Lindsey Bennett finds a cultivated atmosphere in a new magical drinking emporium
I often lament the closure of the Wonder Bar in Selfridges, London. A perfectly executed and fantastically enjoyable wine bar overlooking the bustling ground floor of what remains the Platonic ideal of a department store.
On the marble balcony one could quaff small servings of expensive and normally inaccessible wines, nibble on charcuterie and cheese, and observe the transactions in the ever-essential gentleman’s accessories department. It was one of my favourite places to drink and with store closing hours at 8pm you could never outstay your welcome or rack up too costly a bill – helpful on my lowly salary.
I’m sure anything can and will happen at Ropes & Twines too
Until now, with the opening of Ropes & Twines in Ropewalks, there’s never been a suitable replacement in my affections (either north or south), thanks to Liverpool’s utter lack of modern wine bars. No disrespect to the likes of Keith’s or Penny Lane, but they skew greatly towards the rough-edged urgent energy of beat-generation bars where anything could happen.
I’m after a venue with a more cultivated atmosphere for the twenty-first century foodie, where grape, bean and protein have all been chosen with extreme care based on taste, provenance and supplier, rather than cost.
But this is Liverpool, so with a grand piano casually placed in the room, begging to be played and an enigmatic owner I’m sure anything can and will happen at Ropes & Twines too.
I was initially rebuffed on my first attempt to visit this magical drinking emporium; it looked open enough with a smattering of people laughing and drinking wine inside, but it wasn’t. Staff and various guests were enjoying a private visit from a wine supplier. Slightly irked, I made a more successful visit the following week - perhaps a hero must be tested before crossing the threshold to find their treasure.
Ropes & Twines is a long space decked out in cool greys, whites and blues with sleek equipment including an Enomatic wine dispenser that allows bottles to be maintained so that affordable servings of pricier wines can be offered. There’s an intriguing tension here with the cool palette; glass and sleek metals suggesting one thing, but a closer look (pointed out by the owner) reveals a design chosen to encourage warmth and interaction. Coffee machines are implanted into the freestanding bars in front of the barista rather than behind, engendering conversation.
The three bars resemble the ‘dash dash dash’ of Morse code (an ‘O’ to save you a Google) and don’t have sides, so guests can see behind the bar and the staff can wander fluidly. Cosy grey sofas make a lounge space at the back end, which affords a more intimate evening if you wish.
So, with that sparkling Enomatic beckoning, we giddily chose four sample sized 50ml glasses each to start us off - though wines are available by glass or bottle. The owner, taking a seat at our table for an unhurried chat - guided us in our choices of both wines and cheeses. Charcuterie is also available - all selected from small farms that slaughter less than six animals a week.
Cheese and charcuterie largely comes from Italy, but the wine’s provenance is broader. I sampled a delicious old vines Californian Zinfandel (£6.10), fresh New Zealand Riesling (£10.50) and Argentinian Torrontes (£6.40) alongside a vivacious Italian Gewürztraminer (£8). We ate a generous portion of olives (£3), Taleggio and Berbis Fermier cheese with toast and fig (£10 for two items of charcuterie or cheese); plus a slab of Gorgonzola - which we hadn’t ordered, but it’s the owner’s favourite and he wanted to share it.
This almost off-hand generosity continued with a free sampler of a neutral palate cleansing white wine - Zibibbo from Sicily and a final glass of the most elegant, dry Prosecco which was entirely off menu and felt like the giving of a magical potion to restore vitality before we went out into the bracing autumnal winds.
There are regular featured wine tasting evenings held in the cellar, and capped at ten people. Coffee, bagels and home bakes are served throughout the day, including the much talked-up cheesecake made by the owner onsite.
Ropes & Twines is also home to Light Box, meaning it functions as a gallery dedicated to photography taken on film. The current exhibition, Simon Gabriel’s recent archive of images from Merseyside, bolstered the entire essence of Ropes & Twines – carefully curated, sleekly presented and with that certain unmistakable Merseyside charm that can’t help but pervade most everything done in the city by its wholly original natives.
Ropes & Twines, 70 Bold St, Liverpool L1 4HR
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Food and wine
Welcoming, patient, funny, generous and a little bit off-key
Friendly, artsy, mellow, and swanky all in one