Soif SW11
REVIEWS, January 31, 2012
Overall Value
out of 5
  • Food
  • Service
  • Ambience
Soif, 27 Battersea Rise, London, SW11 1HG

A basically-furnished Battersea bistro/wine bar offshoot of West End hit Terroirs, offering Gallic bistro fare realised to a solid standard; the daily-changing menu, however, struck as as irritatingly esoteric.

So apologetic is the name of this new Battersea wine bar, and so self-effacing its façade, that it’s very easy to miss it. But we were on the look-out. As regular customers at Terroirs (West End), and having also liked Brawn (trendy East End) too, we were interested to see how the mini-group’s much-applauded approach would translate to an affluent suburb in rather conventional SW London.

They seem to have decided that the only way to deal with the proximity of the Nappy Valley is to do everything possible not to appeal to those pesky kids. So the façade is discreet, and devoid of colours (primary or otherwise), the name is written in almost invisible all-lower-case on the window glass, and the menu – even of a Saturday lunchtime – offers almost nothing that could obviously be described as known, familiar or ‘easy’. Tête de veau for the little ones? Probably not.

Knowing many of the staff from Charing Cross, as we inevitably do, it wasn’t difficult to summon up the courage to ask them to knock up a rather superior croque-monsieur-style dish for the kids, but from the actual carte there was little any child would have wanted. And it wasn’t really just the children. The magic – and it is a sort of magic – of both Terroirs and Brawn is to offer a combination of known and usual bistro/brasserie fare (oysters say, or onglet) as well as a lot of more esoteric (and typically rather fatty) dishes, with an emphasis on charcuterie and cheese. (The management, for example, has an obsession with lardo, which may be both cured and Italian, but which is essentially fat.)

As it is this very combination of the known with the offbeat which is, for us, part of the Terroirs-formula attraction, our Saturday lunchtime was a slight disappointment. If you write restaurant guides for a living, and still find yourself having to ask what a lot of the dishes are – from a daily-changing small/large plate French bistro menu – you can’t help feeling some sort of point is being made, and that it is a slightly irritating one. Perhaps if we’d come for an evening visit without the kids – when the extensive wine list would have been more of a point – we might have felt rather differently.

Lunch ended, however, on a high note, which had little to do with novelty. We sense that the chef, who is English, really get into his stride in the final straight, as both a rice pudding, and a sponge made with chestnut flour, were acclaimed by all the family as approaching ‘best-ever ‘status – an unexpectedly comforting end to a meal which had otherwise seemed just a bit too esoteric.

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