Marano and Mancini both come from winemaking families in areas with deep-set vine roots – Mount Etna in Sicily and Siena in Tuscany respectively – and recall harvesting the family vines as children to make grape juice. They were both brought in to run the Enoteca at Mercato Metropolitano, which launched in the summer of 2016. The move to such a vibrant space championing an Italian way of life in the heart of London accentuated their passion, which spurred them to expand into Old Spitalfields Market. Their shared culture is certainly palpable at Bottles.
The new space is achingly cool – a bare-bones Brooklyn loft aesthetic, boasting low hanging filament bulbs, raw brick walls and shelves loaded with myriad bottles, showing off the sheer variety on offer. This casual, back-to-basics vibe was important to Marano and Mancini – it was to be an extension of their kitchen, with communal tables and a shared experience. “Everyone has to feel at home,” explains Marano. “We wanted a relaxed and unpretentious environment where fine wine and food doesn’t have to come with linen tablecloths and other known formalities. No frills – and a little Italian touch.”
I sample a glass of the luxurious Sandhi Santa Barbara Chardonnay (2015), a soft, creamy offering that goes perfectly with the octopus I’ve selected, which comes in a red pepper sauce loaded with roasted potatoes, olives and celery. I also opt for a bowl of velvety burrata, fresh Italian buffalo milk mozzarella mixed with cream, with a basil oil drizzled on top. Both dishes are ludicrously indulgent and delicious. The menus have been carefully created by Bottles’ collaborator, Sood Kitchen, which started out in Hackney as an Italian pop-up restaurant concept.
“We went to see them and had a single dish while waiting to speak to them,” says Marano. “We fell in love with their food straight away, we didn’t need to try anything else. When we got the opportunity to ask for help, we briefly described our project and they put up their hands.”
I’m satiated by my final small plate, a mound of mouth-watering handmade spaghetti all’Amatriciana topped with slow-cooked pork, paired with a glass of intense Zélige-Caravent Pic-Saint-Loup “Ikebana” (2015) that gives you a good slap of spice and brings out some zing from the dish. “We often favour micro-producers, the very people who are artisans by definition, who maybe can’t get involved in great distribution for mere numerical reasons,” Marano adds. “We don’t look for established names for the sake of it. We go straight to the point of selecting the best we would drink ourselves.”
To finish, I sip a flute of Amara, a Sicilian blood orange liqueur with a chunk of ice and a sprig of thyme. It’s the sort of digestif that gives a warm glow and gently encourages you to look around fondly at all the people you’re dining with. It’s the sort of experience often described as soul food – great dishes, delicious wine, a beautiful environment and all shared with likeminded people. Bottles has the whole package neatly tied up. “We know we are not reinventing hot water here, but sharing it with more people has always been an attractive proposition,” says Marano. “We just hope that people visiting enjoy the way we would experience fine wine drinking ourselves.”
67 Brushfield Street, E1 6AA. 020 3880 9002. bottleswine.bar