Last Updated on July 16, 2021
Noble Rot Soho – where a light lunch ends up being five courses!
I’m thinking that the idea of a birthday lunch for those writing for London-Unattached is no bad thing. It means that we explore a bit more because every one of us has somewhere on our wishlist that we just haven’t got round to trying. In the case of Mr York, that was Noble Rot, Soho – the restaurant that has replaced the infamous Gay Hussar. It sometimes seems that the heritage of every restaurant in Soho is burnt fondly in my memory. Much has changed in this part of London since I first started working in White Bear Yard for the group who owned Wheelers, Les Amis de Vin and for a while The Ivy amongst others. For me, Soho is full of memories of the best kind though no one can deny that there’s a vastly improved food offering in this part of London where the height of gastronomy at one time seemed to be a restaurant with a pepper mill and the option of a wine list with more than three options.
Our cosy table in the window was perfect and if I could pick somewhere to sit every time I go back, it would be that table. And the menu itself was oh so tempting! My intention was a light lunch. The reality was something rather different!
We started with bread and butter, radishes and Cervelle de Canut which I’ve since learnt is a speciality of Lyon in France. Based on fromage blanc, the seasoning makes a great dip for plump and rosy radishes. Apparently, the name means ‘silk worker’s brains’ – after the canuts, silk workers from 19th century Lyons.
While my companion is a pescatarian, I was able to enjoy a choux bun with duck liver parfait and Tokaji jelly. A lovely crisp exterior with a meltingly soft filling of duck liver and just a touch of sweet jelly. And so, we somehow managed to order a pre-starter…
No matter. Palourde clams with peas, fino and ham made for a light first course which both of us enjoyed (my companion had his served without the ham). The kind of dish I fully and unashamedly intend to try and recreate at home, the buttery fino sauce was utterly delicious and the clams plump and tender.
My wild seabass with aubergine, frigatelli peppers, lentils and salsa verde came perfectly cooked with lovely crisp skin and flaky flesh. Pan-fried and finished in the oven it was light enough for a summer lunch yet comforting enough for the miserable wet weather we’ve seen for much of July. I loved the sweet, melting aubergine too, though it’s not a vegetable I’d have imagined served in this way with fish.
My companion ordered the petit aïolï with salt cod, octopus, vegetables and eggs which came with a good dollop of golden yellow mayo and a perfectly cooked half egg.
Dessert? Well, we procrastinated and ended up ordering two. For me a chocolate mousse with brandy prune and hazelnut biscuit and for him roast apricot crêpe and noyau ice cream. Both delicious – but we wouldn’t have expected anything less.
And then…well, I had explained that it was a birthday celebration…fresh madeleines with our coffee. Perfect!
We started the meal with a glass each of Michel Gonet 3 terroirs blanc de blancs champagne, which at £12 for a 2013 vintage was a fine option. Then, at the suggestion of our server, I went on to enjoy a glass of 1987 Selbach Oster Riesling Halbtrocken ‘Zeltinger Sonnenuhr’ from the Mosel. Now, I’m usually cautious about ordering Riesling – but this was quite delicious and unexpected. At £11 a glass I felt it was also something of a bargain. My companion’s Belluar, Gringet ‘Les Alpes from Savoie was also excellent. The wine list by the glass at Noble Rot is well structured and if you happen to be into pairing your wine and food, you can have 75ml half glasses, something I really appreciate when I find it!
This is the kind of place I’m pleased to have been introduced to. And the kind of place I’ll go back to, although perhaps next time I’ll try to stick to two or three courses!
Noble Rot Soho
2 Greek Street
London W1D 4NB
For more options of restaurants in Soho, do check our guide.