Authentique - Épicerie & Bar
114a-116 Fortess Road, Kentish Town, NW5 2HL
WLC Rank : 41
Glass from : £ 5 (125 ml)
Modest, fixed mark-ups on a large list of wines to drink-in
French-accented, depthful dishes
Authentique offers a hybrid model which could flex during lockdown for the lucky residents of Tuffnell Park and beyond.
Formerly a “dodgy convenience store,” Authentique, located on a cute parade in Tuffnell Park, is a hybrid épicerie, wine merchant, wine bar and terrace. The slogan over the counter proclaims, “Liberté, Egalité, Canelé…”
“Our vision is still to represent all the wine regions of France and the Francophone world by offering a diversity of grape varieties, styles and ages from small producers who often work organically,” says slick co-founder, Alexandre Bal, the former head of marketing for Nicolas UK and senior sales executive and buyer for Yapp Brothers. Such “Franco-fun” may include vinous finds from Algeria, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Morocco and Switzerland. Bal is joined by Amaury Levisalles (Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels), Mathieu Sevagen (Nicolas and Majestic) and “business angel” Thomas Guidez. “Our team has grown to seven post lockdown comprising retail, service and the kitchen,” says Bal, adding, “it has been a great journey to work with and train non-French staff.”
Featuring 700 wines, the already intricate list has been edited and extended during lockdown to encompass iconic estates such as Dauvissat and Coche-Dury, 1990 Left Bank Bordeaux and 1982 Pomerols, the leading producers of the Jura and Savoie, more Beaujolais, Champagnes and a strong list of picks from the Rhône, Languedoc-Roussillon and Loire, “with verticals of Grange des Pères, Chave Hermitage, Montcalmes, Trevallon and paysan-vigneron, Mark Angeli.” Bal and team are also sourcing more directly, “and have ten estates which are exclusive to us.”
Alongside a menu of imaginatively French-accented dishes including chickpea socca and aubergine spread, and beef tataki onglet with celeriac mash, realised by Lyonnaise chef, Clemence Dufourt, Authentique’s 30-strong, by-the-glass list strives to offer “drinkability”. It promises a perhaps surprisingly popular volume of sweet wines, “to pair with puddings and cheese” while fine wines come care of Coravin.
Interior design by Stuart Taylor (Rum Kitchen, Senior Ceviche) sees pine tables made by rehabilitating prisoners met by characterful “old school chairs from a guy in Belgium,” says Bal. Resourcefully, gently diffusing light bulbs are wrapped in tissue which previously cossetted high-end bottles. Embellished by a local graffiti artist who left a stained glass portrait of the founders as a gift, the terrace is an unexpected haven.
Being something of a hybrid helped during lockdown when it came to the business of retail and delivery, says Bal. “We reacted very early on and tried to always anticipate the demand from our community.” And, undeterred by the pandemic, the team plan, imminently, to open a second site, comprising a boulangerie, wine and fine food store.
By Douglas Blyde.