Test Drives

roomThe main dining room - the bar (with counter seats) is off to the right and there's a high table with stolls off to the left. Should have used a larger lens...

So what do we need to know about Cuvee?

This neighbourhood wine bar and restaurant has an interesting team behind it - certainly, it reads like a dream on paper.

First, there's Brodie, who helped set up Heston Blumenthal's restaurant in Melbourne. He came back from Australia with his wife, determined to open his own place. So he hooked up with old uni mates Max and Noel Venning, who just so happen to own a string of London's coolest bars. The last piece of the puzzle was the chef - and that turned out to be Dan, fresh from Naughty Piglets and 1251 where he helped his mate James Cochran open (they both knew each other from having worked at The Harwood Arms back in the day).

Whereabouts is it?

The address is Blackstock Road, but you'll actually find this around the corner on Mountgrove Road - a space linking Finsbury Park to Highbury which already has two places of note on it - the Mountgrove Bothy and Fink's Sweet & Salt. It's becoming quite the foodie thoroughfare. The nearest tube is Finsbury Park.

mainThe people looking after you at Top Cuvee - Brodie and Dan.

So what kind of space is it?

Bookings are taken for the main dining room, but there are also some high top communal tables that would be perfect to enjoy a glass of wine and some charcuterie at. And then there's the bar counter which will always be reserved for walk-ins.

What kind of menu should we expect?

It's essentially a small sharing plates kind of spot - so a few types of chorizo and saucisson or olives to start before you head into the mini croquettes and rillettes section. Here's what we had:

burrataBurrata with delice pumpkin and dukkah (£8) - you'd think by now that Londoners have seen every iteration of a burrata dish that's out there. This would prove you wrong. It had everything - texture, taste and a perfect hand on the seasoning.

clamsPalourde clams with 'nduja and sea purslane with ajo blanco (£9) - make sure you order the bread to go with this - you'll want it to scoop every bit of the sauce and ajo blanco after you've devoured the clams.

tarrtareBeef fillet and smoked eel tartare with horseradish and dill oil (£12) - chef Dan's particularly proud of this dish and so he should be. An umami taste bomb.

beefBraised pigs cheeks with smoked celeriac and hazelnut pesto (£13) - lovely slow braised meat which could have been rather rich with just the celeriac but the hazelnut pesto brings the additional punch to bring the whole thing together beautifully.

What's on the menu for vegetarians?

Plenty - each section of the menu has a vegetarian option and the main of beetroot, capers, radiccio and creme fraiche (£11) sounded good too.

What about the drinks list?

Right now they're building the list with the help of folk like Tutto Wines and Cave de Pyrene, with the aim to have around 10 reds and 10 whites on the list. By the bottle it's a bit punchy - with wines starting around the £30 park but you can get a glass for around £6.

You'll also want to try the cocktails of course, given that they were developed by the Venning Brothers. Each one is wine based - so the Old Fashioned uses a red wine syrup, the martini uses a vermouth from a Natural Andert Wein made using wild flowers around the vineyard, the margarita has orange wine in it.

Overall thoughts

It's hard for me to be 100% clear-minded about the opening of Top Cuvee. It's less than a five-minute walk from my home and on the one hand, I'm just thrilled that anyone's opening a lovely new neighbourhood place here. That said, this isn't just any old team that's put this together - everyone involved has a top CV and tonnes of passion for what they're bringing to this part of North London. If you live anywhere near here you should check it out. Just don't all come at once - I want to be able to get a seat here after all.

Hot Dinners ate as guests of Top Cuvee - prices are correct at the time of writing. 

 

More about Top Cuvee

Where is it? 177b Blackstock Road, London N5 2LL

How to book: Book online

Find out moreVisit their website or follow them on Instagram @topcuvee.

 

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