Bottle+Rye, Ground Floor, 404-406 Market Row, London SW9 8LD
Originally published on Palate Magazine's website, here
Bottle+Rye: Disco balls and a whole load of butter
When The Dairy in Clapham closed in 2020, I entered a state of mourning. Its previous owners and enterprising gastro power couple Robin and Sarah Gill are no strangers to new beginnings, having opened The Bermondsey Larder, Sorella and Darby’s. Their latest venture Bottle+Rye in Brixton is an homage to the Parisian café culture of which they’re so fond. Arriving at a teeming little joint with the baked breeze of another summer night gently circulating throughout, this fondness is convincingly realised.
Summer crudités with herb fromage blanc hit the table after an addictive mix of green and kalamata olives and smoked almonds. A fanning of radicchio, white endive, dressed carrot, radish, baby gem and pickled fennel obscures an emollient dollop of fresh cheese, pooled with dill oil and topped with the fronds. The vegetables are virtually unadulterated, a slow wink to the assuredness of the produce here.
Like over-lotioned ex-pats, pairs of fat Cantabrian anchovies laze atop hard-seared sourdough, under little parasols of chervil. An intensely unctuous and brackish experience, it’s a thirst trap forBottle+Rye’sformidable wine list.
The smoked eel brandade spiked with pink fir crisps, all draped with Provençal herbs, is a perpetual delight. Chunks of the eel are everywhere in this heap of starchy textures, liberally anointed with quality olive oil.
The skins from the potatoes used for the brandade are kept, spooled and sat on a mixture of lamb’s tongue and onion that compete over who can hold their shape. The flavour profile is shepherd’s pie that’s undergone a total makeover; burnished up top and absolutely sodden with a stock of considerable depth beneath, this lamb’s tongue boulangère puts me on mute – it’s stunning.
A hulking pig’s head terrine – muscular but supple – arrives capped with a little salad of parsley, pickled shallot, cornichons and capers popping with mustard seed, ensconced in a deeply flavoursome jelly. It’s every bit as strapping as it is delicate.
Twice-cured trout pastrami flecked with pepper, under planks of pickled carrot, fennel and a bit more chervil has the table nodding with approving hums. Subtle in its seasoning but pliant with glistening fat, it’s a quality piece of fish that eats surprisingly like sashimi.
Ordinarily, salad tomatoes aren’t even the very last thing you’d put in a salad – they’re only just fit for slinging at someone on their way to the stocks. Not here, mes amis. Resplendent in their utter simplicity along with the garnish found on the terrine are surgically sliced rounds of Marinda tomato that could both slake a thirst and quell an appetite.
The vichyssoise that follows is nothing short of liquefied silk. Blotted with streaks of more dill oil, bobbing with fromage blanc and despite the removal of the oyster tartare due to a fellow diner’s needs, it’s a superb dish regardless – moreishly fine, elegant and yet hearty in all its chill.
The salad of blanched green beans with a hazelnut praline, dressed with a light vinaigrette, can complement any other dish on the menu. A juicy crunch interspersed with a toasty caramelised rubble, it’s a great interplay between comfort and refreshment.
The bavette flaunts a rich bark with a blushed interior. It’s a fine cut, cooked with affection. A snappily-dressed watercress salad is upstaged by a small bucket of righteously crisp frites speckled with garlic salt and boasting an exterior akin to membrane-thin sugar glass.
A place that offers a single dessert denotes a certain confidence. Their choux éclair is absolutely bulging with fig leaf crème pâtissière piped to surround a core of gooseberry compote, topped with a fig leaf cream that’s dusted with the dehydrated leaf. All components are so light but together become something so much greater than the sum of its parts.
Although yet another thoughtful restaurant in all aspects from the Gills, Bottle+Rye doesn’t take itself too seriously; a disco ball overhead comes alive at dusk, swirling circles around the walls as if The Mysterons did ABBA. This tongue-in-cheek irreverence is emblematic of Robin and Sarah’s approach to classic French cooking, underpinned by a serious commitment to minimising waste and, to be Frank, it works