Thursday 28 January 2010

Terroirs Wine Bar

If you saw my Christmas post, you may have deduced that I come from a family of food lovers. Ma and Pops didn't tolerate fussiness and when we were kids, they were liberal in taking us out to restaurants. I remember several occasions of sitting in a restaurant called Spices in Repulse Bay, Hong Kong, while my mum had business lunches. Satay chicken was a favourite, and the green minty-tipped toothpicks excited me. My sister and I were also covertly taken to Singapore on another business trip; we feasted on chilli crabs every evening and blew Mum's cover by wandering into her conference, dripping wet from the pool, having mislaid our hotel key.

Another sticking memory was of dinner with my parents and their friends, where I had my first steak tartare (I think I was 8) and was upset when Mum insisted I shared it with my sister. A darkened pub at a late hour, aged about 11 was where I sampled the finest bowl of Irish stew in memory. My love of restaurants (and pubs...) obviously stemmed from my childhood.

It is with this that I go out for meals with my parents with some trepidation. I suggested we meet at Terroirs Wine Bar; the wine list, mainly comprising of natural wines, looked really interesting - my teetotal mum was enthused by the menu - and it was well located for all of us to head home after.

We were seated downstairs and at 6:30pm there was only one other table seated. Duck scratchings were crisp, salty and (of course) ducky. A glass of 2008 Boisson Rouge Pet Nat was a delicious sparkling companion. The menu is simple and having spotted quite a few dishes I wanted to try, I convinced the table to share a selection of dishes.

The charcuterie selection had slices of saucisson 'Noir de Bigorre', duck rillettes and a slice of pork and pistachio terrine. The rillettes oozed fat and spread unctuously across the bread, while the green-studded terrine went very well with the cornichons and were porkily good.

Squid with aioli was beautifully cooked; the squid was buttery soft though I thought the aioli could do with a more garlicky hit. This may have been the fault of the clams though. Bathed in parsley-stringed buttery juices with strips of cured ham, thin transparent slices of raw garlic decorated the dish. A dried chilli provided a building punchy background. Simple, but stunningly good.

My favourite dish of the night was the Cantabrian anchovies with shallots and butter. Toasted bread, smeared with the butter, piled with the shallots and topped with an anchovy was a lesson in great ingredients. The anchovies weren't too salty but were plump and silky. The shallots added freshness and counteracted the richness of the butter well. I found it a real struggle to share this dish.

By this time, the restaurant was packed to the rafters and there was a lively buzz emanating throughout the restaurant. Service never slipped, and our bottles of tap water were replenished regularly. Dishes (and two baskets of bread) finished, we contemplated ordering a main to share but decided that was overkill and dived straight into the cheeses.

Soumaintrain was served apologetically fridge cold but after leaving it as long as we could to warm up (oh, about a minute) it was pungent, slightly sweet and intense. The Fourme d'Ambert was very blue indeed, but I preferred the stinkier former and Pops hoovered up most of this.

To finish, a refreshing glass of Moscato d'Asti, tasting of pear drops and springtime, was matched with my prune and Armagnac parfait. The parfait was served very simply, with just the right amount of booze in it - Mum made a face on tasting it. The texture was as light as a mousse, with the prunes giving it just enough sweetness.

Dinner was near perfect. I found the cheese servings a little stingy for £3.50 each, but that was my only complaint. Service was sweet and our server valiantly stepped up to the challenge with a a fortified red Banyuls when Pops voiced doubts over whether there were any dessert wines to go with his bitter chocolate pot. We left vowing to come back; after all, there are the main courses to try. A sign of a brilliant find.

5 William IV Street
London WC2N 4DW

Tel: 0207 036 0660

Terroirs on Urbanspoon
Our bill came to £130 with service


Fiona Beckett said...

It is a brilliant find and, you're right, you can take anyone there. One of my favourite places in London. Next time try the chicken with 40 cloves of garlic!

David Strange said...

Sounds utterly lovely. I think when the partner and I visit (which we will, dieting desires not withstanding) we'll hit the menu hard. Yeah! I love good food and lots of it!

Greedy Diva said...

Glad you liked it, although I can never find a wine I like at Terroirs!

Anonymous said...

I love it. Just 4 minutes from work, and a precious find in Covent Gdn area. Have you tried the new restaurant in the basement yet? Always end up going for the wonderful wine and charcuterie at Terroirs, and a gazpacho I had there in the summer was outstanding. Clam dish was a bit too salty last time I was there, though. Great post.
Just had a wonderful meal at a packed Anchor & Hope. Very 'St John', and very good. One off the 2010 wish list!

S said...

Lizzie, i think you did a post about wine before, as well, and i remember that i thought you have such a poetic way of describing the flavours- maybe you should consider doing many more wine reviews on your blog- and elsewhere. by the way, i cannot believe you had steak tartare when you were so young- how did that happen? did you really lke the way it looked, the taste or the idea? so impressive, Lizzie. x shayma

Mr Noodles said...

I've heard great things about this place from a number of sources so I think it'll be sooner rather than later that I come here.

Laissez Fare said...

Nice review. I really do like that place - always find some interesting wines and the food is consistently good from my, as you say, it has such a nice buzz to it, especially in the evenings. I am lucky it is so close to my work now!

Unknown said...

I have a booking there for dinner tonight - I'm excited! Will be noting down your ordering recommendations.

Unknown said...

I have a booking there for dinner tonight - I'm excited! Will be noting down your ordering recommendations.

Fillyerboots said...

The bottle of natural Corbieres deserves a mention. But you're right - a brilliant find. We could find ourselves there more often.

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

Sounds as though Terroirs had 3 very satisfied punters! Great review, and a timely reminder to me to get myself there. Can't believe I haven't yet done so.

Boo said...

Love the tales of your childhood Lizzie. I really liked Terroirs when I visted but it was a very hot day and the heat inside was stifling. I've been meaning to revisit on a cooler day! I might well do that on the back of this post, it's made me remember just how amazing their duck rilletes and anchovies are.

Jonathan said...

Awesome. I'm dying to go here. The squid looks fantastic. This could be a great place to persauade my folks to take me!

Graphic Foodie said...

When I asked on Twitter where I should go for lunch this was the most recommended place. I ended up going to Dehesa but next time, next time.. Great post.

The Shed said...

On the strength of this blog post, I'm finally getting my arse into gear to visit Terroirs...table booked for Tuesday.
Thanks Hollowlegs!

Amedy said...

looks so delicious love to try these dishes

LexEat! said...

I do remember marvelling about your foodie family at Christmas - and have loved reading some of the background behind it. Such gorgeous stories - so different from mine which involve always helping my mum in the kitchen, also from the age of 4.

Your dinner sounds amazing! Glad it was up to the parents' standards!

Tom said...

Oh god you are making me hungry. I went a couple of times last year and thought it was absolutely fantastic.

If you like this kind of food and pacing and haven't been (you probably have), Comptoir Gascon (the cheapest of the Gascons) was last time I went unbelievably good...

Stil jealous and could also do with so Asti

Hollow Legs said...

Fiona - I saw others having that, it looked amazing.

David - do it!

Greedy Diva - really? Never? Well it's a long list to go through...

Laura - sorry, I should have mentioned that we were in the basement restaurant. Glad to hear you liked Anchor & Hope!

Shayma - Thanks. I find it really hard to write about wine so it's appreciated. I was eating sushi from a very young age so I didn't see the problem with steak tartare!

Mr Noodles - I highly recommend it.

LF - If I worked nearby I think I would be constantly eating those anchovies for lunch...

Fillyerboots - that's true - it was great. Much nicer than any other natural wines I've had.

A forkful - we were very happy indeed!

Boo - It was very cosy inside, I can see how it can be sweltering in the summer.

Jonathan - it's perfect for parents.

Graphic Foodie - I really must visit Dehesa!

The Shed - glad to hear it! Do let us know what you thought.

Amedy - it was great.

LexEat - I had a very food-filled childhood, much like yours. Definitely up to standards!

Tom - I haven't been to Comptoir Gascon, I'll put it on the list. The Asti was delicious.