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
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