The Truscott Cellar is a wine bar and restaurant in Belsize Park, a residential neighbourhood in North London. As the name implies, it has a strong focus on wine, but food is definitely not an also-ran; the short menu offers a range of small dishes that are delicious, fairly priced and a great sop to the wine. And speaking of wine, it’s enormously pleasing to note that every single wine listed is available by the glass, carafe or bottle.
There is also a short cocktails list and some decent soft-drink options.
With glasses of wine served in 125 ml measures, wine lovers can try a wider range than is often the case, and staff are on hand to advise and recommend, if you wish. Pete enjoyed a Muddy Water Pinot Noir from Waipara Valley in New Zealand (£8), a Bodega Ruca Malen Petit Verdot from Mendoza in Argentina (£6.50) and a Chateau Ksara Reserve du Couvent from Bekaa Valley in Lebanon (£5.50).
The Meat board (£7 per person, one person serving pictured) includes pressed English pork, Potted Duck and Cured beef and is served with celeriac, slices of pickled gherkins, giant capers and crisp sourdough toasts (not shown). Ours also had additional charcuterie items from those mentioned on the menu. Looking around us, this was clearly a popular way to start the evening.
The Cornish mackerel, purple potatoes, pickled cucumbers, lemon and chervil (£8) was probably my favourite dish of the night. Everything was perfectly cooked, the salad was beautifully dressed and the combination worked wonderfully. And purple potatoes always looks so pretty.
The beef cheek, smoked mash and crispy shallots (£10) was Pete’s favourite and a very close second for me. Cooked perfectly, the meat was fork-apart tender and rich in flavour. The smoky mash was rich and buttery and with the beef and gravy, made for a supremely comforting dish. One not to be missed!
The Heritage Potatoes (£6) is a plate of three generously-sized potato cakes – you can order all three the same or one of each flavour. On offer are Westcome cheddar and leek, smoked haddock and spring onion and blackened Lancashire bacon with ragstone cheese and truffle oil. Given the pricing, I’d really like the option of ordering these individually for £2 or even £2.50 each; a plate of three is a lot of spud between two and most fellow diners were solo or in parties of two. Flavours were decent though I’d like a little more of the flavouring ingredients in each potato cake; the truffle oil didn’t come through at all, either on the nose or the palate.
The chocolate mousse, honeycomb, chocolate soil (£7) dessert was decent with a rich and dark chocolate flavour, but the texture was very dense indeed and had a hint of graininess. The combination with honeycomb was simple but effective.
Although the food is very good, I’d say that Truscott Cellars is aimed at drinkers first, diners second. How so? Tables are tiny oval-topped affairs on which it’s a squeeze to fit drinks and more than two dishes. Given that the menu offers small plate dining, it’s not unreasonable to have three dishes at a time and we only managed by borrowing space on a neighbouring table while we could. As the place filled up, this became less of an option.
The space looks modern and attractive on first glance but it felt to me that it had been designed for style over comfort and without sufficient thought to how the spaces would work when the seats were full of customers – the first table we chose was spaced such that pulling out the chair enough to sit in it meant that it pushed right into the banquette seating of the table behind; we decided to move to another table instead. The decor also seems to have been done on the cheap, with some messiness visible in the finishing.
It was surprising not to have coat hooks available; I’m curious how this will work when it’s raining – will customers really be expected to keep soaking wet coats with them at their tables? When I wondered where I should put mine, a member of staff did agree to take and store it for me, but this is clearly not the default option.
That said, within less than a month of opening, the place quickly filled up on a Tuesday evening and we were told that some customers were already regulars with multiple visits under their belts.
We enjoyed our evening and would certainly recommend visiting for a few glasses of wine and some tasty dishes.
Kavey Eats dined as guests of The Truscott Cellar.