What: A new natural wine bar and rotating residency kitchen below The Hoxton hotel in Holborn, which is intended to be used as an incubator space to test new restaurant concepts before they find a permanent home across Hoxton owner Ennismore’s global estate. Each pop-up will run for two months, beginning with Peruvian concept Cantina Valentina.
Who: La Cave is being led by Ennismore's food and beverage development director, Jules Pearson. All concepts to debut at La Cave will be created by Pearson, who then brings in a chef partner to oversee menu development and later help roll out the brand to Ennismore's hotels. For Cantina Valentina, Pearson is working with chef Adam Rawson, who was previously executive chef of both Isla and the Double Standard at the The Standard hotel in King's Cross.
The food: Rawson has drawn from his extensive travels around Peru, as well as a stint as head chef at Pachamama to inform the Cantina Valentina menu. The set-up consists of a concise selection of snacks and small plates, alongside a couple of more substantial dishes, with everything designed to be shared (a menu structure that will carry over to future residencies). Inspiration is taken from across Peru, with nods to the cosmopolitan coastal city of Lima and the historic villages around Cusco. Highlights from the snack section include cheese wonton with a green chilli paste (£6); grilled duck magret with chirimoya membrio (£8); and a very moreish lima bean humous served with fried plantain (£6). Other options include sea trout ceviche with passionfruit and turmeric tiger’s milk, served with lettuce cups (£13); avocado and coriander quinotto (£12); and maitake mushroom carapulcra with dried potato and black truffle(£15). Larger plates, meanwhile, include coal baked lamb neck with root vegetables and salsa ocopa (£24); and duck confit with special fried rice (£25). When residencies aren’t taking place, a list of locally-sourced bar snacks will be served instead, including cured meats from Crown & Queue in Southwark; and cheese from Wildes Cheese in Tottenham.
The drink: La Cave bills itself as offering 'London's largest selection of natural bubbles', as well as a refreshing selection of wines, pet nat and cider from independent suppliers like GB Wineshippers, Modal, Basket Press, Modest Merchant, Les Caves de Pyrene, and Sén. Prices are punchy (bottles primarily ranging between the £40 to £50 mark), and the selection is suitably eclectic, with house wines including a tempranillo joven from Rioja; and ciello bianco IGP from Sicily. One consideration for Pearson when choosing what concepts to test at La Cave is how well they pair with the wine offering, although she says this isn't as challenging as one might expect:"Natural wine is so mainstream now and there’s so much good quality out there, it can work with any food. It’s not a cult thing any more, people want to experiment with new flavours and ideas."
The vibe: The space is much the same as it was when it was Chicken Shop, with a relaxed, rough and ready interior of exposed brickwork and whitewashed, timber-clad walls. It's a lively and vibrant space, with comfy table seating and a bar area overlooking the open kitchen to choose from. At the front of the restaurant is also a retail area with wall-mounted racks to showcase the countless natural wines on offer, which Pearson also hopes to utilise as a standing bar area for those looking to just stop by for a quick drink and a snack.
And another thing: Pearson tells BigHospitality that Ennismore currently has 190 hotel openings in the pipeline, globally, with around 355 restaurant and bar spaces to fill between them. Following its La Cave residency, Cantina Valentina will subsequently launch as a full-service restaurant concept at The Hoxton hotels in Brussels, Belgium; and Dublin, Ireland. La Cave's second residency will launch in December, with a focus on Detroit-style square pizza, created by Pearson in collaboration with American chef and 'pizza czar' Anthony Falco.
199-206 High Holborn, London WC1V 7BD