Visiting RAW a month ago was a perfect opportunity to check out a couple of restaurants that had been on my watch list for some time. In all honesty, it was quite the decadent weekend and I’m afraid that I am still packing a couple of pounds extra as a semi-permanent souvenir, but it was worth it. Three restaurants plus a copious English breakfast (twice!) could not be gotten rid of with a week of fasting I’m afraid!
First up, Noble Rot, a winelover’s Walhalla. Dan Keeling and Mark Andrew, the driving forces behind the restaurant initially started Noble Rot as a magazine but opened their own wine bar/restaurant near the end of 2015. Anyone who has ever read an issue of Noble Rot, which I would certainly recommend, can see that it differs from the more mainstream wine publications. It oozes passion and presents a fresh take on wine, not driven by consumer demands, focus groups or what merchants are pushing to sell. They simply want to share the experiences and wines that they love. Granted, with their rise to fame the tone has shifted a bit, verging on starfuckery at times, aimed at both UK celebs as well as winemakers/estates at times (a bit of a miss for non-UK people). Nonetheless, the magazine is one of the most entertaining and informative reads in the wineworld, right up there next to my other favourite, Le Rouge et Le Blanc, so if you are looking for a different take on wine, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better read.
When it comes to the wine list, it is hands down one of the best that I have yet encountered, both when it comes to interesting, individualistic choices as well as value and just plain fun. I found it amusing that a large part of the wine list can be mapped to the travels documented in the magazine. Burgundy plays a large role, both in white and red, as does Piemonte or the Northern Rhône. The selection from other regions is impressive as well, but I did get the impression that it was not treated with the same degree of care. The Riesling selection for example contained a couple of errors (in particular the German wines) and there was one wine that appeared twice, but with a different price! Regardless, these are nitpicking errors and do nothing about the fact that I spent about half an hour simply browsing the list in an effort to pick just one bottle.
We started with The Rotter, a refreshing mix of d’Yquem Sauternes 2 (a non-vintage wine that is apparently not commercially available), lime, mint and ice that was actually a great accompaniment for the first two dishes, Burrata, Romesco and grelot onion, which was absolutely delicious and some of the best burrata that I have eaten in a while, and Gazpacho with smoked eel with heirloom tomatoes and drops of chervil oil. This was stunning, so fresh and packed with flavour yet light and simple at the same time.
My eyes landed on a couple of almost ancient vintages of Nebbiolo. The producers did not ring a bell, but I knew the reputation of Northern Piemonte for longevity, even beating out Barolo so why not give it a shot? The Spanna 1967 (Gattinara) from the Berteletti brothers did not show too well at first, damp and foresty, but it opened up slowly in the glass. Structurally speaking it was a naked wine, perhaps a couple of years only past its prime but still containing substance, freshness and depth. There was something savoury dominating near the end which would have been interesting to see develop, but by then the bottle was empty!
As for matching the wine with the food, it was a miss. We had guinea fowl with truffle cream sauce but I unfortunately skipped over the cream part when pairing it with the wine. With the guinea fowl itself, a good match, with the truffle cream, not so good. On its own the food was great though, juicy meat with crunchy skin and a sauce not to overbearing, if only I had chosen the right wine to pair it with.
All in all, Noble Rot is not only to be visited just because you are into wine and like a fair dose of geekery, but also because it is an opportunity to experience real passion. Going through all the wines that caught my eye on the list could easily keep me entertained for years, and the food is exactly what it should be; a focus on prime ingredients, simplicity and flavour without becoming needlessly complex. The level of confidence and ease shown only a couple of months following the opening is impressive and given that there is a lot more in the pipeline when it comes to exclusive tastings or events, I will not miss an opportunity to visit again on a next visit to London.
Bill total: GBP 156 for two
Wine total: GBP 58 for the wine, GBP 9 for the aperitif