What do I need to know about Petite Terre?
Is there a better pairing than cheese and charcuterie? We think not. And neither does the French duo behind Petite Terre, a beautiful bistro and wine bar in Parson’s Green, perfect for low-lit dinner dates with a sexy someone.
Exactly the kind of neighbourhood joint you’d want on your doorstep, Petite Terre – meaning ‘little earth’ and run by friends Conrad Allard and Gaetan Payot – is all about small but interesting artisanal producers, the focus very much on quality rather than quantity. There’s a very French attitude about things – a couple on our visit left because the restaurant wouldn’t serve a dish a particular way – but it’s all the better for it.
Where will I find it?
Petite Terre is tucked inside what was one the old Eel Brook pub. Gone are the smokers and slot machines and in their place is a gorgeous interior inspired by Provencal chic: think gloriously mismatched furniture from France (where else?), a reclaimed oak bar and a chandelier fashioned from an old wooden mill wheel. The dim lighting, meanwhile, is soft and subdued.
Where can I meet friends for a drink first?
Start and end the evening here. The bar up front is as good a place as any to prop up pre- or post- supper. It is here you can peruse a menu of the seriously fine French wine stashed in the cellar below. There are no less than 30 varieties to choose from – an ever-rotating list to keep things as flavoursome as they are fresh – and all are from independent and interesting producers.
Better still, a wine shop with license means you can bag a bottle to take home with you, ideal when you want to replicate all the rustic charm of the bar at home. Because why not?
What’s the best seat in the house?
A table by one of the oversized windows that bathes the tables closest to them in flattering natural light. Not only do they benefit from prime people-watching real estate/ Made in Chelsea types wrapped in cashmere ponchos or chino-wearing gents fashioning this season’s must-have brogues – but they also provide a perch overlooking the entire restaurant. So you can take in the buzz of the bar or the charm of the charcuterie counter, all of it buzzing with atmosphere and conversation.
Speaking of which, what should I drink?
Where to begin? There’s plenty to choose from and patrons shouldn’t be afraid to ask for direction. There’s neither snobbery or pretension here. Our preferred wine was the 2010 Domaine de la Loyane Lirac, blood-red in colour and bursting with sweetness and spice. If you’re in luck, one of the fabulous French founders will treat you to a trio of ‘tasters’, just in case you’re not entirely sure what you like. But you didn’t hear it from us.
And what can I expect from the food?
The menu is small but oh-so perfectly formed. ‘Slow food’ is the name of the game, spanning cheese, cured meats and traditional French classics such as tartiflette and baked camembert. Share and tear, otherwise opt for a meatier main for one, whether the trout fillet with roasted almonds or Montbeliard sausage with red cabbage in red wine reduction.
There’s a brilliant breakfast menu, too, where you can indulge in the likes of buttery brioche with homemade jam or duck-egg croquet madame, and a duck roast on Sundays served between midday and 4pm and accompanied by soufflé au cantal, purple potato cream, roast veggies and lashings of French gravy.
So, what should I order?
Plump for the signature mixed board (£24) for a pick of the restaurant’s three best meats and cheeses with mixed olives and tapenade. Served on a chunky wooden slab with hunks of proper crusty bread, it’s charming and it’s what Petite Terre does best. Langres, bathed in Champagne brandy, was our favourite. For dessert, it’s all about the flambéed crepe suzette, soaked in brandy.
Astronomical house prices aside, locals should be jumping up and down for joy that this fab French spot has opened in their neighbourhood. It’s just the kind of place you’d want on your doorstop for quick bites during the week or longer, more languid occasions at the weekend. The food is about as authentic as it gets this side of the Channel. The service is utterly charming. And prices won’t break the bank. Nous aimons.
Hot Dinners were invited to Petite Terre, prices are correct at the time of writing.