18 Market Row, Brixton, SW9 8LD
WLC Rank : 70
Glass from : £ 4.50 (125 ml)
BEST FOREvents, including vinyl meets wine
Bustling market setting
An inspiringly exciting approach is taken to low-intervention wines at Salon, often over a buzzing series of events in the adjacent Wine Store.
“Like a good vintage, Salon is getting better and better,” says Mark Gurney of the now seven-year-old excellent date spot in the heart of Brixton’s Market Row. Gurney, who describes himself if pushed as “a wine cherub” rather than sommelier co-founded Salon, which began life as a pop-up over a cheesemonger in Brixton’s Market Row, with Matt Bushnell (formerly of Oklava, Shoreditch) and chef, Nicholas Balfe (who worked under Isaac McHale at the initial Clove Club at the Ten Bells). Previously, Gurney switched to hospitality from music consultancy marketing, becoming general manager at Café Murano under Angela Hartnett who fostered his interest in the wine list.
Predilection is for low-intervention wines, echoing what Gurney notes is his guests’ increasing curiosity into orange and natural ferments. This results in listings of finds such as the litre of bright pink skin-fermented Falanghina (Progetto Calcarius).
Salon’s “global” approach “works nicely in tandem with the adjacent, now bedded-in, Wine Store’s selection,” notes Gurney. Memorable events in included the “Wine Up” session where a range of bottles, perhaps including the punt-free, richly petrol-scented Domaine Bohn’s Les Copains d’Abord Sylvaner, hitherto unavailable to lips outside of those of the producer’s family, are uncorked for a modest entry fee. Of the wine, Gurney says he recently, “fell in love with Alsace area and its fascinating, crazy microclimate and limestone, clay, schist and granite terroirs heading down the mountain range.” Meanwhile, the “South London institution” that is Strictly Bangers is a “far-from-stiff” cult celebration of wine and vinyl for “friends, peers and colleagues.” Pre the lockdown, Gurney started the “Familia” series. Held in Salon’s dining room and kitchen, an eager front-of-house team member partners with a chef to create and explain a four-course menu bravely matched with such delights as a British beer drawn from an authentic Lambic tank and local Gosnell’s special edition gastronomic mead.
Wholesome dishes may include fried peppers with mint, tahini and grated hazelnut, then Sussex cross lamb with winter tomatoes and goat’s curd, as well as outstanding gougéres, and baked from toasted rye, some of London’s most irresistible bread.
Care too is given to aromatised wines, such as the keg of vermouth best served with soda and orange slice, and sustainably packaged spirits including Victory green coffee enriched vodka, a hopped gin and also bitters crafted by indie infuser/blender and friend to Salon, Max Chater.
For a depthful focus on wines from the geology of the Jura, head to Salon’s sequel, Levan a short bike or train ride away at Peckham station.
During the lockdown, Gurney says he “dusted off old tricks,” becoming “a wine delivery maestro. Much fun!”
By Douglas Blyde.