The Black Book in Soho: A wine lover’s hideaway
Soho has always been known for its flamboyant social scene. In these times of face masks and safe distancing, most restaurants in the area have adopted an al fresco approach, and the streets are packed with diners and cocktail drinkers. In this context, being in a basement, The Black Book might pass unnoticed; but its setting makes for a much more intimate space where one can relax, away from the noise and craze of the streets above.
Stylishly designed in wood, with marble tables and velvety sofas, The Black Book is elegant without being pretentious. Founded by Trade owners Gearoid Devaney and Xavier Rousset (who transformed the wine club of the same name into a mobile app to support hospitality professionals during these uncertain times), the bar’s approach to wine is extremely democratic and open to all degrees of expertise. The system works with two different menus. Firstly, the “Black Book”, styled after the traditional notebook of well-connected contacts, which now serves a similar purpose as host on a rotating basis to a list of private cellar wines with unique characteristics. Then there is the regular menu, covering reds, whites, fortified wines and a few sakes. In addition to this, The Black Book offers its guests a wine game every Tuesday and Wednesday, where contenders are able to order a glass of mystery wine and try to guess what it is. They are awarded a full bottle on the house if they happen to get it right.
It doesn’t stop there: the extensive wine suggestions are accompanied by a menu of classic cocktails and very interesting proposals for food. For the best experience, we recommend pairing drinks with the kitchen’s small plates. The dishes all gather a complex sophistication of flavours in satisfying portions, enhanced further by the quality of their ingredients. Our favourites by far were the Sea Bream Ceviche with shaved pineapple and passion fruit – incredibly fresh and light – and the Steak Tartare, which was perfectly seasoned and matched with crispy croutons and a beautifully placed egg yolk. The Charcuterie Board didn’t disappoint either, with a combination of chorizo, salchichón, cured ham and pickles: pub-style with a European twist. We also opted for the Burrata, covered in fig and a red onion compote.
To keep our wine tasting varied, we switched between red and white, and specifically between a Portuguese Douro from the Guyot winery (made of a blend of Rabigato, Códega (Síria), Malvasia Fina and Códega do Larinho grapes), which was very balanced and smooth with a fresh aftertaste, and a South African red from Infinity Wines called The Partnership, which was strong and full-bodied, reflective of its Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz mix. Before dessert, we tried a few more glasses, this time a Crozes-Hermitage from Rhône, and an Australian Grosset GAIA from Clare Valley – both enjoyable by themselves or over a conversation.
Last but not least: dessert. We chose the Salted Caramel and Chocolate Tart over the Apple Tarte Tatin, a satisfying cream of gooey caramel covered in gelatinous chocolate and caramelised almonds. Finally, of course, we couldn’t ignore the fortified wines on the menu, and finished with two glasses of Tawny port (20 years old) and a Sercial D’Oliveiras Madeira: a sweet end to a beautiful evening.
The Black Book is a treat for all wine lovers, and admirers of Mediterranean food – a great discovery amid central London’s excess of homogeneity.
★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Photos: Diogo Cruz
To book a table at The Black Book, 23 Frith Street London W1D 4RR, call 020 7434 1724 or visit their website here.