This week I found out two dreadful pieces of news: Giorgio Ravelli has left The Ten Bells and The Greenman and French Horn has closed.
Combine this with Racine’s closing and some of my favourite haunts are no more. While London is full of great restaurants, some always appeal more than others. I like a bustling but understated place with good music, simple but wonderful food and great wines.
Luckily, Medcalf Traiteur just opened. It has all of these things on offer. A small space next to the main Medcalf restaurant on Exmouth Market, it has a record player in the corner, crates of great Old World wines, a big old bench of charcuterie – bresaola, fennel salami, red wine and cobnut salami, n’duja and air-dried ham on the night I went in – and only a few tables.
It is cosy, simple and rather lovely.
They serve great bread with big holes and a dark crust to go alongside all of that meat and should you want something more spreadable you can have cheese too. Next door in the main restaurant they have a short-ish but varied menu that changes regularly and features seasonal dishes without thousands of components but instead timeless flavours that work well together – beef and horseradish, cod and leeks, you see where I am going with this. They sometimes have the most delicious gnocchi on the menu, served with butternut squash and sage, which is beautiful. Super simple but tasty.
Moreover, as with so many of the places I like to spend a few hours with friends, it has a friendly atmosphere. It isn’t full of noisy, pretentious trend-chasers or teenagers, instead the crowd is pleasantly varied but generally a little older, people in their thirties who know what they like and don’t have to pretend to enjoy cheap drinks and naff food just because it is ‘the thing’ of the week.
I like Medcalf, both the main restaurant and particularly the traiteur. It feels comfortable and you’re not rushed by staff or irritated by overly loud music. You can have a simple supper with a great wine without breaking the bank (the portions are generous so even starters can serve as light mains).
Knowing what you like is great, finding it is even better.