Noble Rot: the grape escape
Pals’ mission to make wine less ‘intimidating’ has led them to create a buzzing venue that’s a firm favourite on the bar and restaurant scene
Thursday, 11th November 2021 — By Tom Moggach
Noble Rot in Lamb’s Conduit Street
BACK in 2013, two friends designed a magazine to shake up the stuffy world of wine. They ran profiles on Grayson Perry and American rappers; explored viticulture in ancient Iran and dark tales of wine terrorism in the South of France.
Now their business, Noble Rot, has evolved to be a firm favourite on London’s bar and restaurant scene, with two buzzing venues and a wine shop just opened on Lamb’s Conduit Street.
This Bloomsbury neighbourhood boasts one of London’s most envy-inducing high streets, dotted with stylish independent shops along with Aesop, La Fromagerie and The People’s Supermarket.
Halfway up is Noble Rot’s flagship restaurant, where a two-course set lunch is just £18 and a glass of vino can cost anything from £5 to more than £100. (It’s a 1985 Pauillac from Château Latour, in case you wondered).
It’s hard not to fall for the Noble Rot ethos, which blends style with a lack of pretension. You can splash the cash or grab a quick bite; order a fancy bottle or a 75ml taster from the wonderful wine list.
I popped in for lunch, settling at a table at the back illuminated by a flickering candle. This is a handsome Georgian building that echoes with a sense of history. The dark dining room is scuffed and well-worn, with acres of black panelled wood and not a hint of starched tablecloth.
Obviously, Noble Rot is a paradise for wine geeks. One blackboard lists special bottles, all available by the glass – with rare vintages stretching back more than 50 years.
One of the owners was running the show that day, regaling staff with tales of his recent grape harvest, the merits of basket presses and the perils of whole bunch maceration.
My set lunch kicked off with a warm salad of roasted Jerusalem artichokes and shallots draped with fronds of dressed watercress.
Next, a leg of confit duck on brown lentils with shredded Savoy cabbage and a hefty dollop of wholegrain Dijon mustard.
This is simple food, cooked well. Dessert, which I skipped, was to be poached pears, Chantilly cream and shortbread.
You can also order a la carte. Starters might be Delica pumpkin with burrata and hazelnuts or a bowl of steaming mussels with Morteau sausage.
Main dishes featured ox cheek with celeriac and horseradish, monkfish in a Chablis sauce and a vegetarian dish of spaetzle (German egg noodles) with Trompettes de la Mort wild mushrooms and Old Winchester cheese.
The room was bustling by the time I left, with some tables clearly settling in for the long haul.
Reserve ahead if you can and don’t forget their sister branch in Soho – a beautiful space on the site of the old Gay Hussar.
Back in the wine shop, I asked staff about the Noble Rot mindset. “They’re trying to create a culture around wine that’s not so intimidating,” said one. Top marks for their efforts, so far.
51 Lamb’s Conduit Street, WC1N
0207 242 8963