Print is dead. Or so everyone says. If you hear something enough times you start to believe it.
Last week I discovered Noble Rot magazine and it made me question whether there’s life in the old dog after all.
Nobel Rot is a food and wine magazine. It’s not the sort of thing I would usually buy (especially for £9) but I was in Noble Rot wine bar in Lamb’s Conduit Street and picked it up. Admittedly, I’d had a few, but it when I flicked through the pages it smelled so good I was hooked. And the thick paper and eye-catching design were equally seductive.
It was pretty much love at first sight, but how would I feel in the morning? If anything, I was even more smitten. This is a brilliant magazine, all 116 pages of it. As well it might be given that it is edited by Dan Keeling, winner of the Louis Roeder Food & Wine Writer of the Year 2017 and Fortnum & Mason Drink Writer of the Year 2016.
As a rule, I hate reading about wine. I find all that talk about tannins and hints of raspberry completely off-putting. This is different. The magazine doesn’t take itself or eating and drinking too seriously.
There’s a hilarious column that reviews some mythical cookbooks including Fergus Henderson’s From Bollocks to Arsehole and Delia Smith’s Let’s be ‘Aving Ewe. (I admit that I read this on the train home and only realised in the morning that the article was a spoof when I looked on Amazon for Yotam Ottolenghi’s Actually, I Hate Pomegranates.)
My favorite column is John Niven’s food and wine agony uncle column, in the style of the late, great A.A. Gill’s Esquire column.
Among the magazine’s stellar contributors are Sunday Times restaurant reviewer Marina O’Loughlin, Rowley Leigh, Russell Norman and Simon Hopkinson. There’s even an interview with Baxter Drury, son of Ian, whose bonkers song Miami has been ear-worming through my head since the autumn. (Sample lyric: “I don't think you know who I am, I'm the sausage man, the shadow licker…”)
There are no ads in Noble Rot, which got me wondering. Who publishes it, and why?
It turns out that Dan Keeling was head of A&R at Parlophone Records where he signed Coldplay, Bombay Bicycle Club, and Lily Allen. His co-founder is Mark Andrew, a Master of Wine.
From what I can gather, unusually, the wine bar is a spin off from the magazine rather than the other way round. Dan and Mark have also launched a wine import company that supplies restaurants, bars and independent wine merchants.
Noble Rot is published three times a year. I have no idea if it makes any money. It’s hard to see how it could do given the quality of the print, the writing and the design. Maybe it doesn’t need to and is a labour of love on behalf of its fan base of “rotters”. Either way, long may it, and print magazines, continue.