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The Hot 50

Published:  11 July, 2018

Welcome to our Hot 50 2018, recognising and celebrating the key influencers, innovators and drivers of quality drinks offers in the on-trade.

This list brings together many of the best in the business, with a focus on those who have done most to raise the bar and deliver an outstanding combination of quality, service and leadership.

Making it into the Hot 50 represents acknowledgement for the best of those who deal directly with wines, beers and spirits in consumer-facing businesses, bringing together leading lights of the restaurant and bar world. All of those featured here have shown inspiration and dedication in shaping and driving forward engaging drinks offers, while helping educate, inspire and generally lift standards for all.

We believe that the UK drinking and dining scene is – at its vibrant best – a world leader, combining excitement, innovation, experimentation, incredible diversity and amazing professionalism. And these are the people at the head of that wave, the people who make it all happen.

Harpers Hot 50, 2018 

1. Ronan Sayburn MS

Head of wine, 67 Pall Mall, London

Few in the wine trade need any introduction to Ronan Sayburn. He is the sommelier’s sommelier, who presides not only over the St James wine-lovers paradise and private-members club 67 Pall Mall, but somehow also finds time to be chief executive officer for the Court of Master Sommeliers Europe, while running his own consultancy and training business, the RS Wine Academy.

Innumerable leading lights in the on-trade have been directly or indirectly influenced by this ever down-to-earth Yorkshireman, whose professionalism and un-stuffy approach to drinks and service is a beacon for all.

2. Henry Boyes

Wine procurement manager, Mitchells & Butlers, nationwide

As the buyer for Mitchell & Butlers’ 1,700-strong estate, encompassing a host of popular brands such as All Bar One, Miller & Carter and Browns, Henry Boyes has his work cut out in deciding what a significant chunk of the nation’s restaurant and bar-going population will drink as they dip into their favourite watering holes.

Picture some 35,000 bottles of wine being sold a day, chosen from drinks lists that not only mix quality wines, cocktails and beers but are also well-honed for the vibe of each estate, and his reach and influence becomes clear.

3. Charlie Young and Brett Woonton

Co-owners, Vinoteca, London

Vinoteca may have been on the scene for some time now, but the two founders of this seminal wine-bar/off-sales hybrid group continue to deliver a near-perfect combination of Mediterranean-inspired plates and fantastic, well-priced vinous finds across their buzzing but relaxed outlets around London. They have set the bar high for all who have followed.

With six sites now under their belts and the possibility of a first venture beyond London, there looks like being no let-up, and their winning medley of wine and food remains as fresh as the day it was born in 2005 in Farringdon.

4. Kane Brooks

Beverage manager, ETM Group, London

Calling ETM a pub operator is to seriously underestimate the quality and reach of this group’s exceptional drinking and dining offer, at the heart of which operates Kane Brooks, overseeing the exemplary beverage offer.

These are high-minded gastro-boozers, pushing quality across the food-and-drink spectrum, while never losing sight of the essential individuality of each outlet – an individuality that Brooks insures is at the heart of each operation.

5. Laure Patry

Executive head sommelier, The Social Company, London

Laure Patry is the hugely respected face of wine and drinks at Jason Atherton’s Social group of eateries in London, sourcing and writing some of the best wine lists in London, always focusing on the good, seeking out lesser-known bottles and producers, with an eye to lower intervention, honest wines that sing in the glass.

Her professionalism and calm presence have been widely recognised in a career that has seen her rise from head somm at Maze to her current role, where she wields quite some power on the London restaurant wine-buying scene.

6. Christine Parkinson

Group drinks buyer, Hakkasan Group, London and international

With one of the best palates in the business, Christine Parkinson is a widely known and highly respected buyer, whose career has grown in tandem with the equally quality-driven Hakkasan restaurant group. As the concept evolved into an international icon from its original decadent underground den in central London’s Hanway Place, Parkinson has seamlessly kept up the pace, ensuring that the drinks list – whether sublime cocktails or superb wines – is matched by swish service and exemplary professionalism under her watchful direction.

7. Michael Patterson

Senior category manager – food and beverage, GLH Hotels

Having recently moved on from D&D Restaurants, where Michael Patterson orchestrated an ever-vibrant and commercially sound drinks offer across the group’s estate, he is now looking to make his mark at GLH Hotels. The group counts diverse estates and outlets in its wide-reaching and impressive portfolio, ranging from London’s exalted Grosvenor to the populist Hard Rock Hotel, by way of well-known names such as Thistle.

Based on his track record, Harpers expects that Patterson will continue to bring the same professionalism and dedication to detail that made the drinks offers at D&D’s outlets sing, mixing up popular and more challenging choices, but always in an accessible and engaging way with the customer to the fore.

8. Gerard Basset MW, MS, OBE

Proprietor, Hotel TerraVina, Hampshire

There are few articles written about Gerard Basset that don’t begin by listing the initials after his name – and for good reason. Dubbed “the nose” during his time as one of the founders of Hotel du Vin, Monsieur Basset is as ambitious and driven as he is humble about what he has achieved, mentoring generations of now top UK sommeliers in his own impeccable standards of service and wine knowledge. He continues to do the same today at his and his wife Nina’s own venture, the Hotel Terravina in Hampshire. He is a superstar in the wine firmament.

9. Diana Rollan

Purchasing group category manager, D&D Restaurants, London and Manchester

A popular face on the London restaurant scene, Diana Rollan eschewed the more obvious path that her degree in political science could have taken her down, opting instead to immerse herself in the wine world, with a career that has taken her from an early stint at the remarkable Lavinia wine shop in Madrid, by way of many years at Hakkasan Group, where she was head of wine, to her current role.

As such, Rollan now wields impressive influence, bringing her calm, quality-focused approach to the lists at the group’s near-40 restaurants and hotels, which occupy an enviable position on London’s dining scene and beyond.

10. Craig Bancroft

Managing director, Northcote Group, Lancashire

Craig Bancroft regularly appears on lists of the good and the great – and with good reason. During his tenure at Northcote Manor in Lancashire’s Ribble Valley – and more latterly the growing group of Ribble Valley Inns – he has applied an unerring professionalism to the business of buying, serving and training when it comes to drinks.

As such, he is unrivalled in the north. He has touched the careers of and upheld standards for many who have passed through his care, while doing much to raise both standards and standing across the entire drinks offer in the hotel and restaurant world.

11. Darren Blackburn

Head of bar/beverage operations, G1 Group, Scotland and nationwide

Starting out with stints at Edinburgh’s Sample Rooms then Drygate Brewing Company, Darren Blackburn’s rise continued as general manager at disruptive brewer Brewdog, before he landed on his feet in his current, far-reaching role heading up the drinks side of things for the G1 Group’s expanding empire.

12. Paul Jenkins

Purchasing director, Caprice Holdings and Birley Clubs, London

If upmarket London clubs, bars and restaurants are your thing – and we at Harpers are partial to a spot of the high life – then Paul Jenkins is your man. He is responsible for the accomplished drinks lists at a host of notable and famously swish places, including The Ivy, Harry’s Bar, Sexy Fish and the recently revamped Annabel’s.

13. Martin Williams

Founder, M Restaurants, London

Innovation and originality are the trademarks of Martin Williams’ approach to wine in the restaurant world, as fantastic lists coupled with engaging off-trade sales areas – plus features such as wines on tap – testify. He is a quality operator who is now also bringing a more relaxed taste of M to the London suburbs.

14. Roger Jones

Chef-proprietor, The Harrow Inn at Little Bedwyn, Wiltshire

The wine chef du jour, bringing unparalleled enthusiasm, knowledge and wit to the often over-egged and overcomplicated world of wine and food pairing, with a reach that goes far beyond his kitchen HQ in Wiltshire.

15. Xavier Rousset MS

Co-owner Blandford Comptoir, Cabotte and Greenwich Kitchen, London

Xavier Rousset had a long and illustrious career, being at the top of his game when he opened the 28°-50° Wine Workshop & Kitchen concept, before heading off again to apply his vinous magic to new ventures, including the hugely well-received Blandford Comptoire and Burgundy specialist Cabot.

16. Ryan Chetiyawardana

Co-owner Dandelyan, Super Lyan, Cub

King of the UK bartenders Ryan Chet has evolved from cocktail guru to master of the drinking occasion, recently adding Cub restaurant to his portfolio, while striking off in other new directions such as the collaboration with Brighton’s zero-waste restaurant, Silo.

17. Louise Gordon

Drinks buyer and head sommelier, Heckfield Place Hotel

Many years in the making, Heckfield Place is soon to open the doors to its promised oasis of luxury, having tempted Louis Gordon on board from prestigious Hampshire rival Lime Wood. Expect a similar high level of detail to the drinks offer from this true pro.

18. JJ Goodman

Owner, London Cocktail Club, London

From the opening of his first bar in 2008 aged just 24, JJ Goodman has gone on to be a key player in driving both the bar and the cocktail scene forward in London and elsewhere. He has been at the forefront of many notable trends with his own bars, while helping raise the profile of leading bartenders generally through his own dedication to the job.

19. Guillaume Mahaut

Group wine buyer and trainer, ETM

Mahout’s first serious dip into the trade was a decade ago when he assisted with the opening of Malmaison’s first gastropub, the Fox & Anchor. He has gone on to make a serious impact on ETM Group’s drinks offer, bringing an astute mix of training acumen and genuine passion for the beers, wines and spirits on his lists to bear. It’s been a winning combination for all who have experienced ETM’s well-heeled outlets.

20. Sam and Eddie Hart

Co-founders, Hart Group, London

Brothers Sam and Eddie Hart go from strength to strength, from their original openings of Spanish-inspired Fino and Barrafina, by way of Hambledon Hall to the epic revival of Quo Vadis in the heart of Soho, bringing the same passion to the drinks list as they do everywhere.

21. Clement Robert MS

Wine buyer and head sommelier, 28°-50° Wine Workshop & Kitchen, London

Who better to preside over the list at two of London’s most outstanding wine bars than master sommelier Clement Robert, who brings to the role a wealth of experience honed in several of the capital’s top eateries.

22. Hamish Anderson

Wine buyer, The Tate Group, nationwide

Buying wines, beers and spirits across the whole Tate Group of galleries in the UK, Hamish Anderson combines well-honed experience with a keen palate and attention to detail, focusing on an artistic, evolving selection of wines, craft beers and spirits with equal gusto.

23. Lyndon Higginson

Founder, The Liars Club, Manchester

Captain Lyndon, as his social media handle has it, has long been a leading light of the bar scene, both in Manchester and across the UK, continuing to open innovative and eye-catching outlets, including the likes of Cane & Grain, Crazy Pedro and Junkyard Golf, during 10 packed and busy years.

24. Doug Wregg

Wine buyer, Terroirs & Soif, London

As the UK’s leading proponent of natural and low-intervention wines, sometime merchant and restaurateur Doug Wregg has done more than any to boost the quality, reputation and understanding of this increasingly mainstream category, attracting a raft of new and curious drinkers to the wine world along the way.

25. Eileen Ginger

Procurement manager – wines, spirits and RTDs, Whitbread

With a remit that covers buying wines and spirits for Whitbread’s far-reaching estates, Eileen Ginger combines an astute understanding of what works commercially with an eye for popular but quality wines and spirits, while not being afraid of nudging the broader market of drinkers along with a well-chosen on-trend bottle or two.

26. Richard Bigg

Owner, Camino Group, London

Ex-club owner Señor Bigg has, via his Camino Group of restaurants, arguably done more for the Spanish wine category in the UK than any other restaurateur, adding broad appeal with his accessible lists – not to mention the success of his dedicated Cava and Sherry bars.

27. Charlotte Wilde

Restaurateur, Darling

Charlotte Wilde cut her teeth as one half of the groundbreaking Sager + Wilde wine bar team that launched the trend for high-quality wine in east London which still continues today. Further ventures include her hotly anticipated Darling Wine Bar & Kitchen, of which we expect great things when it opens this autumn.

28. Tony Conigliaro

Creative director, The Drinks Factory

As creative director of the Drinks Factory, Tony Conigliaro has been able to combine many elements in his varied and illustrious career to date, including ever-innovative mixology, imaginative new bar openings, writing, judging and much else besides. He remains a legend on the bar scene and rightly so for any who have ever tasted his inspiring output.

29. Mark Andrews and Dan Keeling

Founders, Noble Rot, London

With a wine bar and magazine of the same name to their credit, Mark Andrews and Dan Keeling have gained a loyal following, both in the trade and among a growing number of wine-thirsty consumers, for the unerring focus on quality and honesty in all they do.

30. Isa Bal MS

Consultant sommelier

Rising to prominence for his role in bringing to life the wine offer against Heston Blumenthal’s sublime and wonderful cooking at the Fat Duck, Isa Bal is celebrated among his contemporaries for being a true professional.

31. Charlie Mellor

Owner and sommelier, The Laughing Heart

The hugely hospitable Charlie Mellor doubles up as a fantastic host for the wines on his hand-picked, often highly esoteric but never dull list, putting him at the forefront of the vibrant east London wine bar scene.

32. Ruth Spivey

Founder, Wine Car Boot

From model to popular wine guru, Ruth Spivey has taken the concept of selling wine and shaken it up with a refreshing take on where and when and to whom it can be sold, via her imaginative Wine Car Boot format and as restaurant consultant.

33. Kate Hawkings

Consultant, Bell’s Diner and Bellita, Bristol

Writer, judge and wine-list consultant to Bell’s Diner and Bellita in Bristol, Kate Hawkings draws on her roots as a restaurateur to bring passion to the world of drinks, as witnessed on the pages of her recent, thirst-inspiring book, Aperitif.

34. Stuart McCluskey

Founder, Bon Vivant and The Register Club, Edinburgh

Few, if any, have done as much as Stuart McCluskey to invigorate the Scottish bar and dining scene, having opened and operated a host of high-quality establishments, from Bon Vivant to his most recent, The Register Club, where his trademark attention to detail and quality remain as fresh as ever.

35. Simon Bardsley

Director of procurement, Malmaison and Hotel du Vin group, nationwide

Keeping the quality high when you inherit the buying for a group that includes the name ‘Hotel du Vin’ is no mean feat, but Simon Bardsley has done a fantastic job across the 30 hotels in these boutique chains, which also serve to up the ante in terms of training sommeliers around the UK.

36. Martin Lam

Consultant and chef

Many years have passed since Martin Lam called time on the wine trade favourite Ransome’s Dock, where he was dubbed the “wine chef” for his always enticing, well-priced list. But Lam continues to inspire, consult and judge his way around the trade, spreading wisdom and insight along the way.

37. Jan Konetzki

Director of wine, Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square

From would-be baker to head sommelier at Gordon Ramsay to his current role overseeing the private wine club at Ten Trinity Square, Jan Konetzki continues to develop one of the most extensive and exciting lists in the country with his trademark professionalism.

38. Anna Botting

Until recently, group head sommelier and wine buyer at Murano, London

Polish-born Anna Botting first discovered wine while working on luxury yachts, inspiring her to travel around and live in Europe’s leading wine-producing countries. She settled in the UK, where stints at Gordon Ramsay and Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons helped finely hone her skills. Those skills are very much in evidence today as she heads up the wine offer at Angela Hartnett’s Murano.

39. Sunaina Sethi

Operations director and wine buyer, JKS Restaurants, London

From Trishna and Bubbledogs to Gymkhana and Hoppers, Sunaina Sethi has been involved in a run of inspired and inspiring restaurants, bringing a wealth of knowledge and passion to her role on the drinks side of the operations.

40. Simon Broad and Sam Devaney

Co-owners, Ten Green Bottles, Brighton

When Simon Broad and Sam Devaney took a gamble and opened their hybrid wine bar/bottle shop in Brighton’s North Laine, they showed the world that a wine bar with a cool, modern, quality-focused ethos could work outside of London, which pretty much sums up the success they continue to experience today.

41. Alex Kratena

Founder, P(our), London

A stalwart on the bar scene, Alex Kratena made his name at Artesian, where an entrancing mix of cool décor, sublime drinks and superb service were the order of the day. He then went it alone with a consultancy business and the not-for-profit P(our), with a new bar rumoured to be in the pipeline soon.

42. George Bergier

Wine buyer and head sommelier, The Victorian Chop House Company, Leeds and Manchester

A consummate professional, George Bergier is a lynchpin of the dining and wine scene in the north, having long set the standards to which others aspire.

43. Owen Morgan

Founder, Bar 44 Tapas y Copas Group, Cardiff

Passionate Spanish wine and Sherry champion Owen Morgan has managed the neat trick of turning his own tastes into a winning group of tapas outlets that have been fast converting the younger citizens of Wales (and soon, Bristol) to the delights of these underplayed wines.

44. Trevor Gulliver

Co-owner, St John, London

As a restaurateur and business partner of nose-to-tail eating chef Fergus Henderson, Trevor Gulliver has also developed a tempting sideline selling from the exclusive wine list that St John brings over from France. This is much to the delight of those who enjoy the ethos of honest quality that inspires the wider business.

45. Sara Bachiorri

Former head sommelier, Chez Bruce, London

Having originally inherited one of the best and most customer-friendly lists in London at this ever popular neighbourhood diner, Sara Bachiorri has stepped up to the bar, stamping her own mark on a perennial wine-trade favourite.

46. Tristan Stephenson

Bar consultant and co-founder, Fluid Movement

From an early innings at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen in Cornwall, where he set up the bar, to high-profile London openings such as Purl and the Worship Street Whistling Shop, plus an increasingly illustrious career as a writer and consultant via publications such as the Curious Bartender series, Tristan Stephenson continues to influence and shape the world we drink in today.

47. Nathan Lee

Owner, Hyde & Co, Milk Thistle, The Ox and Pata Negra, Bristol

Bristol’s pre-eminent mover and shaker on the bar scene, Nathan Lee is the man behind many of the city’s most memorable eating and drinking venues, always with an eye on delivering a drinks offer that is second to none, but with a relaxed and engaging vibe.

48. Emily Harman

Founder and consultant, VinaLupa

Bouncing from The River Café to Australia and back to London again, where she worked her magic at Zetter, sommelier Emily Harman then set up her consultancy, VinaLupa, which has continued to spread vinous wisdom among high-end restaurant clients.

49. Marty Grant

Co-owner, Corkage, Bath

This intimate wine bar is bursting with fantastic wines courtesy of the palate of irrepressibly enthusiastic owner Marty Grant, who follows a simple and hugely successful philosophy of buying and selling on passion.

50. Neleen Strauss

Manager, High Timber, London

On behalf of Jordan Wine Estate on The Cape, Neleen Strauss runs a fantastic South African-focused restaurant in London, bringing attention to quality of the food, service and extensive SA wine list in this compelling riverside setting.