Phoenix and Plum wine shop in St Leonards
PUBLISHED: 11:52 08 March 2016 | UPDATED: 11:52 08 March 2016
Jilly Goolden discovers Phoenix and Plum, a paradise for oenophiles and gourmands alike, in St Leonards
Wine is a compelling subject. Well I would say that, wouldn’t I? But truthfully it arouses greater passion than almost any other inanimate object. Take the owner of the new-on-the-block wine shop Phoenix and Plum in Kings Road, St Leonards. Mark Plummer, by trade a fashion photographer, became so obsessive about collecting wine and wine knowledge that it eventually drove him to open his own wine shop as a sideline. Not, as I understand it, as a business opportunity, but as an outlet for his all-consuming infatuation.
The first 40 wines he stocked in the shop were all wines he loved personally and drank regularly – he couldn’t wait to share them. And luckily for him locals seemed to be of like mind, lapping up the passion and the wines. They became regulars and now the list is 300 wines strong. Because his loyal following flooded in for regular tastings of a wide range of wines accompanied by interesting food, Mark realised he needed to expand to give more space for the tastings. More room for real food.
So he snapped up an unfinished restaurant opposite the shop last spring and opened it as a restaurant stocking all his wines. The food and wine pairing now has space to breathe. Plus there’s room for a deli and an absinthe bar too. Food at The Wine Shed is very much geared around pairing beautifully with wine and the sommelier isn’t shy about making suggestions. Mark himself, however, has to restrain himself from suggesting perfect wines, as his tastes are somewhat extravagant. More extravagant than those of his customers...
But back to Phoenix and Plum. The shop has two halves, European-dominated ‘affordable’ wine in the front and fine wine in the back. But much to Mark’s bewilderment, the big wow of the shop is the handsome oak barrels which serve wine on tap from big ugly silver bladders hidden inside. Customers buy a bottle (which can be reused) and fill up with Italian wines such as Pinot Grigio and Barbera (“not cheap, but worth it”; although Mark is a bit disdainful of the barrels, he is still enthusiastic about the contents...). Over Christmas they were removed to make space for festive indulgences, but they’re back now.