British restaurants to customers: Sod off

restaurant wine pricesBritish restaurant wine prices are ridiculously high, just like those in the U.S.

British journalist Matthew Bell is even more angry about restaurant wine prices than the Wine Curmudgeon is.

As he writes in London’s Daily Mail newspaper: “But if you think you’re paying a reasonable price for a decent bottle, think again. … restaurants are relying on the fact most of us don’t know much about wine to squeeze the biggest profits out of frugal diners.”

Which, as regular visitors here know, is something we’ve been warning consumers about for the past couple of years. As restaurant traffic and profits slump, they’re using wine to make up the difference – and gouging those of us who want a quality bottle at a fair price.

As Bell writes: “Take The Connaught hotel restaurant in London, which has two Michelin stars, and where a meal for two can set you back £300 (about US$381). A small glass of house white (125ml) costs £10 (about US$13). But go on-line and you could buy a whole bottle of the very same wine for just £9.70. That represents a mark-up of a staggering 500 per cent.”

There’s a terrific chart with the story showing the markups at four London restaurants – 300 percent for a couple of simple Italian white wines, 312 percent for a French red posing as a house wine, and 233 percent for another French red.

In other words, British restaurants are doing the same thing to their customers that U.S. restaurants are doing to us, and a London food critic calls it a big problem. Would that food critics in this country noticed the same thing.

And the results? Writes Bell: Those of us who don’t know much about wine are left “with an unenviable choice — either we pick the cheapest, and get ripped off; or go upmarket and spend more money, when all we ever wanted was a simple glass of wine.”