5 William IV Street, WC2N 4DW
WLC Rank : 37
Glass from : £ 4.50 (125 ml)
BEST FORA local restaurant in the centre of London
Bistro spirit, with the radio tuned to a French music station
“Cellar list” featuring highly allocated wines and 50 different magnums
Natural wine and brilliantly rustic cuisine
Billed as one of the oldest Natural Wine Bars in Central London, Terroirs was created in 2008 by importer, Les Caves de Pyrene (est. 1988) to present wines sympathetically reflecting their origin, nature of the vintage and personality of the grower.
With an L-shaped zinc bar as its centrepiece, the décor is fun with abundant empties of colourfully-labelled iconic natural wines perched on window sills and ledges, and Bacchanalian paraphernalia in every nook and cranny of the restaurant with a rogue’s gallery of specially-commissioned portraits of the good, the bad and the occasionally ugly of the natural wine world staring down from the walls. The cosy cellar hosts tastings and private parties – and even has a movie screen.
Doug Wregg, director of sales and marketing at Les Caves de Pyrene, describes the philosophy as “working sustainably, organically or biodynamically in the vineyard, with minimal interventions in the winery. Much of the farming is labour-intensive, often done with horses rather than tractors and all of the picking and selection by hand. Yields, usually from old vines, are low.” Fermentations, he says, “tend to be with wild yeasts and several wines are made without the addition of sulphur dioxide and are unfiltered and unfined.” This results in “light-to-medium bodied, fresh (even refreshing), savoury wines,” says Wregg. “Delicious to drink – but even more delicious with food.”
Head chef, Simon Barnett offers a menu “avowedly in the bistro spirit,” says Wregg. “For the confirmed carnivore, charcuterie is a must – the homemade pork-and-pistachio terrine has become a classic (the recipe is chalked on a cupboard by the entrance).” This is ideal with Gamay on tap “or Lapierre’s glouglou Raisin Gaulois.” Also try the properly buttery and rustic duck rillettes.
Cared for by former theatre manager, Riccardo Parvoli, the 400+ bin list visits all parts of the world without fear or favour, although France and Italy are allowed epic sections. “There is a big focus on orange wines, a wide selection of Pét-Nats, natural rosés and plenty of magnum action,” says Wregg. “One page is devoted to a theme – the wines of a particular producer, a focus on a region; grape variety or style.” Of the ever-changing selection of 25-wines by-the-glass or carafe expect two amber wines by the glass, three sparkling and a couple of “oxidative/sous voile” choices. Meanwhile, bottles are often opened in the spirit of copinage, “a term likely coined by French cartoonist, Michel Tolmer whose posters adorn this and every natty wine bar in the world, with regular specials and treats according to the day.”
Much-loved producers include La Stoppa, Recaredo, Patrick Sullivan, Sepp Muster, Andreas Tscheppe, Jean-Pierre Frick, 2Naturkinder, Emidio Pepe, Vino di Anna, Kelley Fox, Evan Lewandowski, Burja Estate, Jean Foillard, Jean-François Ganevat, Clos des Vignes du Maynes and the eaux-de-vies of Laurent Cazottes. Look out too for the lesser-spotted Emmanuel Houillon. Renaud Bruyère, Yvon Metras, Alice & Olivier De Moor, Edoardo Valentini, Massa Vecchia and La Garagista Winery (Vermont).
Also visit Terroirs, East Dulwich, and Soif in Battersea which are under the same mantle.
By Douglas Blyde.
Food is consistently excellent – perfectly executed classic French bistro fare in the main – making this a fine spot to quaff interesting wine while shooting the breeze.
Staff are invariably committed to the natural wine cause and the longer serving ones will have an intimate knowledge of the wines on the list. The focus of the floppy leather-bound list is on France and Italy, but such is the exploratory zeal of Les Caves de Pyrene – the natural, organic and biodynamic wine specialist that majority-owns the restaurant and supplies the wine – that you’ll find great wines from natural and minimal-interventionist winemakers from around the world. There are always five whites and five reds available by
the glass, along with at least one rosé and one orange or skin-contact wine. You’ll find a long list of pet nats (pétillant naturel sparkling wines), great natural juice from the Jura, the Mediterranean islands and southern Italy, with Austria and Oregon also well represented.