Stephen Nisbet

How long have you been at the restaurant?

Since 2015.

What attracted you to become a sommelier?

To work with a product and in an environment that are constantly evolving with passionate professionals.

Where did you do your training?

I started in Scotland at The Balmoral Hotel and WSET, and continued in some of the best hotel & restaurant in UK such as The Fat Duck and Great Eastern Hotel.

What would you say were the essential skills required to be a sommelier?

To be discreet, be able to ‘read’ a table / situation / body language, to be able to find opportunities for upselling / reselling for the business but only where it may suit the guest, never pushing. Up to date knowledge and ability to use resources are also a must in any profession.

What are your thoughts on the “Red wine with red meat, white wine with white meat and fish” age-old debate?

For me there is no debate. Cuisine, and people’s taste & understanding has evolved far beyond when this idea was formed. I have myself been delighted with peers’ suggestions for fine pinot noir with salmon & ratatouille, and excellent full chardonnay with steak & béarnaise.

How does the choice of the right wines complement the different food courses served?

I think of a well-matched wine as adding a further ingredient or seasoning to a dish. The combination will often be to suit an element of the dish such as a garnish or sauce as it may end up as the prominent flavour/texture.

What’s the best part of your job?

Constant exposure to great producers, ingredients, venues, recipes, ideas and people

And the worst?

We’re busiest when most people aren’t working which means evenings and weekends become your office hours. I’ve also heard it said we are very ‘exposed’ in our role on the floor when anyone can walk in, be themselves and ask anything about the food & drink

What is the unusual wine that you have ever tasted and why?

Vouvray Le Haut Lieu Moelleux 1924 Huet; an old sweet wine that was brown with age and had re-fermented in the bottle making it slightly sparkling. Still tasted incredible.

What is the most money that you’ve ever seen spent on a single bottle?

£18,000.

How many wines do you have?

2144.

How often do you find that customers complain about wine being corked and – in your opinion – how often do you think that they are right?

We taste all wines ourselves in front of the customer after opening so it’s more often the staff who send back & replace bottles. Very occasionally a fault does not manifest itself until a short time later in which case the customer will usually let us know they are not happy about the bottle. Regardless, if a customer isn’t happy we will gladly open another or something else.