A couple of weeks ago, I ventured to the eagerly anticipated Nuala in Shoreditch.
Headed up by chef Niall Davidson (Noma, the Chiltern Firehouse, St John), with executive head chef Colin McSherry (Fat Duck and Dinner by Heston) with Honey Spencer at the helm of the wine list, (Noma Mexico, Den Vandrette and Sager + Wilde) with both husband Charlie Sims (Brunswick House and Noma) and John O'Dowd (Bistrotheque) as front of house. Meanwhile, downstairs, Nuala Bar is run by Lauren Taylor (previously of Hawksmoor Spitalfields). This presents outstanding culinary and vinous experience.
Niall, Irish, creates a modern, locally sourced menu with an (yep), Irish twist. Honey has curated an exciting wine list with both classic and unusual wine styles from forward-thinking producers with a great by the glass + carafe list featuring the likes of Sunier, Jurtschitsch and Tissot. The bottle list is arranged by bubbles, tried + true, the classics, a touch out of the ordinary and wild things. I am a firm believer that wine is not simplifiable, but here Honey has created something that gently guides the consumer in the right direction and makes decision-making a little easier. Simple, understandable and fun. The wines are fantastic, bold old world and new world, with Sadie's Treinspoor, a Musar 98, Octavin and Dujac but to name a few.
On arrival, we had a glass of Charles Dufours' La Pulpe et le Grain pt. 2, 2009 vintage, from the Vallée de l’Ource. Interestingly, here the blend is 45% Pinot Blanc, 35% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay. It is fermented en cuve with 18 months in barrels on the lees with zero dosage. Just 3.807 bottles were produced. The wine has a tight wound core yet brings such open energy and vibrancy, apple skin, wild flower, heather honey and that subtle reduced minerality on the finish that I feel PB can bring. Particularly perfumed with some lifted rosehip oil notes.
With the Champagne, we began with little foie gras bites on soda bread with clementine. It was the encapsulation of that drool emoji on WhatsApp. The foie gras was served as a gentle shaving and the clementine brought tartness and freshness to the richness of the liver, and the little soda bread looked a little like a miniscule crumpet and gave a delicious texture to the combination. I asked my dining companion whether we should get another but she is more restrained than I am and we did have an entire meal ahead.
To start, I opted for the beefsteak tartar, extra stout sauce, egg yolk and dripping fries. Delicious. The stout sauce added an extra wintry hug to the plate. Being a great lover of sauces, I'm often very critical and with a Danish thick-giblet-and-duck-fat-cream-sauce family behind me I am often disappointed with the (sometimes) blander and thinner sauces that are commonplace in the UK, but here we had a perfectly textured and delicious rich sauce to add complexity and another layer to the meat.
With the tartar, we enjoyed a carafe of Vin d'Montbled from Domaine Sauveterre (Tutto), a new wine for me. Not topped up thus oxidative in style, the wine sits sous voile. I've heard of Burgundian producers doing sous voile but this was my first experience. From the renowned Perrières parcel, this was a selection of younger vines. Just one barrel was produced in this style, with a year under flor. Intense and heady on the nose, there's a lot of apricot skin and flower pollen on the nose, with some zippy tart flower oil notes - perhaps an indication of a tiny bit of VA, but in a good way, not a "fault" by any means. On the palate it is dense and rich, with almond skin, clove, orange peach skin, rock salt and a humming orange peel length. A pretty big wine, but equally very fresh and lifted the tartar wonderfully.
Next up I decided to opt for the fireplace pumpkin with Isle of Mull Cheddar and green sauce. Fresh and complex vegetal flavours were brought to a forefront with the help of Claus Preisinger's Zweigelt (Newcomer); a favourite of mine that I return to again and again and who I have just been to visit in Burgenland (more will follow). Equally fresh, inky, juicy yet stone-licking-like with a soft floral finish, it's fairly delicate in style and is the ideal food wine. The pumpkin had an intense and complex flavour brought to it from the fire pit in the middle of the kitchen. Since I ate it, it's been making me crave pumpkin.
Finally, for dessert we shared the most delicate, fresh and seemingly weightless millefeuille pastry with charred pineapple and buttermilk cream. It was the food equivalent of a watercolour painting; so delicately structured with such fine layers.
Tasters of the Pyreneen Jurançon from Domaine de Souch (Dynamic) and Czech Černé starosvětské from Koráb (Basket Press Wines) were the ideal accompaniment to the dessert; although both wines with quite a bit of residual sugar, their cooler climates provide freshness and a lifted acid structure to the wine that creates an important combination of sweetness without ever being cloying.
Afterwards we ventured downstairs to enjoy clarified milk cocktails (I'd never heard of that either) which were, for lack of another expression, so f&*^ing good that we had three.
Nuala, thank you. You've created something highly unique, authentic, creative, and most crucially - delicious. I'll be back ASAP.