Peering at the blackboard of recently opened Primeur it quickly becomes clear that they give a damn about the juice that's being poured. The Pignoletto from Orsi San Vito, a tiny vineyard next to a brook in Emlia-Romagna; Zanotto's 'Col Fondo' unfiltered Prosecco; Ottavio Rube white from the endearingly hippyish Valli Unite, a fellowship of self-sustainable winemakers and farmers in Piemonte — the scrawled names are hard to read on the blackboard, but it doesn't seem to matter. It is all interesting and worthwhile...
Owners Jeremie Cometto-Lingenheim and chef David Gingell come from solid restaurant stock with vast collective experience that takes in Wright Brothers, The Wolseley, St Alban, Ricker Restaurants, Galvin Bistrot Deluxe L'Escargot and more...they've done the hard schlep. Having eyed up the site for some time, the site of a former green grocer and more recently a garage in the 1930's, they are now fortunate to have one of the most idyllic settings for a restaurant in London. On a quiet, tree lined street on the borders of Stoke Newington and Canonbury, the location feels like a bygone era. Why don't I live here? What a failure...
Great setting chaps. What about the rest?
PORK TERRINE — Gutsy, earthy, dense, primal. Speaking of innards and all the stuff that makes a rough hewn slab of meat taste great. A twang of liver. Yes please.
FRIED ANCHOVIES AÏOLI — Yeah, this is food I want to eat. All day, mate, all day. Crisp crunch of a light, airy batter, the honk of garlic from a delicate aïoli.
TURBOT, SEAWEED BUTTER, POTATOES — Fillet of Turbot hiding under a muddle of seaweed, and butter, and creamy potatoes, and oh...
LAMB SWEETBREADS, PANCETTA — Looks beautiful, crisp smoky pancetta with its fat seductively translucent, a very decent foil for the delicate sweetbreads. Cut through with some sliced cornichons and shallots, a drizzle of olive oil, and a flourish of the odd pine nut.
ASPARAGUS, POACHED EGG — Sunburst yellow yolk spilling onto the spears, a little Dijon mustard dressing, some tarragon adding a pop of anise.
ROAST PORK BELLY, SPRING GREENS, SALSA VERDE — Two hulking chunks of belly, crisp carapace, wobbling fat, slathered in perky salsa verde. Go on then.
BEEF FEATHERBLADE, SNAILS, GARLIC BUTTER — Garlicky, buttery riot, great fun mining earthy snails from a wicked butter that begs to be mopped up. Mop it up.
BAKEWELL TART — Dessert dodger sees tart on next table, likes look of tart, orders tart instead of the planned Jamón, likes tart. End of story.
On one visit there's spelt, wild garlic and broad beans, on another some impeccable Salchicon Ibérico and creamy/lustrous/sweet fatted Jamón de Teruel. Cuttlefish that has been braised before being slapped on the plancha is a tender beauty, perked up with lemon, capers and sea aster. Bread is excellent, sourdough coming from Brixton baker Bread Bread, owned by bread obsessive Bridget Hugo and Giuseppe Mascoli (he of Franco Manca fame).
There's love, real love going on with the wine list. Jeremie enthuses about his wines and offers sage advice, and plundering him for choices is a very good idea. Anyone listing Lambrusco right now gets a big smacker from me, and the beautifully dry rosé style from Quarticello, 'Ferrando' made with Lambrusco di Salamino, is a cleansing foil for a few slivers of fatty ham. Another highlight is a steely Altesse from Frank Peillot in the Savoie (£6.50 a glass), nervy and mineral with a blast of acidity. There is good Muscadet too (Muscadet is cool again, yeah?), 'Goulaine' from Rémy and Raphaël Luneau (£7.50 a glass), an atypical Muscadet with more flesh on the hips, broader and fleshier.
An eponymous wine 'Le Primeur' is hard work, natural wine gone bonkers down the hill, wild aromatics, unstable palate, I have to say no: the Emperor's new natural clothes (denuded, naked, has anyone told him?) have come to town. Squat little bulbous carafes are vintage 1940's jobs, and somehow make drinking out of them more fun, historic re-enactment style drinking, perhaps: aye, pass me another beaker full of the warm south.... Jeremie strides the room in a cotton shirt and apron looking like a landlord of yore, telling stories behind the wines...
A no-nonsense spartan feel inside, stripped back and puritan, with some communal tables and a dining counter opposite the kitchen, makes this feel like the beautiful love-child of St John and 40 Maltby Street. They operate a 'reservations only in person' policy, an idea intended to show the love to the locals: some may quibble about this quirky method, but I quite like this kind of booking fascism.
Most dishes hover between £7-15, and on a Sunday £30 whole roast chicken with peas and ham was on. We feel cosseted and reassured that we're in good hands. Which we are.
It's a snapshot, it's a first few looks, it's a feeling. A good feeling. Primeur already has the love of restaurant industry regulars a couple of weeks after opening (chefs and owners of Terroirs, Quality Chop House, Brunswick House...others...). Always a good sign.
It's a neighbourhood restaurant, distilled. Primeur has plenty going on to reward repeat visits, local or no local.
The Folkestone Wine Company
The Fordwich Arms
Where The Light Gets In
The Mash Inn
Grand Trunk Road
The Laughing Heart
German Doner Kebab
Black Axe Mangal
House of Ho
One Leicester St
Duck & Waffle
10 Greek Street
Capote Y Toros
Pollen St Social