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The Henry Root SW10
Inspired by Terroirs, a good-all-round bistro specialising in small plates; somewhat unfortunate theming notwithstanding, it is a mid-price Chelsea destination offering overall good value, rather in the same way as its predecessor Gilmours (RIP) did in the early days.
The opening of Terroirs, near Charing Cross, a couple of years ago is beginning to look as if it may have been a turning point. Offering Gallic small plates in a bistro-style environnment at sensible prices in the heart of the West End ought, perhaps, not to have been such a dramatic idea. But it was, and by the time of our last survey, that unpretentious spot had established itself as the 11th most-mentioned place in town.
No great surprise, then, that we're already seeing the emergence of a school-of-Terroirs. The original team has opened Brawn in the East End (to be reviewed shortly), and one of the people who originally helped develop the Terroirs concept has recently opened The Henry Root - a new Chelsea bistro, on the site recently vacated by Gilmours.
Both are fitted out on some variation of the theory that 'decoration is a crime', but this Chelsea site is rather fussily themed around a volume of letters from a fictitious busybody, Henry Root, which once topped the best-seller lists. If your culinary proposition is compelling, why bother? Why anyone might have thought that Chelsea's 'toffs' might want all this flim-flam, it's difficult to say. Tom's Kitchen, for example, never seems to have suffered from what's essentially a non-decorative scheme.
But let's try to put all this to one side. If we close our eyes - and try not to think of the dratted Mr Root - the food is actually rather good. We tried a fair mixture: oysters, black pudding, rustic bread (spongy, but arguably in a good way), duck Ã l'orange (yes, really), scallops (succulent, and offset by some nicely crunchy cauliflower), and chocolate tart (could have been more intense, but decent enough). To conclude, a punchy espresso. Celestial choirs may rarely have broken out, but everything was enjoyable, and the charming service kept proceedings moving along nicely.
So this turns out to be a praise-worthily congenial all-rounder, offering decent comfort, good food, and solicitous service. Such all-round appeal is less common in Chelsea than you might expect nowadays, so on these grounds alone, this is a place worth checking out.
9 Park Walk, London, SW10 0AJ
Last orders: 10.45 pm, Sun 8.45 pm