Should tasting menu restaurants have a 'minimum charge' for drinks when guests opt out of the wine flight?

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor

Should tasting menu restaurants have a 'minimum charge' for drinks when guests opt out of the wine flight?

The question was raised on Twitter by the editor of the Evening Standard's Reveller, David Ellis, who flagged up that two Michelin-starred Kitchen Table in Fitzrovia was charging "a minimum £150 contribution to spend on the evening" - for alcoholic or soft drinks - should guests decide not to have the restaurant's £190 wine flight.

"Either way," he said, given that the tasting menu costs £300 a head, "£450 as a base rate, meaning a meal for two (incl. service) - over a grand. UK's most expensive restaurant?"

A drinks-forward restaurant

The drinks are a central part of the experience at Kitchen Table. The restaurant prides itself in serving "meticulously sourced and foraged seasonal British ingredients," relying on chef owner James Knappett's network of trusted independent suppliers.

Alongside this, famed sommelier and Artisan Champagne expert Sandia Chang - who ran Bubbledogs in the same space as Kitchen Table until the couple made the difficult decision to consolidate the business during the pandemic - sources very rare bottles from around the globe for the restaurant (and for her online outlet, The Bubbleshop).

Quality comes at a price, but what is that price?

By way of comparison, a meal at three Michelin-starred The Fat Duck costs between £250–£375 per person, (excluding drinks and service charge, though the drinks pairing is optional). At The Raby Hunt, a Kitchen Table experience comes to £300 per person; a meal at Ynyshir costs £350 - though neither stipulate a minimum drink spend.

(Meanwhile, a gold-leaf Tomahawk steak at Salt Bae's Nusr-Et Steakhouse in London costs £700).

Mention of the drinks 'contribution' has now been removed from Kitchen Table's website, replaced with a messsage explaining that its "beverage program offers both a wine pairing and a soft pairing,"  consisting of "a world-leading selection of Grower Champagnes alongside wines by the bottle and the glass, whilst the bar menu riffs on house-made spirits and liqueurs." 

With upcoming changes to Kitchen Table's reservation system on July 1st, it says that guests will be invited to choose from multiple dining options, "alongside your choice from a selection of beverage options."

We have contacted the team at the restaurant for comment and will update this piece should they respond.

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Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor 29th April 2022

Should tasting menu restaurants have a 'minimum charge' for drinks when guests opt out of the wine flight?