Peruvian restaurant, natural wine bar, pop-up – all tucked away in a moody basement. Very Hoxton Hotel – specifically the Holborn branch. Rondo La Cave is a new a wine bar and testing ground (or to use the Hotel’s words, “incubator”) for up-and-coming chefs to experiment with their ideas. The first and current impressive residency is from chef Adam Rawson, with his Anglo-Peruvian concept Cantina Valentina.
An accomplished chef, Rawson won Chef of the Year at the Young British Foodies awards earlier this year, and has worked with the likes of Nuno Mendes, Claude Bosi, and many more. After travelling across Peru for a few months (as well as being head chef at the well-known Pachamama) he’s now pursuing his own venture with an exciting menu celebrating specialities from across the country. Drawing upon dishes from the cosmopolitan coastal city of Lima, to the historic villages around Cusco, the food here is totally unique, as is the wine.
As you head down into this subterranean venue, the first thing you’ll see is their impressive bottle shop, with the walls stacked with bottles all from low intervention, natural, small-growers – including one of my favourites, Tillingham (East Sussex). The selection of wines is is enormours: in fact, they claim to have “the largest selection of bubbly in the city”.
Heading beyond that and into the restaurant proper, the interior is a stripped back affair of bare brick, unvarnished timber and an open kitchen with the counter seating (always the best seats or stools in the house in my view). This relaxed backdrop allows the colourful and inventine food and wine to shine – and the sparkling and oranges wine certainly do.
Jason Glynn, the manager here, kindly came over to our table to go through the wines on offer by the glass with samples of each to taste. Explaining his approach, he noted that he doesn’t suggest particular wines to go with the food, appreciating that that choice is an individual and subjective one that ultimately depends on each diner’s flavour preferences. For my companion and I, the sparky orange wine and the French fizz stood out and so we went for glasses of each.
Foodwise, to start, we shared the Lima bean hummus & fried plantain tostones (£6). Traditionally conceived of as part of a Levantine mezze, this was my first taste of a South American take on one of my favourite dips and was a total eye-opener. Creamy, herby, with various salsas running through – a herby green one and a (chilli red?) one – this was worthy of eating by the spoon. Though the plantain chips were a perfect accompaniment – wonderfully crisp on the outside yet with a tender interior, bringing together this Peruvian take on hummus.
For mains, I went for the avocado & coriander “quinotto” (£12). This bowl, topped with a lime to add a citrusy edge, was quite literally melt-in-the-mouth, each bite disappearing almost instanteously. Topped with crispy quinoa puffs, which complemented the creamy avocado, this was another textural joy of a dish.
Rondo La Cave feels like a hidden gem, not just because of it’s basement location. Though it would be tempting to keep this spot under the radar, the food and wine here is too good not to share. With an exciting line-up of chef residencies, from American pizza to Anglo-Thai cuisines, it will keep you returning for both the food and wines.
Rondo La Cave, 199-206 High Holborn, London WC1V 7BD