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Mar i Terra

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Friday 1 February 2008 3.59pm
We tried this last Thursday (Gambia Street, Balackfriars), with the fantastic Meson don Felipe tapas bar on Lower Marsh being full to overflowing and - a first? - taking bookings. I mean, for tapas!!!?

Anyhow, Mar i Terra was a good, solid second choice, and we were interested to see if things had changed since our last visit 2 years ago when the food was excellent but the wine was poor for the price and very expensive. In short, we had not been back.

Sadly, whilst we were made to feel very welcome and we enjoyed a delicious selection of excellent hot and cold dishes, the choice of wine is still the achilles heal of this restaurant. We paid 18 for one of the cheapest bottles on the menu, and it could be only described as distinctly average "mountain wine". A half decent riocha - nothing special in Spain (or come to think of it Tesco?)- will set your wallet back significantly in the order of 30 plus, removing the "cheap" from the phrase "cheap midweek tapas".

Perhaps with Brindisa at Borough and Meson don Felipe so full, people are telling them to think again about their wine menu? I certainly am!
Friday 1 February 2008 4.28pm
Seems like it's been going downhill for a while (see the restaurant reviews on this site).

[Re Achilles:'_heel ]

...if you press it, they will come.
Sunday 3 February 2008 4.31pm
Spot on. This place's wine is execrable. It's like it's the 1970s still and it's assumed none of us knows any better. Wrong!
Sunday 3 February 2008 6.42pm
and the staff have that annoying habit of demanding a tip in cash only...i prefer to make my own mind up about such things
Wednesday 27 February 2008 4.54pm
I reply as the owner of Mar I Terra. Much as I am REALLY irked by your comments concerning our wine list, I'll keep my response as temperate as possible. I accept that wine is a pretty subjective matter...but not that subjective! Simply, I'd like you to try to explain your take on our wine list. So far as the pricing is concerned, we operate a gross profit margin which is pretty much standard across the industry (if you want me to run you through that, and why the two exemplars that you use are no different - many suppliers in common, etc. - I'd be delighted) reducing that margin on more expensive bottles in order to make them more accessible. However, my real beef is with what you percieve to be the quality of the list. I have no idea of what you might mean by "mountain wine", and don't know which wine you bought, or if you felt it was in any way faulty (and if you do, in any restaurant, just let the staff know - it should be replaced without demur if it is)so it's impossible for me to comment specifically, but I take some pride in the quality and diversity of my list (bearing in mind that the diversity is limited to many of the less-familiar regions of Spain: when we first opened some eight years ago, customers looked at our globally - sourced list with bemusement). It is regarded by some - Professor Stephen Bayley, Jonathan Meads, Matthew Fort, for example as being "interesting" and "possessing the best tasting notes I have ever read". So go on, fill me in, what exactly do you think is wrong with the list? Not unfairly (or if you prefer, not untypically) priced, carefully sourced (for a range of some fifty wines and sherries, we use up to a dozen different suppliers) lovingly described (to INFORM, not to patronise)and well stored in a cool, dark, vibration-free cellar...genuinely, I'd love you to convince me that your comments are justified.

Look forward to the reply,

Lee Hulbert, Mar I Terra
Wednesday 27 February 2008 5.09pm
Execrable? Haing just posted a response to Gary5's review of Feb. 1st, I thought I'd get your take too, if possible. Our list is generally well regarded by those critics who have taken the time to review us, so I'd love to know what you don't like (appears to be, at least in part, my tasting notes: as I noted to Gary5, many, many consumers just aren't that comfortable ordering stuff with which they aren't familiar, which is why around 80% of ontrade sales of Spanish wines are either for Rioja - possibly the worst-value major wine region in Spain right now, but still a comfort blanket - or variants of house wine). I'm really happy that you have the breadth of knowledge and tasting experience to be able to order the likes of Txakoli, or Malbec from Utiel Requena with confidence but those who aren't as cosmopolitan rally like the guidance. On the other hand, the throwaway "execrable" might just mean that you don't know quite as much as you think.....
Wednesday 27 February 2008 11.14pm
Dear Lee,
just an observation from a forum lurker and SE1 resident ,this forum is a great source of info for locals,people share their honest opinions on local businesses with each other,often they disagree -and not always politely.GaryS stated your food was excellent but expressed his disappointment in your wine list,he gave his personal reasons for this and that's fair enough.He just suggests you think again about the list.
It's great that you are proud of your wine list and lovely for you that Professor Stephen Bayley,Matthew Fort and Jonathon Meads regard it as interesting and like the tasting notes.However they probably are not regular SE1 based customers and people who read this forum are. Incidentally neither of the posters directly criticised the tasting notes.Longlaner's throwaway "execrable" may not be kind but why choose to take it so personally and respond in quite a sarcastic and slightly aggressive way.I notice you haven't addressed the comment regarding your staff demanding cash tips. Whenever a local business owner responds positively to comments on this forum(even if they don't like/agree with the comments) lots of people usually say they are going to go along try the venue-as the old saying goes you catch more flies with honey.Why not give it a shot?
Thursday 28 February 2008 9.00am
The passion with which Lee Hulbert defends his business is admirable. It's good to see this, because on my two visits this enthusiasm was invisible. I must have been unlucky.

I had something that was described as being like a priorat; it was a blend of (I think) predominantly syrah and grenache, and did not obviously resemble a priorat except in offering some notes of bitter chocolate. I also drank another wine which I recall as an overcomplicated blend of about seven varietals (including the unusual Roussillon varietal lledoner pelut). Perhaps "execrable" was too strong an adjective - I apologize - but I was not impressed with these wines. All such views are subjective, naturally.
Thursday 28 February 2008 9.21am
Response to Lee Hulbert.

Thanks firstly for considering my constructive review which, in case you had not noticed, was on the whole extremely favourable - please do not be blinkered by the negatives nor immune to the praise given.

Whilst I know you will no doubt continue to be irked, I consider, nothwithstanding the so called "experts" opinions to which you refer, to retain my views on the wine list - it is expensive, and being extremely well travelled around all regions of Spain, I do know good Spanish wine. Far from saying all the wines on the list are poor - far from it - I am saying there is not a decent (subjective I know to me!) lower priced bottle as in some of the local competitors - and certainly not a riocha in this price range. Others, including yourself will have their own opinions.

As with any review, it is for others to make up their own mind (not least on the wine list) for what remains an excellent restaurant with exceedingly good food, service and ambience.
Thursday 28 February 2008 9.27am
Coogie is right. I dont actually think Lee Hulbert's response was admirable (longlaner's view) they say qui s'excuse s'accuse. Being SO resentful and scornful does not an attractive invitation make. A little respectful attention to what are completely independent opinions would be more grown up and less petulant and prima-donna - ish. I have never been to this place, and have no axe to grind whatever, but Lee Hulbert's tone has made sure that I WONT go. Arrogance is highly unattractive in service industries, and, when I last heard, the customer is the one you are supposed to please. A little humility would not go amiss Lee.
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