When you think of the busy London suburb that is Tooting, you don’t often associate it with high-quality dining – although Tooting Market is slowly changing that. Instead, you think of busy streets, fruit and vegetable markets and a lot of discounters. But just a short walk from Tooting Broadway station is Smoke and Salt. Now it’s not quite a Michelin Star restaurant but it was featured in the Michelin Guide 2021, making this a true hidden gem. If you’re a local in London, you may be familiar with the name Smoke and Salt, as it actually began as a pop-up back in 2017, and then they bagged a slot at Pop Brixton. But it was so popular, owners Remi Williams and Aaron Webster needed somewhere bigger, which is how they found themselves in Tooting.
As the name suggests, it’s all about smoking, salting and curing – all the old-school preservation techniques that are very much on-trend at the moment. They use seasonal and local ingredients and bring them to life in creative, delicious dishes. For Christmas, they put together a very special sharing menu, which is what I popped along to try. And I’m very glad I did…
The restaurant has been designed by Studio Duncalf, in a palate of brass, black, white and monochrome. It has quite an industrial feel with low hanging lights and metallic features. They’ve created textures with a bare brick wall, wooden tables and black leather chairs. It feels quite hip yet luxurious, a lovely little hangout spot. It only seats about 30-35 people though, so it’s definitely a book-ahead type of place.
The crowd in Tooting tends to be quite hip and young. Tables were mostly full of couples and groups in their 30’s. The wine was flowing, as were the cocktails, and the staff were on-hand to meet everyone’s needs.
The sharing menu features eight dishes. And for £50 per person, it’s a very good deal indeed. Wine pairing can be added for £37 but we decided to stick with a bottle of red on this occasion. The first selection of plates included a warm pretzel roll with whipped treacle butter, gold dust crusted parsnips with leek ash and a soy and treacle dip, a fresh raw brussel sprout and grapefruit salad, and cacklebean egg yolk choux buns. I love bread. And the pretzel roll rated highly on my bread-o-meter. The addition of a little flakey sea salt on the sweet butter was a nice touch. The parsnips too were very tasty, they had a wonderful crunch, the sauce rich and sticky.
The next dish to come out was the smoked trout which had a mulled Christmas cure to it. Nestled between the delicate slices of fish were sourdough crisps, red onions, and crispy capers, and sweet mustard brought it all together. It was certainly one of my favourites. Now for their take on the Christmas ‘turkey’. Braised turkey is placed upon roasted leeks, and topped with toasted hazelnuts. It had a wonderful fresh zestiness, with the flavour of orange one of the main tones of the dish, and brought together with a cheese custard. Our final savoury dish was a smoked rib of Wiltshire beef. It was soft and succulent, real melt-in-the-mouth type meat. It was accompanied by butter-poached carrots, roasted potatoes and a deep hearty gravy – absolutely delicious.
To finish, we shared an orange and almond cake, with a light and fluffy cranberry mousse, caramelised white chocolate, and pistachio ice cream. It wasn’t too heavy (or too sweet); the flavours were perfectly balanced. I could have eaten a tub of that nutty ice cream. There is the option of adding in a cheese course but we were full to the brim by this point – and very happily so.
In a Nutshell
The Christmas menu is running until December 24, so if you can get a booking in before then, I highly recommend it. But if not, it’s still definitely one for your list, with ever-changing set menus, each one cleverly put together, and truly imaginative. They also do brunch and have freshly baked pastries every day. So if you’re in the area and can’t stop for dinner, at least grab one of those.
115 Tooting High Street, London, SW17 0SY