Terroirs Wine Bar & Restaurant – A Little French Magic

Posted on Monday, 13th April 2009

Selection of charcuterie

Selection of charcuterie

At first sight, Terroirs – a small French wine bar and restaurant – would not appear to hold the secret to anything special. But the moment you enter this homely eatery, you know you will be treated to a dining experience that will resonate with you, for its simplicity belies a Gallic menu filled with some flavoursome, earthy eats. Its head chef is Ed Wilson, whose CV reads with time at Orrery, The Wolseley, Galvin Bistro de Luxe and Sonny’s. Not all dishes work, but those that do are simply superb. And the pricing is surprisingly reasonable given its location in the West End.

But my biggest disappointment with it is that the food has the potential to defeat you. Take the example of my first visit to Terroirs. By the time the two of us had finished the platter of charcuterie and two side plates, we couldn’t make it to the main course for we were already full. How was this possible? And here I was, thinking that I was something of an eating machine with a limitless capacity to chow my way through each course. Fearing that I would be unable to provide a well rounded opinion without having sampled the mains, I gladly went back again. Or at least that was my excuse. Therefore this write-up is based on two separate visits, both within two weeks of each other.

The simple A4 page menu is arranged into charcuterie, bar snacks, small plates, plats du jour, cheeses and desserts. On our first visit, we started with a selection of charcuterie (£9), which included duck rillette, pork terrine and saucisson “noir de Bigorre” (a salami-like sausage made from pigs bred in the Pyrenees). The rillette was stunning: rich with velvety duck fat, it was smooth, hearty and rustic, delivering a taste sensation evocative of country France. The pork terrine, a perfect example of pure country fodder, was meaty and chunky. And the saucisson, thinly sliced, provided ample bite.

Piperade basquaise with chorizo

Piperade basquaise with chorizo

A side dish of scrambled eggs with tomatoes, peppers, garlic and onions (piperade basquaise) with chorizo (£9), was also heavy with flavour; the buttery softness of the eggs melding with the meatiness of the chorizo. Another side dish of spatchcock’d quail, chickpeas & romesco sauce (£9) was tasty, with the gaminess of the quail nicely spliced with the peppery flavour of the romesco sauce. This plate, however, turned up a little cold, and could have perhaps done with a crispier skin for a nicer finish.

Spatchcock’d quail, chickpeas & romesco sauce

Spatchcock’d quail, chickpeas & romesco sauce

Wanting a main, but conceding that we really shouldn’t eat more, we regrettably declined to order from the plats du jour. I suppose it had been the richness of the charcuterie that had done us in. But we still ordered dessert, and an Agen prune and Armagnac tart (£5) proved to be light and airy, with a nice buttery pastry. However, crêpes with salted butter caramel (£5) were too sickly sweet. With more sauce than crêpe, the dessert did not deliver a balanced dish. The sauce was also too salty and slightly bitter.

Agen prune & Armagnac tart

Agen prune & Armagnac tart

Crêpes with salted butter caramel

Crêpes with salted butter caramel

Visit number two saw us choose the white onion and cider soup (£5) which was rather bland, and more acidic than oniony. A second starter of whole Dorset crab, served with mayonnaise (£12), was lovely and firm with a lovely fresh taste of crab. However its serving temperature was wrong as it was cold at its core. Presumably it had been pre-cooked, refrigerated and only removed from the fridge when ordered. It also made for extremely hard work and was cause for a certain amount of angst. Served whole, crab crackers were required to work through to the flesh (hard work), the result of which was a casual spraying of crab juice every now and then (lots of angst). Make no mistake – the crab is not something to order when out on a date.

Whole Dorset crab

Whole Dorset crab

A main of gilt head bream a la plancha, squid, piquillo peppers & monks beard (£14) was poignant for its fresh, succinct flavours. The bream was perfectly cooked, the squid was meltingly tender, and both came together with the delicate sweetness of the peppers and the aromatic herby thyme. A slow cooked Suffolk pork belly, puy lentils & root vegetables dish (£11) fared less well. The pork was tender and succulent, but the lentils were bland.

Gilt head bream with squid

Gilt head bream with squid

Suffolk pork belly, puy lentils & root vegetables

Suffolk pork belly, puy lentils & root vegetables

A second round dessert of pannacotta, blood orange and campari did not hold its shape properly, with one side looking as if it was about to collapse. It was creamy, but a little too sweet, and texturally too soft.

Some dishes did not hit the mark, but where it’s good, it’s really great, with the rillette verging on exquisite. The service was also pleasant and efficient on both my visits. But be forewarned that the wooden chairs do not make for comfortable sitting for long periods of time, and that the tight table arrangements on the lower level do not bode well for claustrophobics (seating is also available on an upper level and at the bar). But the upside is that it can be a good way to meet people. Sandwiched in between two tables on my second visit, I discovered that to my left was a restaurant consultant; and to my right, two restaurateurs from Sussex. All have visited Terroirs several times before, and the restaurateurs are in fact regulars.

It’s perhaps unsurprising that Terroirs is generating great buzz among food aficionados. But it might not be just the reasonably priced food that is the sole reason for this, for in truth, Terroirs is a wine bar. The wine list contains 34 pages of predominantly French wines, carefully chosen from throughout France to present a delectable and reasonably priced selection. So if you are ever in need of a nice tipple and a touch of France, then Terroirs might just be the perfect place.



Summary information

Food rating:
Service rating:

Price range – About £21 to £31 for a small plate, main and dessert. Excludes drinks and service.

Rating:★★★★☆ 
Rating:★★★½☆ 

Terroirs Wine Bar & Restaurant at:
5 William IV Street,
London WC2 4DW
Tel: +44 (0)20 7036 0660
Web: http://www.terroirswinebar.com/

Terroirs on Urbanspoon

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7 Responses to “Terroirs Wine Bar & Restaurant – A Little French Magic”

  1. Loving Annie Says...

    Girl,
    Wow. Amazing pictures – you are making me hungry with them, despite my just having finished breakfast ! Sounds like quite a good restaurant/wine bar, even with the occaisonal miss, the hits (like the eggs) outweigh them ! But they should buy more comofrtable chairs…

  2. neil Says...

    Prepping crabs in the restaurant is a messy enough business without doing it at the table in front of other people. My local Chinese restaurant does a full crab in a chili sauce and I needed at least 10 napkins to come out not looking like a messy schoolboy.

  3. 'A Girl Has To Eat' Says...

    Hi Annie, thanks! The food was really delicious too. Maybe you’ll get to try this place next time you come to London.

    Hi Neil, I know! It was really messy. But it does say on the menu that it is a whole crab so I should have known better.

  4. vincent Says...

    Hello,

    We bumped into your blog and we really liked it – YUM! YUM!.
    We would like to add it to the Petitchef.com.

    Best regards,

    Vincent
    petitchef.com

  5. The Winesleuth Says...

    I visited these quys when they first opened to sample the wines and they were quite interesting, they aim for natural wines which means organic/ biodynamic, minimal intervention and little to no sulphur. Some really interesting and/or tasty stuff available. Next time you go, ask about the wines, you won’t regret it. And I’ll be sure to visit the resto!

  6. Gastropub Girl Says...

    This place is an excellent addition to the area. Love it. Doesn’t always score 10/10 for the food, but it’s of a high standard with good sourcing of ingredients. Atmosphere is loud, fun & lively & full of restaurant and bar biz folk (last time I was there it was full of wine suppliers). Love their wine list. The French chap who served us (may have been the owner?) was really knowledgeable & passionate. A must-go-to place.

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