There are so many places to eat in Islington now but few will feel as welcoming as Humble Grape. Escape the bustle of Upper Street and enter a space that is both wine shop and wine bar.
The venture started with founder James Dawson hosting pop-up tastings and doing personal deliveries. Today, Humble Grape has five locations across London and deliver over 400 sustainable wines to anywhere in mainland Britain.
You can tell this started as a passion project, with a front of house team who will give you care and attention whether you’re coming to eat or popping in for a bottle on your way home.
How’s the food?
While you’d be forgiven for thinking this place is all about the wine, you’d be wrong. The ethos of sustainability extends the thoughtful menu that changes seasonally. Every dish prioritises flavour and, of course, pairs well with a glass of wine.
We started with a creamy burrata, paired with fresh figs, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Then the duck carpaccio with fennel, purple cauliflower and prune aioli. I’ve never had duck like this before, so delicate that it could almost melt away on the tongue, the rich fattiness balanced with the sweetness of the aioli. Not one you could easily recreate, and I’m very tempted to return to Humble Grape, perhaps without the burden of a dining companion who wants to share, just to order this dish again. Both starters were accompanied by tangy, springy sourdough from The Snapery Bakery.
For our mains we had roast shoulder of lamb with a garlic crust on haricot beans, which was delicious. But the real star on the menu, among the meat options, was the triofe al pesto. This pasta, shaped by hand, allows the sauce to cling to its tiny coils, a perfect marriage of al dente texture and herby flavour.
Served traditionally with green beans and boiled ratte potatoes, not only are you getting a double carb hit but the dish is a great showcase for rattes, rarely seen on a menu. Do not be put off by the name, these delicious potatoes pack a strong, nutty flavour and are a personal favourite. (What kind of life are you living if you don’t have a favourite potato?)
For pudding we had an apple and blackberry crumble with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and the lightest tiramisu that lives up to the name. (Tiramisu means ‘pick me up’ in Italian.) Exactly what you want from dessert: sweet, warming and the perfect end to the meal.
What to drink?
It’s difficult to separate food and drink when considering the meal, and that is down to Humble Grape’s mastery in its wine pairings. The wine list runs for pages, with a taste and a price point for everyone.
If feeling spoiled for choice, the front of house are more than equipped to be your tour guide. Each bottle and winery is so carefully selected, you will likely learn not only about the notes and the grape but also about the winemaker’s grandmother and their family pet.
One thing I would not miss? We had a glass of 10 year vintage Quinta Do Noval tawny port which was a liquid dessert in itself; the kind of drink where you long for a second glass, but know that you would quickly be under the table.
Will it bankrupt me?
Quality ingredients don’t come cheap, but an evening at Humble Grape won’t bankrupt you, unless you really try. Food ranges between a £7 starter to £32 for a sharing board, with the mains orbiting the £20 mark.
The wine is what can really lighten your wallet. There is a price point for everyone and glasses start at £8, with several bottles around £30 but plenty stretching into three figures. A bottle of 2006 Château Palmer Margeaux Bordeaux for a cool £706.75? I’ll have a glass if you’re paying.
Anything else to note?
It’s pet friendly, so no excuse to duck out if your dog-sitter cancels. Bring your furry companion and spend a night among the wine bottles.
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11-13 Theberton St, London N1 0QY; Humble Grape