Mathieu Germond is one of the world’s great sommeliers though it is likely that you have never heard of him. He doesn’t have a column in the FT, write books or appear on reality tv shows. But finding the perfect wine is Mathieu’s super-power. Tell him what you like to drink, your budget and what you’re eating. He will find the right bottle. He is a wine savant.
While others were building their personal brands, Mathieu spent the last two years building Noize, a gem of a restaurant offering the best of French cuisine and English ingredients in the burgeoning central London neighborhood of Fitzrovia.
Mathieu has an extraordinary palate, a great memory; little formal training. He grew up in Montlouis-sur-Loire, famous for its Chenin Blanc. He attended restaurant school learning to manage front of house. He worked in the Basque country, a convenient hour or two from Bordeaux. He started visiting, tasting wine and learning. He took a couple of courses but nothing too rigorous or academic. “I’m too lazy to do a masters of wine course” he tells me. “I care more about how it tastes than where it comes from or how it was made”.
He spent 14 years as sommelier, wine buyer and, eventually, part-owner of London’s Michelin starred Pied a Terre. A great job, but he wanted his own establishment, a place that was more casual than those that traditionally warrant Michelin stars.
Inspired by his grandparents’ house, where local people would come to speak official business with his grandfather – the mayor of the village – or simply to enjoy food and wine among neighbors. “They served homemade wine or brandy…It wasn’t very good” laughs Mathieu “but the atmosphere was perfect”. This wonderful village of Mathieu’s youth was called Noize.
Noize is a neighborhood place committed to serving great food and wine at reasonable prices. Mathieu is willing to sidestep big vintages to offer extraordinary without the large price tag. “It is more important to find a good match for the customer than sell them a big name” he notes. Of course, he’d like to get Michelin’s praise, but it wouldn’t change his perspective.
He has a perfect team. Chef Daniel Mertl trained at Chez Bruce then worked at Le Gavroche and The Savoy. He has the technical skill for culinary stardom but prefers cookery to marketing. He likes being in the kitchen and it shows in his food: a superbly curated selection of inspired classic French dishes.
Most of the dining room staff have known Mathieu for ages. They share an attitude that restaurant work should be fun for both themselves and patrons. The restaurant is closed 2 ½ days a week and for holidays out of recognition that service people have real lives and families too! They are not hoping to build a dining empire or make a fortune. For them, it is a way of life that makes for a very pleasant customer experience.
But back to wine and why Mathieu is so great.
Noize has a big cellar of ready to drink wines including great old vintages. Mathieu charges a fixed mark up. 50 pounds on any bottle that retails over 25 pounds. Expensive bottles are incredible value. This is a place to go nuts on wine. But if you just want a bottle of something marvelous for a civilized price, he will graciously help you with that too.
Noize, a big-time London restaurant with its sensibilities rooted in its eponymous Loire village, has become a special sanctuary for me whenever I am back in London.