Noizé review: fine dining among friends
Good French cooking and an ambitious wine list will get people talking
After an early evening stroll through Fitzrovia, a bohemian-turned-corporate patch of central London, we arrived at Noizé to find it anything but. In fact, the dining room was almost silent. Two tables were occupied by hush-hush business meetings and the rest waited quietly under white linen.
A couple of hours later, it was a scene transformed. The meetings, evidently a success, had evolved into something more convivial, and the rest of the room was taken up by couples of all ages and a group with something to celebrate. At one small table for two, more than a dozen wine glasses were laid out for some sort of vertical tasting - which looked as if it might turn rather more horizontal.
What had led to the metamorphosis? Good food helps, of course, as does an adventurous approach to wine, but they foster quiet reverence more often than midweek exuberance.
Geography and geometry play their part. The restaurant is small and its large windows look out onto brand new buildings summoned from the set of Blade Runner. As the sky darkened and the lights came on, a sense of us and them took root. Inside we had dark wooden floors, long tablecloths and pendant lamp shades. Outside they had glass, steel and striplights.
Inside was better. Even more so after the arrival of a plate of gougeres, whose crisp choux-pastry shells concealed a piquant ooze of cheese. They were representative of what was to come: uncomplicated, skilful and French.
As was my starter of smoked eel, its flesh as soft and yielding as mackerel pâté. A garnish of grape and celery furnished a few high notes, while boldly seasoned chowder supplied the bass. Across the table, my partner enjoyed the same tune in a sharper key: fresh crab with a ladleful of lobster bisque.
Pursuing the maritime theme, we both picked cod for our main courses, passing up the wild mushroom tagliatelle, duck with turnips and, most regretfully, partridge with celeriac and dauphinoise potatoes. But the fish didn’t disappoint: as tall as it was broad, the fillet unfurled into thick flakes at the press of a fork, its mildness sharpened by a Montgomery cheddar crust. Leaks and a scattering of clams completed the ensemble.
Desserts presented another difficult choice. The apple tart fine, bound to be excellent, was hard to resist (and if I’d seen the picture first, below, I would have succumbed), but the sliver of cheese with the cod had planted an idea. The answer: roquefort with a glass of sauternes, a pitch-perfect salty-sweet conclusion to a feast of rich seafood.
Wine pairings matter here, and each course had come with a recommendation from Mathieu Germond, Noizé’s owner and sommelier (it’s his home village, in the Loire, after which the restaurant is named): a dry tokaji for the crab, rich jurancon sec for the smoked eel and a hearty Californian chenin blanc for the cod. Germond’s collection is extensive and, says Wine List Confidential, “tantalisingly prestige”. Or you can bring in your own for a £20 corkage fee.
No wonder the customers are such a happy bunch. Many of them seemed to be regulars, comparing wine notes with Germond and chatting easily with the waiters. As we drained our glasses, it felt less like a restaurant than a private club - and the evening was still in full swing when we stepped out into the darkness and closed the door on this enclave of old Fitzrovia.
Noizé, London W1