The lovely Toasted opened to rave reviews from the likes of Fay Maschler and blogger Cheese & Biscuits back in 2013. Chef Michael Hazelwood was previously in the kitchens at emminently, consistently high quality French Man and Green Horn and Soif restaurants – both rustic, cosy temples to French wines and seasonal small plates, with a heavy penchant for the organic and biodynamic. Manager Alex Thorpe still answers the phone for reservations and bustles around the tables fussing over diners – like a proper host should. Together, they have brought a real gastronomic Christmas stocking heaving with lip-smacking treats to this little corner of East Dulwich’s vibrant Lordship Lane.
We arrive at the entrance to the “shop” – where four large stainless steel wine vats grace what can best be described as a sparse, white-walled storeroom, with rickety tables dotted about and artsy-crafty wine bottle sculptures as decor. The vats contain the restaurants “bulk wine” – by no means poor cousins to the other bottles on the menu, but simple table tipples wit no pretense that offer diners on a budget a selection which pairs well with many of the dishes on offer. We both have a glass of the (biodynamic, of course) Muscadet Sevre et Maine, 2013 Jo Landron with a platter of Cumbrae oysters. An obvious, and successful match. The oysters and small, firm and meaty. The wine is refreshing, crisp with a mineral character that suits the salty oysters.
We are then brought in quick succession a delightful selection of small dishes. An unctuous, fatty, rillettes of duck. Outstanding salt-baked celeriac which concentrates the flavours and retains the juices, the strong vegetal flavours offset with a sweet puree of chestnuts. We drink an unusual, but delicious white from Ribeira del Duero, which is produced outside the confines of the D.O. regulations from 100 year old Albillo vines and allowed several days of skin contact to produce a faintly orange-hued wine. The result is a very fresh acidic wine with distinct floral notes.
Moving on to serious “main” dishes, we gorge on a particularly stand out Cornish crab with black truffle in which the white meat is flaked over a thick mousse of the brown, the bathed in a warm bisquey broth and topped with thick truffle shavings. Divine. Less exciting, but still good is the ox cheek with ceps. I move on to a Z. Zinfandel Lammershoek, 2013, Swartland – a spicy, heady South African number and robust accompaniment to the meat.
We even manage dessert and for once I shun the usual cheese board to work the sweet receptors in my mouth with a caramel sponge pudding with raw walnuts and pear. Worth the choice, not too overwhelmingly sweet and watered down with a Moscatel Dorado from Chipiona, located in the famous Spanish Jerez triangle which I had the pleasure of visiting many years ago. Not too cloying but rich with orange peel and toasty spices it fits well with the seasonal pear.
Lined up behind us are a mish-mash of different bottles, from simple table wines to rare, glorious vintages – to be bought to take home or which can be drunk in house with a corkage fee.
For South Londoners looking for a tantalising night out with excellent food and more unusual wine list, I recommend getting of at East Dulwich and venturing in here instead of hauling all the way into London. The atmosphere is more relaxing and villagey and the food thrilling.
36-38 Lordship Lane