177B Blackstock Road , N5 2LL
WLC Rank : 98
Cuisine: Wine bar
Glass from : £ 6 (125 ml)
“None of us ever worked anywhere with such a friendly customer base,” says Top Cuvée’s co-founder, Brodie Meah of the clientele at the bijou, former Greek restaurant. This he transformed into a buzzing wine bar with make-up artist wife, Erin and her handy father who welded the tall tables, as well as co-founders, Max and Noel Venning of the acclaimed Three Sheets bar, Dalston.
Meah chose a crossover food and music artist to design Top Cuvée’s cartoon-like lettering. “Our name could be construed as relating to a fancy French place, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously,” he says.
Meah, from North Wales, cut his teeth in Manchester’s cocktail bars, founding a rum bar, before helping launch Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, Melbourne (RIP), a city with “a big coffee culture” which, going by the Assembly blend at Top Cuvée, he dearly cares about.
With exposed steels, a colourful wall concealing a cellar space, and plainly tiled open kitchen, Top Cuvée is located opposite The Arsenal Tavern. “I don’t know anything about football,” admits Meah when asked about match day clientele, although the supporters he met turned out to be “chilled.” The rest of the time sees people who enjoy, “hanging around their neighbourhood” come to dine, while on Sundays, Top Cuvée has a hospitality “industry vibe” catering to the area’s “mad brunch game.”
Meah and team, including chef, Graziano Pagliarulo spend on what counts for their guests, with wine-friendly dishes such as Brixham crab on soda bread with samphire and amaranth featuring, “not too many ingredients.” Retro but delicious, people phone up to check the crème caramel finale is available, “which I thought was a prank at first,” says Meah.
Featuring white Testalonga from Liguria, Loire Capitalism Rouge from Brendan Tracey and Domaine Chevassu-Fassenet Château-Chalon from Jura, the one-page list, “pushes people to try new things.” Picks such as Sam Vinciullo’s Sauvignon Blanc from Margaret River, described as, “expressive with the skin contact giving a massive hit of tropical aromatics” arise from “meetings all the time with new suppliers, fitting a wine on the list if it’s cool afterwards.” These can be taken away at 30% off – “we want to be an amenity.”
During lockdown, Meah and Venning quickly established “Shop Cuvée”, turning the restaurant into a bottle shop and grocers. As well as natural wines from the likes of Italy and Greece, shoppers could escape lockdown via French Comte cheese, and the scent of fresh bread, delivered by bicycle courier. And more recently, Top Cuvée joined forces with Yard Sale Pizza, curating the wine lists across all five sites, including natural Prosecco from Casa Belfi. “We’ve also got a brilliant new T-Shirt designed by Tubo Island, and a new tote bag coming soon,” notes Meah.
Aside from ABV, the playlist is a binding agent. “Still lots of American and British indie/garage/psych and increasingly sneaking in some lo-fi house after dark. Keep your eyes peeled on https://www.topcuvee.com/sounds as we finally catalogue our playlists and make them public!”
By Douglas Blyde.