The rustic, art-deco designs of Dorothee Meilichzon
Tucked in a corner of the brightly coloured, bohemian Neal’s Yard in Covent Garden, Compagnie de Vins Surnaturels is the type of place one could spend all day in and around – enjoying espressos and “Posh Madames” in the morning (called-so due to its truffled ham and quail egg) to buttermilk-fried frogs legs and a glass of sommelier-recommended wine, as soon as the sun is past the yardarm.
Brought to us by the Experimental Cocktail Group, makers of the Experimental Cocktail Club in Chinatown and Experimental Beach in Ibiza among other venues in Paris and New York, Compagnie de Vins Surnaturels is the second of its kind, with the first finding its home in Paris (where else?).
Their name translates as “company of supernatural wines”, though the charming general manager, Matthieu Forget, assures me that this does not insinuate an allegiance to organic or biodynamic wines. Instead, it hints at their wine-growing ethos, ‘we choose producers who are very much in touch with their terroir and the way they grow their wines…we focus on smaller producers that create a wine that will express something.’
And the same can be said for the food. Although chiefly about the wine – there are over 475 wines on their menu and counting – the food has been extolled by diners, who adore the innovative European-style menu of Italian head chef Andrea Spina.
The crudités prove to be a thrilling surprise – simply described on the menu as crudités with sheep’s milk yoghurt and herbs, it is served in a flower pot with baby carrots, radishes and leaves energetically sprouting out of the top, the inside, lettuce mixed with avocado, mint and sheep’s milk yoghurt, topped with a grainy and sweet coffee powder layer – very memorable indeed.
One of the other standout dishes is the crisp baby squid with espelette pepper. Uniquely crisp, light and vibrant, I ask Andrea for the secret, but he is not telling. ‘Everything that comes from his kitchen is from the heart’, is all I am told – as he stands there, even in his chef whites, as polished and quirky as the place itself.
Alongside the artisan selection of cheeses and charcuterie from Spain, Italy and France, Compagnie de Vins Surnaturels showcases two selections of specials each day that leaves guests ‘always enchanted’, according to Matthieu. I don’t doubt it for a moment.
If visiting, I recommend sampling their burrata as well – super fresh and creamy, served with blushing pink prawns and a zingy lemon dressing – it is hard to believe that the food is secondary, when the dishes are this good.
Formulaic tends to be the word I attach to many new restaurant openings in London – and I am very pleased to say that Compagnie is no such thing. Full of character, warmth and charm and refreshingly unique in its décor, staff, food and wine – it is more like a work of art one can actively experience than a wine bar.