Noizé is named after a village in the Loire valley where, at an early age, proprietor Mathieu Germond absorbed the rustic and convivial atmosphere of food and wine from his grandparents. These essential features characterise his restaurant which opened in October 2017. Having decided at the age of 13 to follow a career in hospitality, Mathieu was well travelled by the time he came to London and to the gastronomic heights of then Michelin two-starred The Captial Hotel under Eric Chavot. However, most London dining foodies are familiar with Mathieu as the long-serving front of house leader of Pied a Terre, a restaurant where he skillfully developed bonds with the clientele that would survive the test of time. His understated manner, belies an effortless charm and passion, together with an enthusiasm for wine and service, that set him apart as one of the leaders in his field. Now Mathieu takes pride in the relaxed informality of Noizé, reviving the joys of an a la carte menu devoid of canapes, amuses–bouche and pre desserts.
The wine list, leaning on Mathieu’s extensive knowledge and experience, is hugely impressive. It features the best of both worlds, with over 50 labels under £50 but also comprises a wine connoisseur’s paradise, as the mark up is fixed cost plus, so the better the wine, the better the value to the point where some are below retail price for the vintage offered. This is a steal in London terms. It is hardly surprising that wine lovers and those in the trade are frequent visitors to the restaurant.
Chef George Farrugia, who has been at the helm for just six weeks, has injected new vitality into the kitchen. Rejecting law as a career after graduating in the subject, his first experience of a professional kitchen was in a Greek restaurant in Manchester, where he grew up. He progressed to Koffmann’s at the Berkeley Hotel where he gained his classical training. When Eric Chavot set up his eponymous brasserie in Covent Garden, George was part of the team that helped it gain a Michelin star. He stayed there for four years as sous chef, consolidating his skills before moving on to leading positions at the Chelsea Arts Club and then Bob Bob Ricard. His role immediately before arriving at Noizé was at Fenchurch Sky Garden where his own style was allowed to blossom.
Fine Dining Guide visited Noizé on a weekday evening in September, meeting its owner and chef, and finding much to admire in its ambience, food, wine, and service.
Located on the corner of Whitfield Street and Scala Street, in a site once occupied by Oliver Dabbous’ eponymous restaurant, the severe grey industrial chic of the two-level wooden-floored interior has been toned down. Turquoise walls, red and grey velvet upholstery, and linen tablecloths give a more refined feel. Well-spaced tables are lit by opaque globes. The basement level, including a table for six in a recess that can be curtained off, has a slightly more relaxed quality than the smaller ground floor level. Overall, however, the ambience is informal with a reassuring buzz from contented diners.
George Farrugia leads a brigade of three full and one part-timer, two of whom followed him from Sky Kitchen. Given his Cypriot roots and the influence of his French wife, Mediterranean flavours emerge from dishes using seasonal British ingredients. A northern influence, such as black pudding and the use of deeply flavoured jus, is also evident in some dishes. All his was demonstrated in his appearance on the 2020 series of The Great British Menu, which highlighted his status as a rising star.
Cooking techniques are both classical and contemporary. Poaching to order, pickling, curing and pan frying are much in evidence. The timing of meat, offal and fish dishes is precise, allowing their true flavours to shine. Saucing is judicious in quantity, never overwhelming the main ingredient. Dishes are well balanced in terms of tastes, textures and temperatures. Ingredient combinations are harmonious, and presentation is clean, avoiding the urge to overdress the plate.
A blackboard menu emphasises the casual and rustic nature of the restaurant’s offering. Portions are generous in the French brasserie tradition and pricing is realistic without being greedy. Compared with similar establishments in the West End, Noizé is a relative bargain which helps to explain its success.
Four Snacks at £5 each are offered. The three sampled proved deliciously moreish, but our appetites were constrained by the thought of three courses to follow:
Gougeres had light, crisp choux pastry and a flavoursome oozing cheese filling.
Soft, boneless chicken wings, glazed in a piquant BBQ sauce, came perched on celeriac remoulade
Succulent veal and gently spiced harissa croquettes made the most of braised and shredded offcuts which were coated in a crisp crumb and deep-fried.
Five Starters ranging from £9.50 to £13 offered a good range of choice, showing the versatility of the kitchen
Beef carpaccio, pre-cured like Bresola, proved a taste and textural delight. Delicately seasoned so as not to overwhelm the meltingly thin sliced meat, the dish was dressed with gently pickled Enoki mushrooms, shreds of toasted sourdough and a sprinkling of hazelnuts for contrasting texture, and dotted with truffle aioli as a final flourish.
A generous portion of confit salmon simply melted in the mouth. Its softness was balanced by crisp squid ink tuiles. Soft boiled quail’s egg and potato salad added richness while pickled fennel and horseradish sauce gave the astringency the dish needed.
A special of veal sweetbread more than justified its price supplement. Coated in a blackened spice rub, this delectable prized piece of offal was accurately seared to produce a caramelised crust, whilst retaining its rich flavour and creamy texture. Baby leek and caramelised apple were appropriate garnishes, the dish being brought together by a sauce of confit onion, crisped sweetbread membrane, madeira, veal and chicken stock, with grain mustard being added at the end for a floral punch. Unashamedly rich, this dish was made even more decadent by an accompanying bowl of silky smooth pomme puree.
Five Mains from £19 to £26 were offered.
As with the starters, dishes look deceptively simple but involve a series of techniques and stages.
A breast of pre poached Guinea fowl had been rested then pan roasted to order. Topped with dehydrated quinoa which had been blanched, dried and fried, it produced a crisp coating that balanced the succulent, moist flesh. Potato and black pudding terrine, wild mushrooms, spinach and Jerusalem artichoke provided earthy, bold flavours to enhance the mild, delicate flavour of the bird. A light jus completed this dish perfectly.
A fillet of halibut was poached to order to avoid overcooking and to retain its smooth, delicate piscine texture and mild, sweet taste. White coco beans provided substance with contrasting texture and earthy flavour, the dish being bought together by a complex broth of mussels, Datterini tomato and vegetable pesto.
A special main course of pigeon featured precisely timed breasts to maximise flavour and texture, preventing them from becoming an experience more akin to liver. Accompanied by its soft confit leg, beetroot puree, potato cake and a rich jus, this was classic cooking at its best.
Five Desserts were priced from £8.50 to £12.50. There are also various cheese options.
A signature dish of ultra-creamy rice pudding featured delicate poached pear and, for contrasting texture and flavour, puffed black rice. This dish also reflects George’s northern roots.
Rum baba was classically rendered, its savarin base being light and generously infused with rum syrup. Pineapple carpaccio gave a textural sweetness and Chantilly a creamy richness.
Chocolate de Crème comprised layers of bittersweet ganache, pistachio crumb and a deeply flavoured pistachio ice cream sprinkled with crystalised pistachios. This rich, indulgent dessert successfully married contrasting tastes, textures and temperatures.
Good coffee and truffles ended an enjoyable meal, enhanced by the seamless, informative and unobtrusive service of waitress Severine and sommelier Phillipe.
Clearly, George Farrugia has made an impressive start, confirming Noizé’s place as a worthy contender in a highly competitive field. Short of another lockdown, the restaurant will go from strength to strength, justifying its already solid reputation for good food, wine and service. Fine Dining Guide will return to sample other dishes and will follow its fortunes with interest.