Modern Dining – Ancient Techniques at Smoke and Salt Tooting.
On a rainy October evening, what could be better than finding a local restaurant that makes the idea of travelling into town completely futile? The six-course sharing menu at Smoke and Salt in Tooting is just £32 a person and for that, you’ll get more than enough to keep you happy. We were invited along to check it out and reckon this is one of those places that makes you glad to be living South of the River.
As big fans of The Shed (and of the other restaurants from the Gladwin Brothers), when we heard about the heritage of Chefs and Co-Founders Aaron Webster (Dinner by Heston and The Latymer at Pennyhill Park) & Remi Williams (Craigie on Main and Deuxave) and learnt that they originally met while working there, we had some idea what we might expect. What you get in Tooting that is rare in Notting Hill is truly amazing value for money. Smoke and Salt was originally a popular supper club, then a pop-up at Pop Brixton, now with a permanent home made possible by crowdfunding. Along one wall you may spot a row of preserving jars, all labelled with names. Those were the people who donated to make Smoke and Salt happen, a lovely subtle tribute.
Inside, there are cool slate coloured walls, exposed brickwork, wooden tables and Beastie Boys on the stereo. It’s a home from home where you’ll find rather better food on offer without having to cook for yourself. And, cocktails. Do try at least one! My rather pretty ginger Negroni was subtly laced with the spice so that I could pretend it was to ward off colds.
And, when he arrived, my companion picked the Corn and Bay Leaf Sour. Lemon, egg white and bourbon with a dash of angostura and a creamy top.
We nibbled on roast British pulses – hopefully, a healthy option and definitely a delicious complement for the cocktails.
A fluffy pretzel roll and soft spongy focaccia came with whipped honey butter with burnt dill seed.
We sipped on a Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley, SB19 Domaine du Landreau, full of white peach and grapefruit with crisp acidity and gnawed on grilled sweetcorn with a sauce laced (apparently) with ground up Doritos. Very delicious, piquant and a trick I might try at home but will almost certainly fail to pull off.
One of my personal favourite dishes of the evening was a courgette salad made with both roasted and raw ribbons of the vegetable, complemented with nuggets of pickled plum and crunchy roast hazelnut. It was a great mixture of textures with the flavour of the courgette cut by the acidity of the plum and softened with the nuggets of hazelnut.
A pretty dish of pan-roasted hake came with tofu basil sauce and a citrus carrot topping. The creamy basil sauce was a revelation – I think it’s my first positive experience of tofu and I loved the sweet-sour carrot. The hake was nicely flakey and perfectly cooked.
Our main courses, thankfully, were not for sharing. I’m not sure I would have let anyone near my roasted pheasant breast with woodland mushrooms and a porcini rice cracker. It was a beautifully constructed dish with pickled girolles, cep and oyster mushroom fricassee contrasting with the gamey crisp-skinned pheasant breast.
My companion, a pescatarian, enjoyed a bowlful of aubergine stuffed agnolotti with mussels and Swiss chard.
Dessert – ‘Salted Caramel Brownie’ was a dark chocolate cake with macerated blackberries and a wonderfully bitter chocolate sorbet topped with shards of crisp meringue. I’d happily have eaten this all over again – although not if it had meant skipping the pheasant or the hake!
Quite unexpectedly the meal was rounded off with a little plate of homemade petit fours – a fig and date roll each, homemade bounty bar, homemade chocolate ganache and a toasted marshmallow. A lovely sweet treat to round off the meal.
We loved Smoke and Salt and we are looking forward to visiting again soon. It’s great to have excellent food at a reasonable price – and even better to have it so close to home!
Smoke and Salt
115 Tooting High Street,