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It took me a long time to get to Noble Rot. That’s partly because of the location – it’s tucked a short walk off of my semi-frequent beaten track and, inevitably, if I’m yomping that way from Holborn, I’m very easily distracted by Calum Franklin’s Pie Room – but mostly it was my fear that it couldn’t live up to the hype that held me back.

EVERYBODY seemed to be raving about it, expressing undying love for their bargainous wine list, small plates, charming atmosphere, etc. Experience – or grumpiness and cynicism, if you prefer – suggests that such places rarely live up to the hype.  

Now, a couple of visits down, I’d move in if they’d let me. It genuinely is every bit as charming, bargainous and downright lovable as they – we – would have you believe.

Also, from a freelancer’s perspective, the kitchen is open all day, making it a very appealing short-term / temporary afternoon office for those in need of sustenance, wine and somewhere to send a couple of emails.

The set menu – two courses for £16, three for £20 – is a thing of wonder but, for those of us easily distracted, the main menu AND bar menu pack considerable punch for not a whole lot more and everything is just, well, spot on, from the bread and butter – slices of three exceptional loaves per person – to a crème caramel of just bitter enough, wobbly perfection.

From the starters / small plates, winter mushroom risotto and Cecina – smoked Spanish beef (we had to look it up so I figured I’d share that info) – with pickled walnuts and horseradish were very good indeed: the horseradish kick of the latter and the bright, acidic, semi-resistance of the walnuts in particular.

Best of all though was slipsole, in smoked butter. Slipsole is a great little fish – and a plentiful one – so it’s good to see it appearing on more menus. This came perfectly cooked – a little pressure from the knife and it slipped cleanly from the bone – and simply, but deliciously presented, under an appealing slick of butter and (I think) paprika.

To be honest, after that little shared selection, I didn’t really need a main course but it’s a celebratory week – this is not the body of a man with willpower – and any dish that includes calcots and romesco sauce is always going to get ordered.

In this incarnation, they came alongside a piece of exquisitely cooked hake, the skin just the right side of crisp, the flesh yielding just so to the fork – an excellent plate of food. Opposite, turbot, with a wine reduction – my photo of the menu is a little too blurred to report the name accurately – and mushrooms was a similarly simple, perfect dish.

That – slightly grudgingly – shared crème caramel rounded things – and me – off in a pleasing fashion, with the house Vinho Verde (super value at £4.50 a glass, £22 a bottle) proving to be a fine foil to everything consumed.

Do believe the hype. Noble Rot is a cracker.

Noble Rot

51 Lamb’s Conduit St, London WC1N 3NB

Phone: 020 7242 8963

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