After a brief hiatus I continue with my chronological series of reports on meals eaten in London at the end of August. My previous reports were of lunches at Hoppers, a casual Sri Lankan/Tamil place in Soho and at The Clove Club, a Michelin starred hotspot of the Global Cosmopolitan school. Noble Rot is also part of the new wave of trendy restaurants that seem to have opened up in London in recent years, but while it doesn’t serve up casual Sri Lankan/Tamil food it’s also not quite in the Global Cosmopolitan school.
In case you’re wondering, I use the term “Global Cosmopolitan” to refer to the approach at the Michelin, or more accurately, San Pellegrino-bait restaurants you can now find in almost every major Western metropolis; they’re not exactly identical in terms of what they serve but they share an ethos (“fine dining by/for hipsters”) and a similar eclectic palette of flavours and techniques applied to more or or less local product. So you get your Aylesbury duck but it’s got a soy and hoisin glaze (not so much though that anyone might mistake you as serving anything as embarrassing as fusion cuisine). This is not to say the food can’t be very good, of course—I rather enjoyed my lunch at The Clove Club.
But Noble Rot, as I say, is not really in this vein. The head chef’s previous stops included St. John Bread and Wine and The Sportsman. This might suggest no-nonsense food in a sort-of vernacular idiom and that more or less is what Noble Rot serves, in hearty portions and not looking like art projects. And the atmosphere too is casual. The restaurant takes its name from a wine magazine started by the proprietors a couple of years ago (the restaurant opened at the end of 2015, I believe) and in fact bills itself as a wine bar and restaurant. There’s a separate bar menu and they’re known for their wine list (and the fair prices on it). I, however, was in the dining room proper, which was not very bright and was fairly loud, with tables not too far apart—though not so loud that conversation was difficult nor so dark that we couldn’t see our food.
I was dining with a fellow member of a food forum I’ve been part of since 2004—we’ve known each other online for a while but had never met before and so were not particularly promiscuous with each other’s food. He had eaten at the restaurant on previous occasions and made some suggestions that I was happy to follow.
What we ate
- Bread and Butter: Yes, you have to pay for it, but it’s very good. I believe the excellent sourdough came from Hedone (where I lunched the next day) and that the focaccia and soda bread were made in-house. I can’t swear to it but I’d guess that restaurants like this are required by law to make their own butter as well.
- Maldon Rock Oysters: We split half a dozen to start; or at least we’d planned to. Our very personable server seemed to have forgotten about them; we had to remind him and they eventually arrived after our first courses proper. They were very good though.
- Gazpacho, Lincolnshire Smoked Eel & Lovage: This was my friend’s. It looked very attractive and he confirmed that it was also done well.
- Slip Sole & Smoked Butter: This was mine. Slip sole is apparently baby Dover sole, and this rendition, served on the bone with paprika and smoked butter, is apparently a riff on a signature dish at the Sportsman. Very good.
- Braised Cornish Turbot & Summer Vegetable Pistou: This was my friend’s and he reported that this too was done very well.
- Seared Thornback Ray ‘Veronique’: This was mine and once I received it I really enjoyed it. I say “once I received it” because a second plate of the turbot was originally placed before me. It took a while for the correct dish to arrive but it was very good once it did. The ray (a very large portion) was perfectly cooked and the cream-laden sauce was not cloying at all.
- Black Figs, Camomile Ice Cream & Honey: This was mine.Very good figs, very nice ice-cream, no messing around.
- Greengage & Hazelnut Tart: My friend’s tart likewise looked very correct.
More words after the slideshow.
The food was very good across the board. Nothing complicated but everything I ate was well balanced and well executed. Slip-ups with the oysters and my main course aside, service was affable and good—and they made up for their errors with comped pours of wine and a very nice marsala to end. All of this plus a few glasses of (unc-comped) wine came to about £55/head all-in. If I lived in London I could see this becoming a regular haunt.