Bottle + Rye is a cosy, Parisian-influenced wine bar in Market Row, just around the corner from Brixton station. Head chef Ben Hughes-Gage takes the helm, infusing Robin’s winning formula of top-quality produce and talented staff. The Handbook contributor Katie Renouf stopped by to sample this stylish new venue.
I’ll be honest; there are very few things that will get me on a bus, in 32 degree heat, headed in the opposite direction to home. However, a new restaurant from Robin Gill is one of those things.
Robin & Sarah Gill have certainly been a busy duo this summer. Not content with opening the much-loved Maria G’s in Kensington (you can read my review here) and feeding 500 diners at Wilderness Festival, they’ve also just launched this little Brixton beauty.
Bottle + Rye is, at first glance, quietly understated. It takes guts to furnish a new venue in some wooden tables and stools and leave it at that, but this is very true to the oh-so-chic Parisian cafe style. Plus – who needs fancy décor when you’re too busy catching delicious wafts of charred meat and pastry from the open kitchen and scanning the large selection of unique wines on offer? I could be sat on the floor and still be delighted.
A blackboard displays the daily-changing menu, driven by the best local produce head chef Ben Hughes-Gage can source. Robin provides executive oversight and guidance, but it is Ben that brings these flavours to life, each dish bursting with freshness.
Given the searing heatwave at the time of our visit, my eyes are immediately drawn to the lighter fish and veggie options for this evening.
We order a couple of cooling cocktails; my tequila and Aperol-based spritz with strawberry and rhubarb is refreshing without being too sweet. My friend tries the lemon vodka cocktail; similar to a lemon drop martini but served slightly longer with a touch of lemon-fused olive oil.
We delve into the food offerings with charred sugar snaps, nestled around with a delicious hummus topped with herb oil. Sugar snaps are a particular favourite of mine, and these are outstanding; the sweetness fortified by a light char and the salty, earthy hummus.
Next we taste the smoked eel brandade with homemade crisps. This is exquisite; the smoothest, creamiest mash infused with the bones and skin of the eel.
We also order the dish Robin recommended; deceptively simple-sounding anchovies on toast. The toast itself turns out to be a gorgeous, pillowy creation, which the plump and oily anchovies seep into.
We also sample green beans bound in leeks, hazelnut praline and vinaigrette. The combination of al dente beans, with the crushed praline pieces and vinaigrette forming something resembling a peanut butter salad dressing, is simply incredible. I vow to try and recreate this dish at home (spoiler: I haven’t. It’s likely I may just return to the restaurant instead).
In another dish, the humble tomato is the star of the show – accompanied only by a dab of olive tapenade and the finest of Ragstone cheese shavings. These tiny, salty tendrils are the perfect accompaniment.
Our final savoury dish is Ben’s pumpkin seed pesto and courgette tart. Surely the finest vegetarian dishes are the ones which are truly delicious just how they are, and there is no sense of anything lacking? This is a magnificent example; paper-thin pastry that is perfectly crisp, beautifully turned vegetables and that rich, rustic pesto. Irresistible.
Our evening ends with gooseberry and fig leaf choux eclairs; little profiterole-style puffs topped with gooseberry custard and a dusting of fig leaf sherbet. They are so light it’s hard to believe they have any calories at all. At least this is what I tell myself as I demolish three. Gorgeous.
Our dishes are accompanied by a well-chosen selection of wines and cider – credit to Sharon for those. The orange wines in particular match well with the richer dishes.
As we head out into the unabating heat, I feel a touch of remorse at not sampling more wines, nor the delicious-sounding flat iron steak with garlic salt frites and Cashel blue sauce. I’ll be returning for those one winter evening – maybe I’ll see you there.
What’s next for these guys? “Homage to the big fromage” is a new Sunday night series, where a selection of top chefs will take over the Bottle + Rye kitchen counter and serve up dishes that have inspired them. Robin kicks this off on 18th September – I definitely recommend checking it out.