Charles Spence, the noted red-trousered Professor of Experimental Psychology at Oxford University wrote one of my favourite books of late, titled The Perfect Meal. I think I had a lunch today that would get pretty close, at Social Wine and Tapas with Dan Keeling of Noble Rot.
Of course, I was primed to like it. Our expectations, after all, do alter our experience. Social Wine and Tapas comes with a good reputation, and Dan is good company. And our booking was for 2 pm on a Friday, so we had both cleared our desks for the weekend.
Laure Patry, the sommelier here, has chosen a fantastic list of very interesting wines, and wine really is at the forefront of the offering here. Even in the toilets: there’s a recording playing of a very posh, plummy English chap reading Matt Kramer’s Making Sense of Wine. It’s quite surreal.
The wine glasses! They are Zaltos. How can any restaurant afford to use Zaltos? But I am glad they do, because they really enhance the experience of lovely wines.
So, we started off with grower Champagne – the l’Ouverture from Savart. This was exceptional (note below), and tasted all the better from being served in Zalto white wine glasses. We ordered several dishes, and they were all superb.
Highlights? Padron peppers: hard to go wrong here. Ham croquettes were very good, as were the jamon and manchego toasties topped with a quails egg. The star dish? It was chargrilled carrots, burnt aubergine, miso and walnut pesto. A triumph of a dish, and just £6.
I also really liked the heirloom tomato salad, truffle burrata and basil, and the seafood and rabbit Spanish rice was the best sort of comfort food.
In fact, all of the food was totally delicious and wonderful. The stuff around the food? The décor is not totally to my taste, but that’s OK. The service was excellent. The bill was high – this is not a cheap place to eat, especially if you plunder the wine list. But then it’s a central location, just off Oxford Street, and the rents must be huge.
Special shout out to the Ovarius decanter, which is like a glass teapot. Laure imports them herself, and they are available to buy from the shop for £55.
Champagne Savart L’Ouverture Premier Cru NV
This is 100% Pinot Noir, and it is fabulous. Lovely pure apple and citrus fruit nose with some pear notes. Fresh, detailed and drinkable wit nice lemony notes and real finesse, as well as subtle flavours of cherry and ripe apple. Perfectly poised. 93/100
Château Rayas Pignan Résérve 2004 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, France
This is an incredibly Burgundian expression of Châteauneuf. It is silky and elegant with lovely finesse, and a fine spicy edge to the seductive sweet cherry fruit, with notes of white pepper and warm soy. It is perfumed and pure with lovely texture. Now drinking perfectly, there’s no need to hang onto it any longer. It just delivers pleasure. 95/100
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