I have a confession to make: I am late to most culinary trends and “best kept secrets”.
I had never been to the Gay Hussar, the restaurant that used to be in these premises. I actually barely knew anything about it, its fame (used to be frequented by politicians on their old-school long lunches) or the type of cuisine it cooked (Hungarian), until it was threatened with closure.
And then it was finally closed and boarded up, and I never had the chance to visit, and then it spent quite a bit of time shut, and I would cycle past it and never give it a second thought (there’s only so much you can be saddened with before everything drags you down).
Then a couple of weeks ago Devvers said we should visit the restaurant as it had just opened.
The new name (Noble Rot) sounded familiar but I didn’t quite know why. Reading an article about the opening, I figured out why: the original Noble rot restaurant is in Lambs Conduit street, which is part of my former cycling commute!
I have another confession to make: I was quite grumpy when we arrived to the restaurant.
I would have rather stayed home, to sulk and revel in the fact that I’m quite tired of… being home all the time for the last seven months. Of course, the little rational bit left in my brain saw this contradiction and thought it would be good to go somewhere. But by god, was I grumpy… It took all of my willpower to be nice or at least neutral to staff at the restaurant.
But enough background…
The space felt quite cosy but with lots of room between tables—the ambience was dim and got even dimmer later (we said it was maybe “the romantic hour”). You could still see where your hands were and what you were eating, though!
The starters were fabulous: tasty, fresh, without being overpowering.
We were really curious about the “Egg Casino”, and I was disappointed that it didn’t come with a mini roulette, dice or playing card or something of the sort. The celeriac and ricotta in the salad were great, but it was the hazelnuts in it that were “roasted to perfection”, to use the words of M, our Iranian friend, who knows a thing or two about roasting nuts. The little choux bun should have been described more like a little soft fluffy parcel from heaven. And the pâte… the pâte was superb… and I was so sad that it had to eventually be finished! I also enjoyed the sherry I had with these. I was starting to feel less grumpy…
Then the mains arrived.
I had ordered a very nice Sicilian wine paired with the trout and its plenty of peppers; Devvers went for goulash (can’t remember which wine!). Neither dish exhibited that cardinal sin that many restaurants commit, where all you can taste is the peppers or the tomatoes or the paprika (or worse: the cooking oil).
No, this was properly executed. You tasted the perfectly cooked fish and you tasted the delicately-falling-apart meat, and they both were really delicious, distinctive, masterfully cooked.
The desserts were also great: the pear tart was sweet but not so sweet that the pear is soggy and sad and tasteless; the chocolate mousse tasted of chocolate, not of sugar or salted caramel or any trendy nonsense like that. I was not grumpy by then anymore. I think I even smiled!
The drinks were all marvelous; we got really specific and descriptive advice on the wines, and the suggested dessert pairings were perfect. The restaurant truly lives up to their buzz as wine experts.
And then a surprise: a glass of fizzy on the house because we were celebrating “a special occasion”—I did not know they knew or that Devvers had told them! So it was a double surprise for me! 🤪🥂
When we left, it was absolutely pouring with rain, of the type that makes you wonder as you step outside: why did we even leave? what kind of lunatics are we?
A guy walked past us in Soho Square and muttered “it’s ‘orrible innit?” in solidarity as he saw us trying to seek refuge under my small pocket umbrella. We laughed and enjoyed the sudden conviviality; we were happy and it was all good with life, even if we had to hang all our clothes to dry when we arrived home…
I left very pleased about the dinner we had just had: the food was delicious, the service was attentive and made us feel at ease (I mean, they undid my grump, which is not a small feat). A nice place to revisit!
Noble Rot Soho
2 Greek Street, W1D 4NB