These days, the term ‘hidden gem’ is thrown at pretty much every half-decent independent restaurant which isn’t in Central London. In the case of Top Cuvée though, this lofty title is more than justified.
Sitting just off Blackstock Road near Finsbury Park, Top Cuvée isn’t exactly in an area packed full of hipster food joints and automated wine bars, so it's somewhat unique in that it offers locals the chance to enjoy some uncomplicated cooking, alongside a bottle or three of natural wine.
There is an instant buzz on arrival, with the small space packed to the rafters on our midweek visit. Tables back onto shelves stocked with bottles of everything from natural orange wines to limited edition craft beers and premixed cocktails, leading to the odd interruption from the waiters who grab bottles from over your shoulder. However, this distinct lack of pretentiousness is what is so appealing about the place.
As the name suggests, the drinks offering is certainly at the forefront of what Top Cuvée is all about. Initially, we were confused by the lack of wine list on our table, but it was quickly explained to us that there isn’t one, and instead we were given a detailed wine consultation by the impressively knowledgable waiter, based on our preferences. The result was a hugely enjoyable, fruity Sauvignon Chardonnay blend named Lucky You, which paired brilliantly with our food - lucky us indeed.
The food menu of small plates isn’t to be scoffed at either. Designed for sharing, the simple dishes on offer may not be breaking any sort of culinary boundaries, but they’re certainly enjoyable and just what you want to be eating as you make your way through a bottle of wine.
Moreish grilled corn on the cobs come lathered in honey and thyme-infused butter, while a glorious pigs head terrine was given a nice sharpness by an accompaniment of cornichons. Then came a whole lemon sole served alongside a dollop of particularly good tartar sauce and some excellent chips.
We were especially impressed by the puddings on offer; the damson rice pudding is worth a visit in itself, while a fig and almond tart combined a crunchy base with a wonderfully moist filling. We found that prices were fair too and if you're looking to replenish your wine cellar, Top Cuvée also functions as a shop during the day, so you can pop in and pick up a bottle or two.
It would be easy to walk down Blackstock Road 50 times and not notice the wine-fuelled fun going on behind the windows of Top Cuvée, but if you do happen upon it, one thing is for sure; you’ll stumble out with a smile on your face.