Places To Eat In London: Noble Rot, Bloomsbury
On Thursday I turned 26 years old. I carved a day out just for myself and spent the morning and the bulk of the afternoon being super indulgent either laying in or sitting on the bed eating Hotel Chocolat’s Pink Champagne Truffles (in my view the best chocolate ever made) and reading two cookbooks I’d treated myself to for the occasion, Julia Turshen’s Now & Again, and Bonnie Morales Frumkin’s so far utterly brilliant and hilarious Kachka.
For lunch, however, I hopped on the tube to Bloomsbury for a solo lunch at Noble Rot. I know a lot of people think dining alone is a bit sad, but it is something I became used to in Los Angeles, and sitting there with good food and a great book, it has turned into one of my favourite indulgences, especially if there is something on the menu which I can’t wait to try, but is not really my friends and families thing.
Now, Noble Rot is a ‘food industry’ hang out. It is where all the off duty chefs, critics and food writers come to hang out off duty, because they serve up simply cooked dishes that are a celebration of perfect techniques and ingredients. It’s technically a wine bar, not a restaurant, and I don’t think it is actually possible to have a bad meal, either in the dark, back of the shop restaurant or sitting in the brighter bar and choosing from the snacking menu of meats, breads, cheeses and other slightly more elevated nibbles at the front.
I went for the set menu that lunchtime (three courses for £20, two for £16, with just three dishes on sale without any choice) with their suggested South African white wine pairing (quit rich – perfect for my mackerel that was to come) but as it was my birthday, I ordered just two, and a trio of Whitstable Rock Oysters off the bar menu to start. They came glistening on ice, perfectly prepared with all the classic trimmings. Perfect, briny, and celebratory. You can’t go wrong – these oysters are part of the reason i’m proud to be from East Kent.
My plate of mackerel – perfect for lunchtime was just so, so beautiful. Part of me did not want to break the crisp, burnished skin. I adored the salad, the watercress was slicked with just the right amount of peppery olive oil, and the fennel and blood orange slices had been allowed to meld together beautifully, which still holding on to their individual flavours. The fish was perfectly cooked to, it just fell off the bone. My only qualm here was I wish that they had salted the skin more before throwing it on the grill, and the flesh really needed the lift.
I ordered a beautiful, ever so slightly effervescent and very affordable white from the Loire to go with dessert that was absolutely perfect. But dessert. I think the reason Noble Rot is so loved is their ability to make something so simple such a treat. The set dessert was just a plate of profiteroles with custard, but the moment I bit into the crisp, but still soft pastry shell to find each one oozing with excess, perfectly rich and balanced vanilla custard, I knew that the oysters had a strong contender for the best thing I ate on my birthday.
If you work in the area, you’re self employed just looking to get out the house (the tap water actually tastes great and comes in glasses that are just beautiful to hold) or in London for the day, set aside a £20 note and treat yourself; the starter that day was a broccoli rabe with vinaigrette which, based on the rest of my meal, I know would have been just perfect.