Tucked sort of between The Strand at Charing Cross, and Trafalgar Square at the point where you’d probably be heading to the National Portrait Gallery or the chaos of Leicester Square, you will find William VI Street. It’s a shortcut of a road that actually should have destination status for its small concentration of excellent foodie places to kick back in. The informal and exquisite Spanish tapas bar, Barrafina, is on the corner; Café at the Crypt (which is a seriously overlooked haven for homely-style breakfasts and lunches) can be found just at the top; and Les Deux Salons recently opened and boasts a Caves a Vin (a wine cellar? Count me in). And then there’s my little favourite…Terroirs.
Terroirs…quel plaisir. It’s the kind of place you hear French accents both at and behind the bar. The kind of place that doesn’t ooze authenticity, because, bof, it just is.
As a French national who has lived the majority of my life in London, my exposure to la vie francaise is limited to visiting family across the channel where French traditions are recognisable purely because they’re decidedly absent when I’m back in England. As you might imagine of any ‘proper’ French household, food is pretty much at the heart of everything we do in our family. When my dad makes plans, they revolve around what we eat and when we eat. For example, if I arrive on a morning flight, then he makes sure breakfast is waiting, and if my evening flight home interferes with dinnertime, he’ll make me something to take (last time this was homemade pizza… take that fellow Easyjetters!). And of course, where there’s food, there’s wine. My dad has his own Cave a Vins…which is actually a garage-turned-dumping-ground, but a corner of which is dedicated to wine.
Terroirs is the kind of place where I’d like to think my dad would be friends with the owner. France is palpable in here. The menu is undoubtedly French – there are some twists on traditional dishes yet many are reassuringly not meddled with. When I visited the Plat du Jour was langoustine with lemon, sea salt and olive oil – blissfully simple. There are also lovely French favourites in ideal small plate sizes to overindulge in – pâtés, terrines, snails on toast as well as charcuterie and cheese boards.
Displaying no signs of stereotype, just efficiency and charm, the staff are attentive and knowledgeable. I was at Terroirs for a 5 o’clock aperitif with my friend before a theatre trip. Arriving half an hour before her I asked for a wine recommendation and was given a tasty house red, and as I sat at the bar to enjoy it while reading, the waiter didn’t look in on me again until my companion arrived, making me feel even more relaxed in this familiar-feeling, quiet French nook.
We ordered a pork terrine with pistachios, and not only did a bread basket come complimentary, it was replenished without us needing to ask – without charge. We polished off a good-sized helping of smoked eel with celeriac remoulade, and in true French style, the waiter asked whether he should leave us the plate (and then he did a sort-of bread mopping action) noticing we still had bread left to nibble at. This probably made my entire day, because there is nothing like thoroughly enjoying a meal, and then being able to show your true appreciation for it by mopping up the leftover juices with bread. It’s the civilised equivalent of licking your plate.
On its website, Terroirs describes itself as, “a vibrant wine bar in central London, serving drinks with energy and food with respect.” Now if that doesn’t make you want to visit, I shrug my Gallic shoulders in despair.
And excitingly, I just found out that Terroirs does a ‘Wine Bootcamp Series’ each month, with themes like pairing wine with cheese. See you there!