Noble Rot: a tribute to old Soho
Those who were worried about incomers ruining the Gay Hussar, the iconic Greek Street restaurant whose site the new Noble Rot Soho now occupies, needn’t fret. The owners, Mark Andrew and Dan Keeling, are far too canny for that. True, the walls are dark green rather than the deep red I remember and the clientele more 2020s Soho than ‘80s politicos but it still has that warm clubby feel. And the staff - masked, of course - are much friendlier and more engaging.
There may not be goose with red cabbage on the menu yet - but it can’t be far away. In the meantime chef Alex Jackson who used to cook at the much missed Sardine and Noble Rot’s consultant chef Stephen Harris of The Sportsman have paid conscious tribute to the old Hussar with snacks of eggs Casino (devilled eggs, piped into the whites with a retro flourish) and choux buns with duck liver pate and foie gras jelly. The latter being a particularly good match with my Hungarian furmint from the extensive by the glass list which is available by the 75ml 'taster' as well as the glass and bottle. (Wine, for those of you who are not familiar with them, is Noble Rot’s thing. They started as a wine magazine.)
Eyeing up the goulash, of which more in a moment, we passed on the game-stuffed cabbage in favour of the clams with turnips, saucisson and riesling and were glad we’d done so. Floating in a fragrant green herby sauce (made with the turnip tops, I'd guess) they showed Jackson’s characteristic lightness of touch. if you didn’t want to go Austro-Hungarian it’s a good choice.
But the goulash, which is presumably going to be the dish of winter 2020, if not for ‘grammers given how unremittingly brown it is, is essential. I’m old enough to remember the goulashes of the '70s, heavy with sour cream but this was much lighter and meatier, based both on very fine Swaledale beef and very good paprika though bizarrely served with what appeared to be colcannon rather than the traditional noodles. I picked a Greek red off the list to drink with it - the rich, spicy Dalamara Xinomavro from Naoussa - which was spot on.
It seemed rude not to try at least one dessert so we shared a sliver of plum and brown butter tart with two accompanying ‘tasters’ of 2006 Coutet Sauternes which of course bumped up the price of the meal (to £147.50 for two). Not outrageous by any means for a central London venue but more than you might expect from the relatively modest cost of each item when we hadn’t even dug into the wine list seriously or ordered the roast chicken with morels and vin jaune (which comes at £70 to share.)
We left planning the dishes we were going to have next time. (There’s also - and probably fatally - a longer wine list available via ipad.) It does seem to lend itself to a long lunch though we weren’t conscious, as we left at 9pm, that we were having an early night. If you want to avoid the 10pm Soho scrum it's the way to go.
Noble Rot Soho is at 2 Greek St, London W1D 4NB. Tel 0207 183 8190 and is open for lunch and dinner Monday to Saturday. You can find them on instagram @noblerotsoho. Ingeniously you can buy restaurant vouchers off the website to give as a gift. Oh, and it wasn't a freebie!
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