When news about the opening of Porte Noire King’s Cross first hit the press, it was largely labelled as ‘Idris Elba’s new wine bar’. Though not many batted an eye at this, seeing as Elba is already a multi-hyphenated actor-producer-musician-DJ, it was even less surprising to find out that his business partner was wine expert and entrepreneur David Farber.
The Frenchman is not a stranger to the London wine scene as the owner and director of the Connaught Wine Cellars in Marble Arch where he has been running tasting sessions, an in-house wine club, and supplying restaurants, bars, and private clients with high-quality wines for over a decade.
“We met five or six years ago through friends we have in common. We shared a few bottles of wine and very quickly clicked. We went together for a long weekend in Champagne and the idea of Porte Noire and our partnership was born,” shares Farber, when explaining how how his collaboration with Elba came to be.
“Idris is so talented and everything he touches becomes successful, he’s great at branding, marketing, and has a great eye for design. For the champagne and wines, I am involved in selecting the producers and products, whilst Idris is very much involved in the strategy and marketing. For the bar, Idris brings a lot in terms of marketing and development. This is a concept I’ve been working on for many years, a collection of ideas from many travels in wine regions around the world to create the type of place I wanted to find in London.”
I meet Farber on a bright and sunny day in King’s Cross. I’m at Porte Noire to sample their new brunch menu, which gives guests an excellent introduction to Porte Noire’s own champagnes and wine, paired with a selection of classic French dishes like tartiflette and steak tartare.
He’s joined at the table by his furry friend Cooper, who’s on a break from saying hello to all the restaurant guests. Though his early career was in investment banking, Farber’s longing to follow a different path soon influenced his life pivot. “I always had a desire to do something more entrepreneurial, and working with wine made sense as it’s always been my passion.
This is something I inherited at an early age from my grandfather, who was a wine lover and collector,” he says. Read on to hear more from Farber on the Porte Noire brand and why he strongly believes in fostering a more inclusive culture around the world of wine.
King’s Cross has turned into a really buzzy location. What makes your wine bar stand out amongst the other offerings?
There are many great restaurants in King’s Cross; the food offering is varied and King’s Cross has become a real foodie destination. There are no other wine bars and bistros in the area which are offering the same as us, plus our location just outside the centre and facing the canal gives it a picturesque village feel.
You’ve lived in both Paris and London. What are some of the things the Parisians do better in terms of hospitality?
The food scene has ramped up in London in the last 10 years and has become really amazing. I’d say we live more on terraces in Paris; there are less chain and conceptual restaurants. The focus is on more independent restaurants where the atmosphere is dictated by the personality of the staff and chef.
Tell me more about the evolution of the Porte Noire brand.
We started with Porte Noire Wines, our champagnes and rosé from Provence. We then launched Porte Noire King’s Cross as our first hospitality venue. We would definitely consider opening other Porte Noire establishments, maybe one or two more in the UK with different offerings, though always focused on wine and champagne, then we’d be looking at developing Porte Noire internationally too.
We spoke a lot of about the exclusivity of the wine world and how you want things to be different at Porte Noire King’s Cross. Why was this important to you?
Wine has always been something related to enjoyable moments with friends and family and around food. Wine is something to share with loved ones, it shouldn’t be framed as a technical or intellectual subject. Our aim is to keep it friendly, approachable, and enjoyable, in the type of wine we serve and in the style of service
What is the must-order dish off of your current menu?
With the nice weather we have at the moment, I must say the seabass ceviche is absolutely delicious.
When I came for my visit, the atmosphere was very welcoming, especially with Cooper! Was this the experience you envisioned for your customers from the beginning?
Yes, this was an integral part of Porte Noire, bringing this friendly continental wine hospitality to London. We wanted a very chilled, friendly, and homely atmosphere. The three major points being the quality of the wine, quality of the food, and the service.
If we walked into your home right now, which bottle would we find you pouring from?
I always keep a bottle of Porte Noire champagne in the fridge for when friends are visiting, or to celebrate business deals and successes. But I’m a red person, my favourites being Côte Rotie and Brunello di Montalcino.
You’re having friends over for dinner, what are you serving and which wines are you pairing the dishes with?
I love cooking! Let’s say a starter of grilled asparagus, glazed balsamic, topped with a poached egg and parmesan shavings. I’d pair this with a white Rhône, a Viognier, or Saint Joseph white. This would be followed by a slow-cooked caramelised pork shoulder, paired with a juicy red from Tuscany, probably a good Chianti Classico Riserva or Gran Selezione.
Porte Noire King’s Cross