Set Lunch 2 courses £22.00 | 3 courses £26.00
A la carte
Snacks and Nibbles £4.50 - £16.00
Starters £9.00 - £16.00
Mains £28.00 - £48.00 | Desserts £9.00 - £12.00
Cooking 8.5/10 | Service 4/5
Flavour 5/5 | Value 4/5
I can tell you, Messrs Keeling & Andrew, you're storing up a lot of problems for yourselves. Establishing a brand is one thing, but where you have three restaurants in reasonably close proximity all with the same name, confusion lurks not far away. In spite of knowing precisely where today's hero was to be found, I still managed to misdirect myself, stupidly allowing my phone to put the Greek Street address in. There I was, strolling nonchalantly up from Tate Britain, time a plenty. Then I realised I was 20 minutes walk away, with just five minutes till our reservation time.
Well, the taxi got there on time-ish, but the man's card machine wouldn't get a signal, and he had no change and, well you get the picture. So, arriving late and flustered I was very glad to meet waiter Andrew and accept the ministration of a glass of crisp English fizz. The inside is very similar to the Soho branch, but all on one level. Quite dark, a lot of old looking wood, and very rackety. At a table in the window, half a dozen French guys with six bottles open in front of them. There may be trouble ahead.
Because the tables are so crammed, it's impossible not to eavesdrop. Next to us, proof positive (a) that the business lunch isn't dead and (b) that on such occasions there tends to be more bull***t than business. A smiling chap from Hong Kong was regaling a suave, sockless Frenchman about the virtues of his (large) yacht. The Gallic one was best friends with the man who invented the Nespresso machine. It wouldn't have surprised me in the slightest had the conversation turned to who could pee the highest.
But I noticed that they were enjoying a bottle of Pernand-Vergelesses. Wine is taken very seriously at Noble Rot. The eponymous wine merchant's business was established before the restaurants. The list is long and serious. Unlike most places in central London (or city centres anywhere) prices are fair. If you want to sample something extra special, a bottle of which would be beyond your means, a large blackboard offers temptation by the glass. You may be paying upwards of 30 quid for that glass, but these are opportunities you won't find elsewhere.
This is our third Noble Rot experience. The sun shone brightly when we visited the mother ship In Bloomsbury a few years back (reviewed on the old site) and was out again today. The food was well up to the NR standard, and that's a very high standard indeed. Asparagus in May? Hard to go past. L didn't and was delighted with the simplicity of the stalks, grilled and garnished simply with some aged Parmesan and preserved lemon. I might have followed but a smoked eel got in my way. Served on top of a circle of potato with a creamy sauce and a generous spoonful of caviar, this passed the wow test.
Despite coming from Glasgow Andrew was surprised by what he thought was extreme dipso behaviour on our part. A few bites into the first course, he mistook my urgent signals as a request for a second bottle. Nope, just a second glass. He'd forgotten he'd taken our bottle away to chill it some more. Order restored and drinks replenished, then mains arrived. I have no idea what chef did to the borlotti beans which came with the lamb, but they were sensational. Little slivers of artichoke completed the ensemble. A generous chunk of turbot gleamed on a plate, beside some spring cabbage and cockles. There were also mouserrons. A new one on me, yet another type of mushroom. And there were mussels beside the cockles - feel a song coming on? - and a light foam. The shellfish complemented the fish, and the slight bitterness of the greens complemented the sauce. The net result was a dish which we both complimented greatly and at length.
For desserts, a choice of but three. What a selection, though. Duck egg custard tart; chocolate sorbet, sea salt and olive oil; or apricot, almond and Earl Grey choux bun. Unusually I went for a pud, choosing the latter. When you're tempted with food of this quality, it's difficult to let anything go past you.
The bibulous Frenchmen staggered into the afternoon. The Hong Kong gentleman had left early, pleading another group of people to impress. I'm not sure what we did next, but a stroll in the metropolitan sunshine followed by a well earned snooze may have been involved. I learned that day that Tina Turner had just died. I wonder if it was dining at Noble Rot that inspired Simply The Best?*
*Yes, I do know that Simply The Best was written in 1988 by Mike Chapman and Holly Knight, and originally recorded by Bonnie Tyler (though Tina asked for some modifications for her version). And yes, I do know that The Noble Rotters hadn’t set up their restaurants in 1988. Don't write in. Only one pedant allowed here.
My social secretary tells me we are away next week. See you in a fortnight.