Humble Grape boutique wine shop is a real corker
If you’re partial to a drop, the arrival of Humble Grape is excellent news
27 July, 2017 — By Tom Moggach
Hake with samphire, chilli, cucumber and carb meat
THERE’S a marketing mantra swirling around the wine trade: every bottle of wine has a story to tell. Our waiter seems keen to prove it. Reverentially presenting each bottle, he describes a winemaker who plays Mozart to his vines. Or picks grapes at night, wearing just a head torch.
Welcome to Humble Grape, a new boutique wine shop and restaurant off Upper Street in Islington. This is their third branch and first in north London; others trade in Battersea and near Fleet Street.
If you’re partial to a drop, this new opening is excellent news.
Their wonderfully named wine manager, Desiree Russo, has stuffed the shelves with around 300 hand-picked vintages to drink in or take away.
They offer 30 wines by the glass. A “flight” (selection) of four styles of Riesling is £16 a pop.
Bottles to take away start at around £11, rising to £242.50 for a gigantic six-bottle jeroboam of Barbaresco.
We pitched up for dinner, dithering about where to sit. The front section, dotted with wooden tables, is more of a bar and full of garrulous customers. At the back, down a few steps, is a more formal and stylish dining area, with blue banquettes, clay-coloured walls and a collection of superior house plants.
The food is what you might expect in a place like this: top quality Marcona almonds; oozy burrata; rich duck rillettes; diver-caught scallops…
Cheese and charcuterie get star billing, including the cult cheeses made by a chap called Philip in Tottenham.
We chose some of the “small plates” as starters. A bowl of mussels in Asian-style broth was a pleasure to eat, but too timid with the ginger and coriander.
More punchy was Charentais melon and crumbled feta, topped with slivers of sweet onion and mint-spiked breadcrumbs.
Main courses include various steaks and other meats, fishy creations and a baked Camembert with London honey, priced £12 to £22.
Infatuated by a glass of posh Beaujolais, we shared a tranche of hake with fronds of samphire, chilli, cucumber and flaked white crab meat.
Don’t expect a heavyweight wine list. The staff prefer to guide you to the shelves to choose yourself. Each wine is labelled with “Hypersensitive”, “Sweet” or “Tolerant”.
We were baffled by this system, until we discovered that Humble Grape believes in the concept of “vinotypes”. (If intrigued, their website includes a short test you can do).
I’m “tolerant”, apparently, with “the highest degree of phenotypic plasticity”. I think this means I’m always keen to explore new wines.
Humble Grape is hot on sustainability, selling a large number of biodynamic and organic wines. Even their paper is made from recycled crushed grapes.
The staff deserve special mention – passionate yet unstuffy about wine. And, of course, they tell a great story.
One favourite is of an ex-geologist who makes Sauvignon Blanc on a mountain in South Africa. She’s planted over 7,000 trees around her vineyard so that wild animals can roam free.
11 Theberton Street, N1