Best restaurant: Terroirs

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Indy Lifestyle Online

My restaurant of the year isn't strictly a restaurant at all. Or at least it wasn't when it opened, a year ago. Stealing quietly on to the over-heated London dining scene with the minimum of publicity, Terroirs has single-handedly restored the reputation of that most debased of dining options, the wine bar.

Because Terroirs is, at heart, a fabulously exciting wine list, with a very nice menu attached. A joint venture between the Guildford-based wine importers Les Caves de Pyrènes and the young chef Ed Wilson, it absolutely chimes with how we want to eat now.

The flexible all-day menu, offering small plates for sharing, is a tempting alternative to over-priced conventional restaurants (as is also the case with new Soho darlings Bocca di Lupo and Polpo). But there's a winning quirkiness about the place, captured in their own description of what they offer: "artisan products from crazy people. And natural wines from those borderlining lunacy."

The 25-page wine list reads like poetry, and is full of natural and biodynamically grown wines, a gift for those who suffer from allergies (or hangovers). The food is designed to enhance the wine-drinking experience rather than be fetishised in its own right. Duck scratchings or salted almonds, to be nibbled with a glass at the bar; a board of perfect charcuterie or plump Lincolnshire smoked eel with mustard-sharp celeriac remoulade, to accompany a bottle; or a hunky brute of an entrée, such as smoky Morteau sausage with braised Puy lentils, for those wanting a more traditionally structured meal.

With its spindly furniture and flea-market décor, Terroirs probably isn't the venue for a special occasion. But for just about every other occasion which requires great food, intriguing wine and a relaxed, slightly raffish atmosphere, it's perfect. And prices are relatively low by London standards (the lunch special offers an entrée and a glass of wine for a tenner).

Last month they opened a more formal restaurant in the basement; even more of an incentive to fritter away a lost afternoon or long night at Terroirs.

5 William IV Street, London WC2, 020-7036 0660; terroirswinebar.com

Runners-up

Damson A discreetly luxe bistro with a warm welcome and some very accomplished cooking, this is the local restaurant any of us would dream of finding on our doorstep.

113 Heaton Moor Road, Stockport, 0161 432 4666

Age and Sons Ambitious, accessible and adventurous, this Ramsgate café-restaurant flies the flag for Kentish produce.

Charlotte Court, Ramsgate, Kent, 01843 851 515

Corrigans The latest and grandest offering from the talented Mr C raises the bar for modern British cooking. For a special occasion, definitely my new restaurant of choice.

28 Upper Grosvenor Street, London W1, 020-7499 9943

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