Thursday, 29 July 2010

Terroirs Wine Bar.

It is funny, but for a nation infamous for it’s love of wine there do not seem to be many good wine bars in London at the moment. Of course the ‘wine bar’ had its heyday in the seventies. Especially the wine basement. But these seem to have disappeared as their owners sink into a hopefully grape happy retirement. But the new attitude is to have a kind of hypermarket attitude to wine bars, they are consituents . Walk into any such gastropolis and you will find yer brasserie, yer posh restaurant bit plus odd little organic bits. Usually something cavernous is going on, and perhaps a zinc bar. Just sticking a zinc bar somewhere however doesn’t work. The one that Kettners stupidly put in their main entrance area has I notice been ripped out.

The intimate wine bar of the past, indelibly stamped with the tastes and décor of its owner is what I miss, even if that owner was a bit of a bore. Somewhere for people who really like wine, not just the latest fashionable grape or witty label. Somewhere that serves cheese, and salty bits. Somewhere that wine comes first, not décor. I like mustiness, old barrels as tables, bits of wine crate on the walls. A bit of tattiness does not go amiss. But slowly all the die hards are going.

One new wine bar to open and whose success is encouraging is Terroirs in Covent Garden. Well, not so much Covent Garden as, behind the Strand, diagonal from Trafalgar Square, a spit from the National Portrait Gallery and in front of the cop shop; 5 William IV Street WC2 to be precise. Very handy in fact and rather tucked away. Not that this prevents it from being crowded. The first time I went, on weekday, we were only just squeezed in front of the zinc bar, on a Saturday the bar remained packed but there was the odd table. I was taken by a wine obsessed friend from University days, now a barrister and we proceeded to drink the best part of 3 bottles of wine, leaving us just capable of getting off our bar stools. In my case I did manage to flag a cab, and turned up, very merry at the bearded one's home waving the remainder of a bottle of red (which the staff insisted I take) around like a captured roman standard. My companion was found by his wife, the following morning, fully dressed and fast asleep on the sofa.

The reasons for our enjoyment were, in no particular order: the quality of the wine, the chumminess of the staff and the moreishness of the nibbles. It sells by both the glass and the bottle an interesting range of wines, largely by small growers in France and Alsace. Unsurprising as it is owned by the wine merchants Caves de Pyrenes who supply many famous restaurants. For those avoiding the dreaded sulphides or of an ecological bent many were organic. But the wines are clearly chosen for taste, rather than worthiness. They are served in simple yet not too sparse surroundings in stylish unusual glasses. My champagne came in something that seemed to be a compromise between a flute and a balloon. I’m a martinet when it comes to glass cleanliness and these were clean and polished. Snack wise I recommend the fresh anchovies on toast, the duck rillettes and the duck scratchings (I like eating quackers). There is a fuller menu that looks tasty but so far being the lush I am I have not been able to tear myself away from the zinc bar. This does what it should do, provides a feature for the place and although noisy I like perching there examining the bottles of calvados sitting on the shelves, winking at me like fat tempting little devils.

It is nice to have a choice other than the redoubtable Cork and Bottle in the area if you want some decent wine, something that the pubs in the area rarely supply. It has a friendly relaxed atmosphere, French without the Café Rouge piffle. When you go the staff castigate you for leaving, telling you that wherever you are going the wine won't be as good and they are probably right.

VIEW: Mainly subterranean, French stuff on the walls, zinc bar and flitting staff.
FOOD: rustic tasty charcuterie and unpretentious tasty French stuff.
ENJOYABLE: Duck rillette, friendly staff and lots of quaffing.
WINE: Very good but mainly limited to France and immediate neighbours.
CRITICISM: has set sittings in one part of the place in the evenings.

The Retrometropolitan would take: Wine lovers, nibblers, people who like to drink…lots.

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