The magazine may have came first, but this wine bar and restaurant, under chef Paul Weaver, is offering a wealth of innovative food and wine pairings, says Tom Vaughan
It's been three years since record label A&R man Dan Keeling (responsible for signing Coldplay, among others) teamed up with wine buyer Mark Andrew to crowdfund the first issue of Noble Rot - a lively publication that proved an immediate hit for its accessible and unpretentious approach to wine. Then, last November, the pair decided to extend the brand into a bricks and mortar premises, snapping up a gloriously Dickensian wine bar on London's Lamb's Conduit Street.
An early masterstroke was to rope in Stephen Harris, chef-patron of the Michelin-starred Sportsman in Seasalter, Kent (and cousin to Keeling's wife), as executive chef, who in turn installed one of his own protégés, Paul Weaver, as head chef. The result is a menu that has the Sportsman's DNA - simple, clean flavours and exquisite, often handcrafted produce, without any high-concept frippery.
As a wine bar as well as restaurant, a huge part of the draw is the use of the Coravin system, providing up to 30 bins by the glass.
There's also the kid-at-Christmas enthusiasm that runs through the list. On our visit, the chalkboard was marked up with the likes of a Pichon-Longueville Baron, a Pauillac 1975 (£19/125ml) and a Domaine Roulot Meursault Les Vireuils, 2013 (£26/125ml).
The wine list, written in the same unstuffy style as the magazine, pays particular homage to the owners' burning passion for Burgundy.
Helping meld the dual restaurant and wine bar aspects is a constant flow of information between kitchen and front of house. "They let us know what's coming in, what's good, and we meet in the middle," says Weaver. "There's definitely a synergy between the two of us."
In return, Weaver's cooking gives a large enough canvas for the guys in the cellar to have some fun -"Nothing too out there. Not too in your face," Weaver explains.
The chef's stunning gazpacho (£8.50) is the perfect example.
With August's tomatoes at their best, he blitzes some up with a splash of sherry vinegar, then adds a few nuggets of smoked eel from Lincolnshire's Dutch Eel Company, some chive oil (six bunches of chives blitzed with vegetable oil) and a few judicious leaves of lovage.
"I'm a big fan of lovage, but you've got to be sensitive with it," he says.
With it, a gloriously mineral, almost flinty, Envinate Taganan Blanco 2014 from Tenerife (£8/125ml) - a tie-in with the volcanic focus of the August issue of the magazine.
Borrowed from the Sportsman is the starter of slip sole and smoked butter (£9) - a variation of Harris's slip sole in seaweed butter. Weaver makes his own butter from Normandy crème fraÁ®che, mixes in smoked paprika, smoked salt and Espelette pepper - to "add a background note of heat" - coats the slip sole in it and finishes it under the salamander.
"It's becoming something of a signature dish for us," says Weaver. It's paired with a SchÁ¤fer- FrÁ¶hlich Riesling Trocken 'Vulkangestein' 2013 from Nahe, Germany (£11/125ml).
Weaver's time at the coast clearly still inspires the menu - witness a main of ray Veronique (£18).
"It's a great plaice dish, but being a wine bar, we thought we'd do a twist with ray - one of our favourite fishes," says Weaver. The kitchen makes a sauce with Noilly Prat, turbot stock, tarragon and double cream, and adds white grapes to finish - a classic Véronique that perfectly complements the meaty ray.
"It's also one of those dishes that is a great pairing with wine - it can go with a lot of white wines," says Weaver.
The match was knockout - the Jean Christophe-Garnier 'Les Dreuillees' Chenin Blanc 2006 from the Loire (£11/125ml) almost tastes like a Normandy cider.
The standout dessert is a warm chocolate mousse (£7) made from adding El Rey 73% chocolate to whipped cream and egg whites.
The mixture is then kept warm in a foam canister for service, where it is accompanied by some crème fraÁ®che and Maldon sea salt. This is also the most 'gadgety' the kitchen gets.
"People are always shocked when they see how basic the kitchen is," says Weaver. "I treat it as a compliment."
From the menu
•Senorio Ibérico bellota paleta DOP £14
•Black pudding, apple and watercress £8
•Burrata, romesco and Grelot onion £9
•Roast Gloucester Old Spot shoulder, Coco de Paimpol beans and green sauce £18
•Venison haunch, Hispi cabbage and cauliflower £23
•Braised Cornish turbot, San Marzano tomatoes and tapenade £26
•Gnocchi, ricotta, Scottish girolles and sweetcorn £15
•Seared Thornback ray Véronique £17
•Blackberries, camomile ice-cream and honey £7.50
•Greengage and hazelnut tart £8
•Cheese plate £10.50
Noble Rot, 51 Lamb's Conduit St,
London WC1N 3NB
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