The London wine bar scene is thriving. On Wednesday evening I paid my first visit to a relative newcomer (almost a year old now), Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels in Seven Dials. It’s owned by the team (a group of young-ish French guys) behind the Experimental Cocktail Club, who also have places in Paris, New York and Ibiza.
It has a lot of personality. This isn’t an identikit new opening. It’s a little quirky, but in a good way. Soft furnishings, for a start. Low sofas and chairs, with low tables, giving it an informal relaxed feel. Initially I felt out of sorts here, but after a while, I began to relax into the comfortable (dated?) ambience. It feels more like a posh hotel lobby than a restaurant.
The food menu consists of a modestly sized list of small plates, which are designed to work well with the wine list. And that’s what you really come here for. The wine list is geek heaven, with a strong emphasis on authentic wines, focusing mainly on France but with some nice contributions from elsewhere in Europe (despite the name of the place, it’s not a typical natural wine list). ‘We taste a lot of wine with the chef,’ says young Sommelier Julia Oudill (pictured above). She hails from Biarritz, and her father is a chef, so she knows food. Juila discusses her ideas for wine-friendly dishes with her own chef, who then decides how to execute them. So wine really is at the forefront of Comagnie des Vins Surnaturel’s offering.
I ate and drank well here. Although I wasn’t massively at ease with the low seating positions, the food and wine offering is spot on. In particular, you just have to try the posh madame, which is one of the most delicious things I’ve eaten in ages. All the wines here were from the by-the-glass list, which is quite extensive and based on an enomatic which means those wines will always be in top condition.
Clos Columbu Corse Calvi 2013 Corsica, France
Lovely fresh, bright pear and citrus fruit with a hint of melony richness. This is a fresh unoaked style with nice texture and a savoury fennel edge to the rounded fruit. Stylish. 91/100
This went well with burrata, with an olive oil sourced from Casanova in Sicily.
Istvan Szepsy Furmint 2011 Tokaji, Hungary
Rich, textured and with hints of honey and spice as well as citrus, pear and mineral notes. Richly textured but dry, and has real appeal. 92/100
An inspired pairing for the crispy baby squid.
Vincent Pinard Sancerre Rouge 2010 Loire, France
Robust and quite dense for a Pinot with rich black cherry and plum fruit, as well as some pepper and meat notes. Complex and edgy. 92/100
This was matched with the posh madame (a croque monsieur made with truffle ham and a quails egg) and the scallops, cream of cauliflower and crispy iberico ham. These were superb dishes. Wine friendly, too.
Chateau du Cedre Cahors 2011 France
Lovely black fruits here: supple and fresh with some berries, black cherries and a hint of iron and spice. Sweetly fruited with lovely focus. 91/100
Pairing: cassoulet. Very well executed version of this classic dish.
With the cheese board, three small pours of the following wines:
Patrick Baudouin Coteaux du Layon Les Coteaux 2013 Loire
Lovely apple, sweet pears, fine citrus fruit. Rounded with some sweetness, but not too much. Keen acidity as you might expect from this vintage. 90/100
Château d’Arlay Macvin du Jura Rouge
This is really interesting: macvin, made by boiling down fresh grape juice, adding brandy spirit and then ageing it. So it’s a vin doux naturel,with no fermentation process. Amazing sweet flavours of red cherry, tea leaves and spice. Warm, spicy, smooth and delicious. 90/100
Nicolas Joly Les Vieux Clos 2010 Savennières, Loire
Apples, herbs, citrus and some straw/herb notes. Quite dry. Supple and detailed. 90/100