-5 William IV St, WC2N 4DW
Terroirs makes the tired formalities of polite society seem insignificant.
“Tell her we want to stay!”
I had just sat back down after an immensely pleasing trip to the gents. We had already paid the bill and were preparing to leave.
“Tell the waitress we want to stay. They’ve got cheese. I now want cheese.”
The table next to us were tucking into a plate of cheese. This was madness. We had already paid the bill, we could not simply stay. What sort of crazy universe would we live in if people just paid their bill and then started all over again; where are we, Mulholland Drive? No, Madam, we have paid our bill and we shall now leave, I will not be party to this…
“We’re staying for cheese!”
She wasn’t messing around, she doesn’t when it comes to cheese. I went to find our waitress.
But this is a false start. Let us not play around with narrative, this is not some self-indulgent, four hour-long Tarantino rambling; no, this is a restaurant review. We shall start at the beginning.
Terroirs is a wine bar and restaurant located at a wonderfully convenient position opposite Charing Cross Station. This said, I would recommend going even if it was the in-house restaurant at the Bates Motel. The restaurant is set over two floors; the upstairs is light and airy, bustling without being crowded; while the downstairs cellar is low lit and more intimate. Both are a pleasure to be in. The waitresses and waiters talk to each other in rapid French and heavily accented English, each word fuller and more rounded than in its native tongue. They are convivial and charming, but also properly trained, unlike the slew of hipster-waiters found in a lot of restaurants across London, who are all very friendly but, you know, just a little bit shit (I’m glad you’re all having fun and probably sleeping with each other, but could somebody please refill my water). The tables are perfectly sized; large enough to cope with the many small plates that, trust me, you will be ordering, but small enough for a whisper to traverse.
There are two parts to the menu: Plats du Jour and Small Plates. Now, I don’t want to undersell the Plats du Jour, as they are lovely; three or four ingredients, cooked with care and respect, and elegantly served. Dishes such as Lamb Chops, Swiss Chard & Salsa Verde or Chalk Stream Trout, Peas, Girolles & Spatzle – this is simple, beautiful cooking. However, the Small Plates are so utterly delicious that I wonder if I could ever eat here without ordering at least a couple. And crucially (please pay attention here, head chefs) the small plates are delivered to you in a logical order. Too many restaurants that deal in small plates tend to employ the infuriatingly arrogant policy of “The dishes will come out when they’re ready”. This means you end up starting with Lamb Ragu and Grilled Octopus, power through them, wait for a salad to arrive, eat that, and then finish things off with a Tuna Tartare. No thank you. This benefits only the kitchen, not the diner.
We began the gorge with a Selection of Charcuterie nonpareil. The little wooden board, home to Duck Rillettes (like a coarse pate, think duck confit but shredded and heavily seasoned), Pork and Pistachio Terrine, and Salame Felino, was the final word on why meat and fat on bread is the height of food pleasure. The Rillettes especially. I weep every day that I don’t eat them, and laugh every time I remember that London has restaurants producing terrines and rillettes better than most of the angry, racist grandmothers in Anjou.
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Burrata, Honeymoon Melon, Chilli & Sesame arrived next. The Burrata had been split open and laid on the plate atop of a bright orange liquid from the melon. It looked gorgeous, like a cloud had accidentally fallen into the sun. The sweet melon complimented the burrata, and the liberal sprinkling of chives kept everything savoury. It was so light and gentle upon first entering the mouth as to seem innocent; and then slowly the deep chilli heat arrived, revealing the dishes fiercer side.
Smoked Duck, Cherries & Walnuts turned up in the form of a salad. The large amount of fat on each thin slice of duck melted immediately in the mouth, leaving a deep smokiness and the sour-sweetness of the cherries – of which there were an abundance. In fact, each dish at this restaurant contains a worthwhile amount of its ingredients. When I am told a dish contains cherries, I do not want to be left looking down at a plate containing two artfully placed quarters of a cherry. Terroirs delivers a fair amount of every ingredient mentioned, because – and here is the key to their success – they are cooking for us, not for them.
All of this was accompanied by wine that was consistently excellent and did not double the cost of the bill. The wine menu can look intimidating and I recommend just telling your waiter or waitress what it is you like. Or if you are not too sure, be honest, there is no snobbery or judgement here; not everyone who dines out knows all there is to know about grapes, and it is important that restaurants realise that. Terroirs most certainly does, and the staff will go out of their way to find something you will enjoy.
This is the point you came in. We had scoffed all of the deliciousness and were suitably full. We paid the bill, I went to the gents and then arrived back to The Girl demanding cheese. Not only did we order the cheese board, which had all the touchstones you would expect, we then shared a dessert. It was a warm Saturday afternoon and there was certainly no need for this much food, however…Rhubarb Fool…Rhubarb Fool! And so we ordered a Rhubarb Fool. What we got was a bowl of creamy, sharp, sweet, crunchy deliciousness. It had not been bastardised or reimagined, it had been made with me, the diner, in mind. I wanted a bowl of Rhubarb Fool, and a bowl of Rhubarb Fool I did get.
Outside the restaurant we bumped into one of the chefs, a young lad, and gave him our thoughts on the food. I shall leave the last words to him, as he got across, with infinitely more pith and honesty, what I have been trying to say in this review.
“We get beautiful ingredients. All we want to do is season them properly and let them speak for themselves, you know? Not fuck around with them.”
VERDICT: One of London’s best.
BETTER OPTIONS: For this sort of food, not really.
Todd Palmer dropped out of university some years ago. Since then he has been writing. He also likes cricket.