Let's get the whinging out of the way first - I don't like the name. Yes, I know it's called Noble Rot after Botrytis Cinerea, the fungus which gives dessert wines their sweetness. Nevertheless, it's a fairly unappetising name for a restaurant. I mean - in a world without irony, how would you fancy eating in a place called after a fungus, or with the word Rot appearing anywhere on the menu? I have to do it often enough when it hasn't even been advertised.
But thankfully not here. Whinging over - the food was actually very good, the staff exceptionally friendly and it was also a beautiful, indolently warm, May-masquerading-as-August sort of day. Add alcohol and the fantasy that you are really a bronzed, sun-worshipping hedonist instead of a befreckled, sunburnt Presbyterian, and you have all the ingredients for the perfect lunch.
The restaurant is cool. light, airy and comfortable - four of the seven dwarves of bland restaurant design. It's small compared to it's busier, brasher sister restaurant - 1 Lombard Street in the City - only sixty covers - with a private members' bar in the basement. Oh yawn - by the time I belong to one of these I'll be past secret assignations and need 24-hour nursing care with wheelchair access.
Upstairs there's a long, spacious window-lined room with enough slatted wooden blinds to bring out the (admittedly latent) char in me. I'm glad I don't have the job of cleaning them. The decor is simple - three dodgy paintings resembling illustrations for a series of Sci Fi book jackets, all featuring the same shade of turquoise as the loose covers on the chairs underneath. But speaking as a someone who bought a Howard Hodgkin print because it matched her walls, I'll let someone else cast the first stone at accessorized art. Colour co-ordinated upholstery - lounge in peace.
My companion and I couldn't choose between the two foie gras terrines and the tuna nicoise, so decided to just have all three.
Would you like a side salad with that, asked the waitress preparing to leave.
Wait a minute, I protested, that's just our starters - what kind of people do you get in here? I asked.
In answer she merely sucked her cheeks in,
Well, they might have cheekbones, but I'll settle for foie gras any day. Both terrines were excellent and had completely contrasting flavours. The first, with a sliver of piquillo pepper threaded though it, was sweet, creamy and smoother than a baby's bottom with a welcome little sting of chilli. The second had haricot beans, green peppercorns and artichokes, and a dark, musky pungency not quite offset by the sweetness of the accompanying thimbleful of Noble Rot jelly. They also looked fantastic - like an installation by Andy Goldsworthy. The tuna nicoise was elegant and well executed - a generous coil of rare tuna, crisp beans, cherry tomatoes, olives and quails eggs.
To follow I had skate dressed for colder weather, wadded in several layers of winter kale served with capers and prawns, and my companion had the wild mushroom risotto which I would have happily killed for. Luckily, he shared - so violence was unnecessary on this occasion.
Girolles, ceps, mousserons, morilles - even some shaved truffles, he said, in his equally edible French accent, picking the varieties out one by one.
What can I say - I'm a clichˇ. Just recite the contents of your supermarket trolley in French and I'm entranced. Mind you, throw in an open door, a not-too-distant pneumatic drill, his barely audible voice and my own garbled Scottish consonants and I think the reason we smiled at each other so much was sheer bewilderment.
To complicate matters further the waitress was Danish and we couldn't understand her either. Earlier she had cheerily informed us that the special was a carpaccio of paper.
'Papaya?' I wondered
'Pipa?' asked the Frenchman, dubiously.
Yes, paper, she said.
As the conversation deteriorated into Pythonesque confusion, I finally realised it was pepper, and she skipped off.
Did you hear what else she said? asked the Frenchman, I wasn't listening.
The poor girl had to come back and do the whole thing again. Anyway - it was Grenouilles - frog's legs. Otherwise you could have rack of lamb, sea bass with couscous, choucroute d'Alsace - sauerkraut, or even a salad of gizzards. Yum. Somehow salade de gesiers Perigourdine has a whole different ring to it - that's the power of a French accent.
For dessert we had a light egg custard topped with a soft layer of bread crusts which wasn't bread and butter pudding but an agreeable pretender nonetheless. Also on offer was Miranda Golden Botrytis by the glass - at either £10.50 or £16 a shot. It may sound like an infectious disease but, if you like sticky, sweet dessert wines you'll need no convincing of its merits.
The menu is unexpectedly rustic, but presentation less earthy than it sounds. Also, from Monday 15th, they're changing to a summer menu with lighter dishes, so fear not the gizzards - get your lipstick pink leather jacket on and pucker up.
But bring your own Frenchman.
or Shades obligatory. French man optional ( - I can't decide....)