Out of the three of us present at our dinner at Noizé restaurant in Fitzrovia back in August, no one was actually paying attention to the food. Or, at least, not enough attention. My friend was focused on her beloved bottle of Soldera, freshly pulled from bond, hoping our somm would remember not to decant it and serve it in a glass with a wide enough bowl. Her friend was focused on the bottle of Krug he had brought, wondering whether it would reach temperature on time for our second glass, and generally hoping that the experience would be up to my friend’s standards. And me? I was focused on my DM’s, on the PDF of the cocktail menu at Seed Library, on the promise of the night that lay ahead… But, as always, part of my brain was fully there for this meal, which was noteworthy and excellent and very much memorable by its own right.
Noizé was founded by a Frenchman named Mathieu Germond (former co-owner of Pied à Terre), who named the place after the small village in the Loire Valley where his grandparents had a farm and where he first fell in love with food & wine. Today Head Chef George Farrugia mans the kitchen, bringing a Cyprian touch to the seasonal French fare. The menu is quite playful, with some surprising ingredient combos and bold flavors all throughout. And their wine list is one of the best in town, a product of Mathieu’s vast knowledge and experience with sommellerie. Noizé is also known by folks in the London wine biz for their very receptive BYO policy, tending to their guests’ own treasures with great care for a modest corkage fee. So we brought good wines. Well, my dinner companions did. I don’t have a collection of big name Tuscans currently aging in a bonded warehouse in the UK. So I just kind of sat there and enjoyed it all.
We started with two snacks. Their crispy pork belly with BBQ sauce is one of their signatures and is heavenly. The crunchy skin and juicy meat are complemented perfectly by the delicate sweetness of the barbecue sauce over the surface. We also had their sole fritters, a kind of classed-up ode to fish and chips, which were doused in a spicy jalapeno mayo and decorated with three little dots of sticky-sweet gooseberry jam. Two clever, imaginative little snacks that went down nicely with our 170ème Édition Krug Grande Cuvée.
We continued with a trio of starters. There was a gorgeous little tart made from a very thin, crunchy dough, which held bits of smoked eel and hamachi crudo, topped with bright green broad beans and little balls of tender, elastic cheese. At the base of the dish was a pool of green sauce, which tasted like cucumber. One bowl over, there sat a plump courgette which had been baked until tender and stuffed with mozzarella or stracciatella or some kind of creamy, very clean-flavored cow’s milk cheese. Textural contrast was brought to the mix by some nutty toasted oats, while the pool of sauce vierge (olive oil, lemon juice, basil and tomato) brought the dish into a lovely late-summer context. We also had a fresh salad of white cabbage and gem lettuce with strips of salt beef and cornichons which was nice, although not too exciting. But overall, a very nice, very summery trio of dishes on a breezy August eve.
By the time our main dishes came, the Soldera had made its appearance on our table and no one – not even the guy serving us – was talking about the food aymore. We had started chatting with the two dudes at the next table over, wine industry folks entertained by their own big boy bottles. We also struck up conversation with the manager about an MBA contact of mine who had formerly sommed at Noizé and, having seen my Story of the ongoing dinner, had reached out to say hey. As the time passed, I grew increasingly conscious of the fact that this dreamy industry moment would soon come to an end, that Soldera would not be the last thing we’d drink that evening. It would be followed by gimlets, rail gin and a rather unfortunate Jägerbomb.
It was with all that going on that I took a bite of Noizé’s roasted guinea fowl, a juicy breast covered by thin, crunchy skin and served with a skewer of some kind of sausage on the side. Also on the plate was a single plump, chewy and delicate gnocco on a bed of girolles sautéed with creamy spinach. A sticky black cherry and its compote provided a hint of sweetness and acidity, while the glossy meat jus poured over the dish added depth of flavor and hydration.
A fantastic dinner from start to finish, food worthy of our superstar wines. Here’s the my tasting note on that bottle of Soldera though, so you get the full picture:
A Tuscan cult icon from a behemoth vintage with high investment potential and even higher sentimental value. After all, this was the last vintage overseen from vine to bottle by renegade winemaker Gianfranco Soldera before his tragic passing in 2019. As we sat waiting for it to make its way – undecanted – to our table, I learned some things. 🌪️🌪️🌪️ The drama of Brunellogate. Whistleblowing allegations against Sangiovese purists. Vengeance in the form of 10 precious 𝑏𝑜𝑡𝑡𝑖 ran down the drain and lost to the world forever. The Brunello consorzio’s feeble gest of solidarity taken as an insult, resulting in Soldera’s formal withdrawal from the appellation for good. If this wine must be labelled, it’s an IGT Toscana, but really it’s just an entity of its own, a statement in and of itself.
It comes from vines planted in composite mosaic of galestro flaky schist soils on a breezy south-facing slope in Montalcino, pruned hard to keep yields low. It’s a 100% Sangiovese exhaling terroir transparency and 𝑡𝑖𝑝𝑖𝑐𝑖𝑡𝑎̀, surprisingly difficult to find the right descriptors for.
Touches of garnet in the glass assure you “I’m ready, go ahead.” The nose opens innocently enough with withered florals – wisteria, violet, maybe lavender – dusty botanical lithographs tending towards dried tea leaves with mostly rose. 📜🥀🍵 There’s also a smooth spice that grabs and dries before the waves of sweet roasted cherries and Myrobalan plums, the gamey bits, the savory broth of sweaty Chianina, hints of rust. A penetrating bouquet that cast its blanket of silence across our noisy table at Noizé. 🍒🐂🛠️ Then on the palate, an immediacy, a tenacity and a gentle force that lulls you while also holding you firmly in place, like the enraptured final lift of a pas-de-deux. 🏋️🩰
With its quiet confidence, self-assured, this wine will continue to thrill and transfix for decades.