A new concept for wine drinking in Elephant and Castle
Diogenes the Dog is rewriting the rules when it comes to choosing wine on a night out with a new concept taking the industry by storm. With a weekly changing menu of unusual wines available by the glass, the bar regularly features on London’s ‘best wine bar’ lists from the likes of Time Out and The Spectator.
The bar is the brainchild of Sunny Hodge, who has spent ‘a lifetime’ in the bar and restaurant industry. We chatted to him about the phenomenal success of Diogenes the Dog, which opened in Elephant and Castle in November 2018 and is up for Newcomer of the Year at the Drinks Retailing Awards.
“I was looking for a niche within the industry that hadn’t been explored,” says Sunny. “Craft beers were popping up everywhere, cocktails and spirits have blown up but still wine was very much a thing that a minority of people would know and understand while the majority would cling onto brands and names they’d heard of – so it seemed to be the area that needed shaking up.”
There are no usual suspects on the wine list, instead the knowledgeable and friendly team members help customers choose something unusual.
“We want people to break away from the idea of going for the tried-and-tested Malbec or Chablis,” explains Sunny. “Not just for the sake of trying new things, but to understand what we do and don’t like so we can make more informed decisions when it comes to trying wine. We want to encourage people to try something new and not feel they need to commit to a bottle.”
Sunny fell into the restaurant trade while studying mechanical engineering at UCL. He took a job at Nando’s during the second year and by graduation he’d opened three restaurants. More recently, he helped launch Covent Garden’s Margot and has an excellent track record for achieving service awards or Michelin recognition for the restaurants he’s involved with. So, it’s no surprise that Diogenes the Dog has been such a big hit.
“We’ve been recognised really well,” he says. “The press has taken to us and the wine industry hasn’t seen the type of stuff we’re doing before. We’ve been fortunate to have had lots of winemakers come in when they’re in town and have managed to find some really good unique wines to bring in.”
The bar on Rodney Street hosts weekly blues music nights as well as monthly LGBT socials and poetry nights. For those looking to further develop their wine knowledge, there are tasting nights and private wine-tasting sessions available to book. In addition, Sunny is in talks to arrange a pop-up clandestine speakeasy event with details expected to be released before Christmas.
“We’re doing well, the team is stronger than ever but we’re still in year one. We need to keep this momentum going, but there’s a lot here for anyone into wine, music or creative arts,” says Sunny.
Just don’t ask him to choose a favourite wine. “All the wines we have on are like our children – you’re not allowed to have favourites!”
If you are interested in other places for a night out in Elephant and Castle check out: