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Published:  23 July, 2008

Thyme, formerly located in Clapham, now occupies a site in The Hospital - a state-of-the-art arts and media complex in Covent Garden that also houses film, sound and television recording studios, an art gallery and a private members' club. The main restaurant seats 80, and there is also a private dining room for up to 12 people.

Patrick Salles hails from Paris but moved to London in March 1999. He worked at the OXO Tower Restaurant and Prism Restaurant before taking on the role of head sommelier at Andrew Turner's restaurant in The Bentley Kempinski Hotel. He joined Thyme as head sommelier in October 2004.

Key suppliers: Lea & Sandeman, Enotria, John Armit,

Champagne & Chteaux, Les Caves de Pyrene

What are the customers like at Thyme?

They are quite trendy, and we get a lot of artists eating here because of the recording studios in The Hospital complex. There is also a private members' club, which has around 800 members, and the members often come and eat here before going on to the club upstairs. Our customers are usually very happy to let us help them choose a wine and, perhaps because of their creative backgrounds, they tend to be quite adventurous in their wine choices.

What was your aim with the wine list?

I wanted to put together a very creative list that included lots of different styles of wine from different regions around the world.

Does your list have a bias towards any particular region?

I have tried to push the focus towards Italy, because I love Italian wines. People tend to think of it as a difficult area, but it isn't as long as you work on it region by region. It's a country with lots of indigenous grapes and therefore lots of different taste profiles. The wines also work really well with our food, and I try to encourage customers to try Italian wines with certain dishes. So, for example, rather than suggesting a Sauternes with foie gras, I usually propose a glass of Aleatico di Puglia from Francesco Candido. It has very delicate flavours that perfectly complement the fatty flavours of the foie gras.

Do you ever feel nervous about suggesting an Italian wine as a match for foie gras?

No, I don't feel nervous, but sometimes the customers feels a little bit nervous about accepting the suggestion! They usually really love the wine, though, so they leave happy.

Which regions or styles of wine do your customers most often request?

It's generally French or Australian wines that they ask for. Most of our customers communicate in terms of the grape, asking for a Sauvignon Blanc or a Shiraz, for example, rather than for a wine from a certain region. If they ask for Shiraz then I will start by suggesting something from Australia, and if they ask for Sauvignon Blanc I might suggest a Sancerre or a wine from New Zealand. But I will also try to introduce them to something a little bit different if I can. If they ask for a Sauvignon Blanc I might instead steer them towards a wine that is not a Sauvignon blanc but has a similarly aromatic, fresh style - they have plenty of light, crispy wines on offer from Italy! Surprisingly, however, the most frequently ordered white wine on our list at the moment is a Juranon (Clos Lapeyre) that we have by the glass.

What is your best-selling red wine?

My best-selling wine is an Austrian Pinot Noir from Nittnaus. There are two reasons for its success. First, it's available by the glass and identified as a Pinot Noir; second, it's on the list at a very keen price (7.30 a glass/29 a bottle).

Are your customers looking for Pinot Noir in particular?

People tend to identify what they like by thinking of a particular grape variety, so they tend to say that they love Chablis but hate Chardonnay, for example. With the Nittnaus, I particularly wanted the grape variety to be mentioned to give the customer confidence when choosing it.

Have you been surprised by your customers' reactions to any of the wines?

Yes, by the very positive reactions to the Aleatico di Puglia from Francesco Candido, the Nittnaus Pinot Noir and the Juranon from Clos Lapeyre. People have generally been enthusiastic about all the wines we have by the glass. It's another world for them, but they love it.

How would you like to develop the list?

Ideally, I would expand it to around 450 wines, so that I could include verticals of the best wines from Bordeaux and Italy. I would also like to develop the selection of German wines and add some Greek wines.

Do you think your customers will be excited to see wines from those regions on the list?

Not necessarily! But when I see the way people react to the word Alsace - they tend to assume that all Alsatian wine is sweet - I know that as a sommelier I need to show them what the wines are really like.

Why do you have such an extensive selection of dessert wines?

I have quite a few because foie gras is a key dish on our menu. I also had to put on as many dessert wines as I could to avoid Sauternes!

Why do you want to avoid Sauternes?

I love Sauternes, but can you imagine selling foie gras and Sauternes again and again for your entire career? It isn't a creative choice, and I would rather bring some colour to my list and encourage my customers to be adventurous.

Thyme, The Hospital, 24 Endell Street, London, WC2H 9HQ

Tel: 020 7170 9200,