From one of the backers behind Terroirs and Brawn comes this superb neighbourhood restaurant, bar and wine shop on the old site of Green & Blue. Their central tenet might be natural wine, but the food is just as worthy of the limelight.
Toasted (or Toast “ED”, for East Dulwich) isn’t strictly part of the same group as Terroirs and so on, but it has one of the same investors: Eric Narioo, who heads up the natural wine importer Les Caves de Pyrène. It was Eric who bought together manager Alex Thorp and ex-Green Man French Horn chef Hazel (aka Michael Hazelwood). They’re a young, charismatic combination, and both spend time out on the floor chatting to diners during service.
The restaurant, meanwhile, is casual and stripped back. Floors are made from roughly sanded wood, tables are scattered rather than regimented and the bare-brick walls are hung with antique mirrors and shelves of haphazardly stacked bottles. A long bar lined with stools ranges along one wall, at which people perch throughout the evening as they stop for a chat, a bite to eat or to replenish a refillable bottle from one of the tanks. After opening quietly at the start of June, they seem to have already established a laid-back clientele of local couples and families alike.
The only problem with this veneer of informality is that the food is rather more special than you might expect. Unlike at Terroirs, the menu isn’t French. Instead it changes with what’s available, based around the best their butcher and fishmonger have to offer.
Raw mackerel with white soy, crispy ginger and trout roe (£9) shows a Japanese influence, the strong flavours and textures marrying perfectly. Simpler is a dish of peas, curd, almonds and sunshine-yellow egg yolk (£7), a combination wonderfully evocative of British summertime.
To follow, a hunk of Saddleback pork (£18) is elegantly served with fennel, morcilla (a Spanish black pudding) and gooseberries: a well-judged balance of sweet, meaty and aromatic ingredients. Their take on a classic haddock dish (£16.50) is much lighter; an airy potato and olive oil velouté replaces a creamy sauce, while a layer of roasted quinoa is used in lieu of fish skin.
Desserts, such as a sweet and sour combination of strawberries, caramelised hazelnuts and frozen buttermilk (£6), are more unusual. The sourdough beignets (£4), however, don’t quite match the sickly and sticky New Orleans original. The sourdough gives them an interesting, heavier texture, but they’re probably not going to be the next cronut.
Wine – and specifically natural wine – is of course the focus not an aside here. There are no set regulations for a wine to be called natural, and as such Toasted’s goal has been to find individuals making distinctive wines without extensive chemical interference. Or, as Les Caves de Pyrène describe them rather eloquently, ‘wines of terroir and typicity… the endeavours of small independent growers… earthy, mineral, more-ish and capable of accompanying food’. The result is an intriguing list full of loving-crafted bottles that offer a throwback to flavours we might have tasted before innovations in the 1950s.
They have three wines in tanks on site, of which Jo Landron’s Muscadet sur Lie is a refreshing white with a characteristic yeasty note (from being left on its yeast sediment after fermentation). A bottle costs just £12.85 to drink in, or £5.95 to take away. By the glass, the 2012 Lammershoek “LAM” (£7) is a blend of old vine Chenin, Vigoner and Chardonnay with a complex palate and plenty of floral notes on the nose. Equally good is their Chinon (£8.80), a biodynamic wine made by Catherine and Pierre Breton. Served lightly chilled – as it should be – it has a strong raspberry aroma, coupled with a characteristically herbaceous Cabernet Franc character on the palate.
The Last Word
Toasted has a fitting moniker. We should raise a glass to the amiable team running this restaurant; it’s a great addition to southeast London.