What do we need to know about Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels?
Apart from the fact it's a bugger to spell? Well, it's a wine bar with food from the Experimental Group who also run the Experimental Cocktail Club in Chinatown - as well as various bars in Paris, NYC and Ibiza. When it opened at the tail end of 2013, it quickly found a fan base of wine lovers, but the food also delivered. Fay Maschler also picked it as one of her 10 best new London openings of 2014.
We hadn't made it down before, but were here to try out a new menu of small plates designed to match the amazing wine list picked out by top sommelier and General Manager Julia Oudill.
Where is it?
Tucked away in Neal's Yard, a couple of minutes from Covent Garden station, the wine bar is on two floors.
Where should I meet friends for drinks first?
There are plenty of decent bars nearby. We're longtime fans of Freud, round the corner on Shaftesbury Avenue, or there's the bar at the Covent Garden Hotel or the Hawksmoor Seven Dials bar for cocktails. If you want to stick with the theme, start out with a glass of wine at nearby 10 Cases.
Where should I sit?
The bar is split on to two floors. Downstairs is more dark and seductive - nice for dates - while upstairs was slightly brighter and better suited to groups. On both levels you can just sit and have a glass of wine and if you're looking for privacy, there's a corner table uptairs that's just the ticket.
So what should we eat?
The menu is focused on small and sharing plates, but are all fairly generous.
The new menu kicks off with cheese and charcuterie sections - served up with toasted sourdough. We focused on the meat, picking a plate of Prosciutto cotto al tartufo - wafer thin folds of cooked ham scented with black tuffles (£14). From here we roamed through a series of small plates. A generous portion of burrata (£10) came drizzled in extra virgin olive oil from Casanova which can be picked up in their deli next door.
Both Marina O'Loughlin and Fay have written about their love for the posh croques madame which here comes with a tiny fried quail's egg on top and features that truffled ham again. It's utterly delicious and big enough for two to share (£12). From here we try some of the new dishes. Bouncy, fresh scallops are lightly toasted and served up with creamed cauliflower and crispy Iberico (£13). And both of us love the little pot of cassoulet (£10) which on a cold winter's night is just the thing to ward off the cold. It may seem like a small dish, but it's very rich and filling. That's probably one to have on your own, as opposed to sharing it.
For dessert, we split the deconstructed cheesecake which comes with Oreo crumbs and raspberries (£7).
So, to drink, plenty of wine then?
When faced with such an incredible list, we pleaded ignorance and got Julia to pair our courses with her choice of wines. Everything we tried was both new to us and perfectly paired with the dishes in question. We started with a glass of Effusion Chenin Blanc from natural winemaker Patrick Badouin, which she'd been searching for years for and had just got some bottles in the day we went and progresssed to a glass of 2011 Domaine Yves Cuilleron Saint-Joseph Blanc Lyseras.
Wine geeks will have a field day with the list, but if like us you need more direction Julia turns out to be a great guide.
If you prefer, there's a shorter list of wines by the glass which in the main sticks between £6 and £15. There's also an unnamed wine on every day which if you can guess what it is, they'll give you a bottle to take home. Apparently it's changed every month or so, once folk guess correctly.
If you're in any way susceptible to the January blues, a visit to this cosy little spot will sort you out. Work your way though the wine list and the short menu and emerge feeling cossetted and comforted.
Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels is at 8-10 Neal’s Yard, London WC2H 9DP. Find out more.
Hot Dinners ate as guests of Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels. Prices were correct at the time of writing.