This weekend, I took a break from my normal routine of serving people food and drinks to have some served to me for a change. It’s the way I prefer the relationship to operate but sadly enough, I have yet to find someone who will pay me a wage for eating and drinking and so I must begrudgingly buy food and drink like everyone else.
The drinking part of the weekend was mainly among friends in the confines of Sheffield. Specifically, Champs (overpriced sports bar, packed to the hilt with the unlikely combination of middle-aged woman and under-aged lads), The Leadmill (very reasonably priced nightclub that seems to have a stranglehold on Sheffield’s University population) and my friend’s house (large old house on a hill, filled with sports equipment, manly odour and Tesco Biere Speciale).
The eating part of the weekend was mainly after the weekend on Monday night, with my girlfriend, and confined to central London. Specifically, Terroirs (5 William IV Street, London, WC2).
My girlfriend had a day off on Monday and I felt it would be cruel to deprive her of my fabulous company all weekend and then return to listlessly mope about in a dressing gown all day. So with uncharacteristic foresight, I booked a table pre-weekend, giving me both purpose and an obligation to adhere to.
We arrived at Terroirs at 7pm. From outside, the restaurant looked modest; just a small board that I didn’t read and some large panes of glass, behind which, there sat people enjoying themselves. Inside, the atmosphere was cosy and homely, speckled with French stuff, but with the appropriate degree of modernity to prevent it from appearing as a rural French anachronism.
The menu was short and fairly simple, offering a range of seafood and classic French fare in a format devoid of overblown ostentatious French descriptions that require the diner to have worked an apprenticeship with Jean Christophe Novelli. The wine menu was not so short and simple; it was in fact long and incredibly complicated. After thumbing through the 38 pages (yes I checked) complete with detailed descriptions, I decided that the best option would be to select one of the wines available by the glass. I went for the second cheapest wine on the list, the 2008 Sauvignon de Touraine, Domaine Guy Allion, hoping that it would be a Sauvignon Blanc of enough calibre to complement the starters of grilled scallop and gremolata and squid a la plancha, espelette pepper and aioli. It turned out to be absolutely delicious and a perfect accompaniment to the starters themselves, which were also excellent. The scallops arrived in their shells sat on an unfeasibly large pile of sea salt, which I debated using as seasoning, although after tasting, I’m glad I didn’t, as they were beautifully seasoned and cooked to perfection. The squid aioli was quite simply the best squid I have ever eaten. The skin itself was taut and turgid, which on puncturing revealed a silky smooth interior that blended perfectly with the hint of garlic and lemon in the buttery aioli.
For the main course, I took the partridge with puy lentils and bacon and my girlfriend went for bavette, bone marrow, shallots and parsley. The partridge was slightly dry, although the lentil and bacon that accompanied it was delicious. Likewise, the bavette was a little chewy, although deep ruby red, strong in flavour and well matched with the texture/flavour combination of marrow and parsley. Both dishes could have also used an actual knife with a blade, rather than the palette knife we were forced to hack away with.
After the quality of our opening wine, I have to say that I was mildly disappointed by the reds we had with our mains. I decided to make use of the waitress to choose good accompaniments, having read somewhere that they effectively double up as sommeliers. Unfortunately, our waitress seemed to pick two wines almost at random and was adamant that either would work well for both dishes, which I found difficult to believe, considering that one dish was the flank of a cow and the other a little bird. I have since read up on the reds we chose at www.slurp.co.uk and have come to the conclusion that my palate is too unsophisticated to enjoy these wines to their full potential. I didn’t pick up, for example, on the “myriad black fruits: myrtille, mure and cassis” in the 2008 Marcillac ‘Lo Sang Del Pais’, Domaine du Cros and in my ignorance, failed to notice that the 2007 Sous Les Cailloux des Grillons, Clos du Gravillas had appeal that is “more guarded and beguiling.” What a klutz!
Nevertheless, the overall dining experience was very pleasurable and not extortionately expensive (£75 for two, including wine and service) and also, judging by this brilliant and insightful review, perhaps it has also provided me with an opening into the lucrative career of restaurant reviewing. I will be paid a wage for eating and drinking yet!