You can ascertain everything about a restaurant just by glancing at their wine list. That’s my ballsy opinion on wine. Everything. If I can’t carry you with me on this “everything” journey, then let’s just say everything you need to know about the aspirations of the kitchen, the aura of the place, attitude of the owners, ambitions of the restaurant – it’s a magical worm hole that drives right to the heart of the whole shebang, a crucial indicator, a window into the soul of the gig.
One moment distilled my extreme knee-jerk restaurant analysis, a realisation that I had seen one of the bravest lists ever. Looking at the Noma list online in February 2010, two months before being named the world’s best by the San Pellegrino “World’s 50 Best”, I was delighted and shocked to see their almost fascist focus. It was almost exclusively grower Champagne, Burgundy, Germany, Piemonte, Austria, bit of Northern Rhône – that was it. No Bordeaux, no New World. These more fragrant, delicate wines were deemed to be a finer foil for their food. I knew it would be my kind of restaurant. The driving force and confidence of the sommelier Pontus Eloffson showed a swagger I liked.
Luke Wilson and Cameron Emirali have brought their modest looking operation to Soho, where fifty restaurants seem to be opening every day. Or something like that. Luke is ex-wine trade, having sold wine to restaurants for a fair few years for Liberty Wines, a merchant of considerable note with a big presence in London restuarants. I’ve known Luke for some time, one of the politest wine reps you could come across. He knows his shit too. Cameron’s longest recent stint was at the brilliant Wapping Project, having grown up in Australia. This double-act is starting from a good place.
The wine list at 10 Greek Street starts sparking with gems from the kick-off, real treats, utter value from the first moment. Pieropan Soave “La Rocca” £31? Try £56 at the River Café. Same vintage. Mount Difficulty “Roaring Meg” Pinot Gris £18.50? Yours for £30 at The Providores. Plantagenet “Omrah” Pinot Noir for £22? Enjoy it at The Wapping Project for £32. Luke slaps a few rotating three bottle specials on too, most recently Clos du Marquis 1985 for a mere £50 – we love this kind of silliness.
This is a wine list that will engender genuine loyalty from diners and a knowing wine trade. It bitch slaps anything else in Soho.
Oh the food? Yeah, well that happens to be bloody good too. Cameron serves up the kind of food you want to eat every day. There are pies and grills, terrines and rillettes, fondants and apple pudding:
Char-grilled Brecon Leg of Lamb – Cooked to medium-rare pink perfection, this rosy hued piece of meat is accompanied by a piquant puck of anchovy mayonnaise. Sunday Roast evocative. Duck Fat potatoes alongside, so good they deserve their own entry below.
Duck Fat Potatoes – Side dish that needs special mention. Macho sized halves of Désirée potato, roasted then finished off in the pan for extra crunch. I’d eat these on their own as a bar snack and be pretty happy about it.
Skate & New Potato Terrine – Subtle and pretty looking dish, a neat slab of gleaming white, maybe lacking a grind of salt. No matter, there’s some salt on the table for DIY seasoning, from Murray River, Australia.
Langoustines & Saffron Aïoli – Perky fresh langoustines, dense and proper saffron aïoli for dipping. Those potatoes would enjoy a dip in that aïoli too.
Wild Mushroom Risotto – Perfectly cooked risotto, with the funk of white truffle oil running through it. Job done.
Chocolate Fondant & Pistachio Ice-Cream – Oozing in all the right places, the fondant pulls it off. That’s all that matters, right?
The space looks unremarkable until you get to the open kitchen, which is where all the action happens. White tiled throughout with more than a whiff of St John-esque monochrome, the fit-out is no nonsense. Nifty swivelling bar stools, the blast of heat from the kitchen, and Cameron engaging with diners as he cooks, all mean this is the place to sit. Take six friends and you’ve practically got your own private chef’s table, as there’ll be no room for anyone else. Sweet.
Fay Maschler of the Evening Standard was dining on one of our visits. She seemed to be enjoying herself. Expect her review this week.
This is the kind of place worth bowling into for the wine list alone. With Cameron pulling the strings in the kitchen, it becomes a three times a week kinda thing. It’s a great addition for Soho.
One look at that wine list told me that we were singing from the same page. Quality, value, chosen with care, love. It told me everything I needed to know.
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