Noble Rot was originally formed in 2013 as a food and wine publication founded by Dan Keeling and Mark Andrew. Dan Keeling was awarded the Louis Roederer Emerging Wine Writer Of The Year 2015, and Fortnum & Mason’s Restaurant Writer Of The Year 2015 runner-up – the dude knows a thing or two about his wine and restaurants I’d say. Both are inspired by the Parisian wine bars such as Vivant & Clown Bar, driven by wanting to create something buzzy, informal, friendly and above all selling good food & wine. They opened this 70 seater restaurant in November 2015 in Bloomsbury. It’s a relatively un-tapped area for a restaurant enthusiast like myself and I was delighted when the booking was secured. Before its refurbishment last year though, it was known as Vats Wine Bar and it had been around since 1973 – way before I was born! The kitchen is run by head chef Paul Weaver who worked at St john Bread & Wine and also 5 years at the Sportsman in Seasalter.
The menu is ever changing with the seasons and not convoluted as is the wine list.
A plate of bread at £4 seems a little on the pricey side until you taste how good it really is. On the left there is a malty rye bread with treacle which was almost desert like but was balanced out by the saltiness of the butter; in the middle is the exquisite focaccia topped with onion, its crisp exterior is glazed in olive oil and last but not least the sour dough brought in by Hedone – only the best will do! We ordered a second portion to mop up all the wonderful sauces.
Hedone sour dough come hither.
First up we go for a Viano Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 £35 which was a little gem, silky soft and really easy to drink.
Calçots & Mozzarella di Bufala Campana £8.50. Creamy mozzarella with sweet green onion nestling on a sweet smokey romesco sauce – it was a wonderful dish.
Pork & Pistachio Terrine £8. This dish was a marvel of flavours – top your toasted sour dough with a hunk of terrine, slather that sweet onion compote and chase it down with a cornichon. Heaven!
Senorio Ibérico Bellota Paleta D.O.P £12. Comes with intense savoury flavour and a must with the bread to cut the richness.
Whole Mackerel £8 came from the specials – our waiter advised that there were only two left. We had to order one and it didn’t disappoint – it was hidden amongst the bitter sweet purple radicchio amongst other leaves and tasted really fresh.
Smoked Eel, Rhubarb & Soda Bread £9. Meaty hunks of smoked oily eel all balanced out by the cream cheese and tart rhubarb. It was a stand out plate of food for me.
Raw Dexter Beef, Anchovy & Sea Purslane £8. Beautifully balanced and made extra interesting by the sea purslane – I can only describe this vegetable that I’ve never eaten before as a cross between rocket and spinach.
Braised Squid & Fennel £9. Hats off to the chef on this one – the squid was tender to almost cuttlefish like when it’s slow braised. The sauce was so full of flavour which was enriched by some Ibérico Bellota fat. It was that good I even asked for the recipe!
Now for the mains – Beef Shin, Swede and Hispi £17. The beef was spoon tender as you’d expect and the sauce was sweet and lip-smackingly rich. The swede acted as a perfect vehicle for that sauce. It was utterly delicious and was my favourite main course.
Halibut Oxidised in 1998 Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru £23. I’m scratching my head as to what the former means but all I can tell you is that it was a beautifully cooked, meaty piece of fish coated in wine/butter sauce with new potatoes and wild mushrooms which went down a treat.
Roast Mallard & Puy Lentils £18. The duck cooked to a beautiful rare was pumped full of flavour. A fellow diner had a minor quibble about the breast being to rare, but it was left with just the bones that were clean as a whistle.
Damoy Bourgogne Rouge £53. Fruity and deep. It went down well with the mains.
Creme Caramel £7. Gorgeously soft intense custard flavour with intensely juicy Armagnac poached prunes. My favourite desert of the evening. Order it and you will thank me later.
Cheese Plate £10.50. (Beauvale, Saint Andrea, Tamie L’Abbaye). Go for it if you’re a cheese lover!
Lime Cheesecake and Caramelised Blood Orange £7. A perfectly balanced cheesecake that was delightful to eat but it wasn’t as good as the Creme Caramel.
When did I go? Feb 2019
The damage: Expect to pay £60-£70 per head with wine.
The good: What a great informal fun place to dine, with delicious vinot and Parisian wine bar style fare driven by British ingredients. The squid, terrine and eel are a must for the starters. The beef shin and duck for mains is the way to go. Order the creme caramel for desert too. But by the time you read this the menu may have changed, judging by the quality of the food here though, it probably doesn’t matter. Oh and their wine list is relentless!
The bad: The famous slipsole with smoked butter and paprika from the Sportsman was not on the menu!
Would I go again? Looking forward to it already.
Address: 51 Lamb’s Conduit St, London WC1N 3NB