The Covent Garden wine bar has rebranded its East Dulwich offshoot ToastED as a sibling branch of Terroirs.
Harden's survey result
“Tucked away off Trafalgar Square, you’d need to know about this very buzzy wine bar to find it… but sadly many people do as it’s normally packed out”. Over ten years ago, when it opened, it was a major sensation thanks to its then-novel combination of “really adaptable”, gutsy, Gallic tapas (“plates of meat, cheese, paté, etc”) washed down with “a superb (if somewhat baffling and esoteric) wine selection, featuring some very interesting natural wines” (it’s actually owned by wine importers, Les Caves de Pyrenes). Nowadays the prevailing view is that it’s “good but very expensive for what is in effect an uncomfortable and noisy café”.
“It’s hard to navigate the wine lists, but they’re always exciting and full of interest” at this “handy pit stop near Charing Cross” which feels “French through and through”; and whose “really interesting, if simple, meaty and cheesy Gallic plates, and knowledgeable and friendly staff ensure it’s always buzzing”. (That it lacks the massive profile it once enjoyed has more to do with how far London has improved since it opened in 2009, than anything that’s much changed in itself).
Just off Trafalgar Square, a pleasantly simple Gallic bistro of a type that's all too rare in London; owned by a wine merchant, it also offers a good choice of wines by the carafe and glass; a basement restaurant is scheduled to open in early-2009.
Find a re-emerging central restaurant location (Covent Garden), and locate premises not too far from an already successful basement wine bar (Bedford & Strand). Use as basis for a good basic food 'offer', in the no-nonsense style that's very quickly made a big name for the Giaconda Dining Room. Add a quality wine proposition closely modelled on that of Arbutus. Garnish with a soupÃ§on of Gallic joie de vivre. Et voilÃ . That, in short, is the recipe for this new bistro.
Basic, accessibly-priced non-ethnic (which is to say European) bistros of quality are still fantastically rare in London, and we are conscious that, in consequence, they sometimes attract a rather OTT critical reception. With this in mind, however, we'd have to say this is a pretty good place. Too many restaurants in recent years have tended to value décor and 'concept' over food, and it's always good to find somewhere that's got its priorities right.
That's not to say that everything here is perfect. This is not in our view any sort of destination for a blow out. We'd suggest it more for a savoury dish - perhaps an exemplary boudin noir with fried eggs, or a generous duck pie with flaky pastry - and a glass, or carafe, of vino. The place is owned by a wine merchant, and the list is impressive, and good-value. In comparison to the virtues on the savoury and wine front, puddings can be a distinct let-down.
Let's hope they get realisation more consistent across the board before they open up the fully-fledged basement restaurant, scheduled for the early days of the New Year.
|Number of Diners:|
|Monday||12 pm‑11 pm|
|Tuesday||12 pm‑11 pm|
|Wednesday||12 pm‑11 pm|
|Thursday||12 pm‑11 pm|
|Friday||12 pm‑11 pm|
|Saturday||12 pm‑11 pm|