Authentique - Épicerie & Bar
114a-116 Fortess Road, Kentish Town, NW5 2HL
WLC Rank : 54
Glass from : £ 5 (125 ml)
Modest, fixed mark-ups on a large list of wines to drink-in
In Authentique, residents of Tuffnell Park have been blessed with a fine hybrid delicatessen, wine shop and wine bar featuring a depthful catalogue of wines made by reasoned agriculture.
With the aim to take guests on a “journey of Franco-fun,” through France and French-speaking countries including Algeria, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Morocco and Switzerland, a quartet of business master graduates transformed a formerly “dodgy convenience store,” into a hybrid épicerie, wine merchant, wine bar and terrace.
Located on a cute parade in Tuffnell Park which already stars an ice cream shop, butcher and fishmonger, Authentique features over 650 wines, including exclusively imported Champagne Grumier, Château le Raz (Bergerac) and Domaine Frédéric Mochel, as well as sour beers, esoteric spirits such as single cane rum, and lavishly decorated canelés. Indeed, a slogan over the counter proclaims “Liberté, Egalité, Canelé”.
The team comprises Alexandre Bal, a former head of marketing for Nicolas UK and senior sales executive and buyer for Yapp Brothers which in part informs the selection, Amaury Levisalles (La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels), Mathieu Sevagen (Nicolas UK and Majestic), and “business angel” Thomas Guidez who intends Authentique to become “the reference in French/Francophone food and drinks in London and beyond.”
With the exception of the Provence rosé from an investor in the project, Domaine Richeaume, wines by the glass changes every six weeks, supplemented by at least one thoughtful cocktail, such as the Kabusecha tea-infused white Calvados and apple gin “Dirty Green Vesper”.
Despite the tiny kitchen, a rotating programme of talent delivers big flavours, including the Le Cordon Bleu-trained duo behind “Goat In the Garden”, Margaux Stepczynski and Sarah Contento, whose signature dish involves sustainable he-goats, and Minou Sabahi, an Iranian chef from Paris’ Hotel Bienvenue. Book in for monthly “meet the winemaker” dinners featuring up-to eight wines over seven courses, as well as the Sunday afternoon wine trade sessions where the likes of The Frog’s sommelier, Kelvin McCabe performs as DJ.
Interior design by Stuart Taylor (Rum Kitchen, Senior Ceviche) sees pine tables crafted by prisoners met by characterful “old school chairs from a guy in Belgium,” says Bal. Resourcefully, diffusing gently, light bulbs are wrapped in tissue which previously cossetted high-end bottles. Propped on a bookcase jammed with vinyl records, a fish tank in a retro TV has moving wallpaper of circling sharks. Embellished by a local graffiti artist who left a stained glass portrait of the founders as a surprise gift, the terrace is an unexpected haven.
Bal mentioned the team had considered opening the initial Authentique in Asia but felt London was more interesting for wine having cycled around the city to evaluate whether “a proper hybrid wine bar and épicerie” would work. Further praise for their plan came from Camden Council’s licence committee who allowed the team to sit-in on the determination hearing.
Bal hints a second venue is on the agenda, possibly a bakery “uniting music with wine.”
By Douglas Blyde.