-115 Hammersmith Grove
London W6 0NQ

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