“ Mediterranean Restaurant / Address: 53 Cleveland Street, London W1T 4JJ / Tel: 0207 580 7608 „
My girlfriend and I stumbled upon this place a few years back when we were looking for somewhere for a nice anniversary dinner. We have been back countless times since, returning for both the warm hospitality and the delicious food...a rare combination in a London restaurant. We have also arranged a couple of large group meals here for our friends and everyone has left very impressed with our choice.
I'm sure many Londoners agree that an independent, well priced, zone 1 restaurant is difficult to find. Amongst the countless chains with their soulless atmosphere and conveyor belt food, dining out in the capital can often be a disappointing experience.
Enter Terra, neatly tucked away on Cleveland Street in the backstreets between Warren St and Goodge St tube stations and under the luminous glow of the BT tower. It's one of those places that you are unlikely to stumble upon by accident. Indeed my girlfriend and I were quite excited by the thought that this place might be our very own little secret, a little piece of London unmolested by the hoardes. This view was tempered by the thought that without the necessary footfall to make ends meet, our lovely secret may one day vanish.
Thankfully though, a few years on and Terra is still going strong.
As you enter the restaurant, you are met with a lovely warm welcome from the hostess (she really is so nice), always a smile and a "how are you"?. There are around 15 or so tables so it is not the biggest place, but there is also capacity downstairs for parties with a private bar. The decor is simple yet authentically Mediterranean, ask the hostess about some of the decorations as most have a spiritual or folklore significance. The lighting is just right as well affording the place a really homely feel.
The menu has something for everyone, with Spanish, Italian, Greek and Turkish dishes all prepared freshly in the kitchen. The menu and general restaurant inormation can be found at http://terrarestaurant.co.uk/ and to possibly help/influence your decisions I'll go through what I have ordered to give you a taste:
Grilled Aubergine Rolls - you get three of these on a bed of salad, each filled with feta cheese, mint, garlic and chilli. These really are the best, the aubergine really offsets the feta so it is not overpowering. 3 is just about right, leaving you not too full for mains.
Bruschetta - This is perfectly toasted and topped with tomato, basil, garlic and olives. All the quantities are just right and you can really taste how fresh the food is, especially the tomato. Again the portion is just about right for a starter.
Mixed Grill - This is the big daddy portion that I will go for if really hungry. The plate is stacked high with lamb, chicken, bacon and italian sausage. If that weren't enough there are sauteed potatoes, onions and red peppers on the side. As with everything at Terra the meats are delightfully cooked, the meat is all prime with very little fat or grissle and you can taste the freshness in the vegetables.
Mixed Seafood grill - Swordfish, Salmon and Tiger Prawns on skewers. Around 2 good portions of each fish on each skewer and 3 skewers in total. Served on saffron rice which really is the nicest rice I have tasted, it really does melt in the mouth, I'm not sure how they do it. The sauce is white wine, lemon and garlic which is not overpowering, nor does it detract from the taste of each different fish, rather enhances it.
Chicken Basque - This is my favourite, served with chrizo, sundried tomatoes and roast peppers in the most amazing rice. The portions are really good, I have never left there feeling that I could have eaten any more.
Garlic bread with cheese - Now I know what you think, this side is available from pizza hut to TGI's. However, you have not tasted garlic bread with cheese until you have had it at Terra. Words do not, and cannot do it justice.
My only complaint is that they stopped doing my favourite dessert which was the Tartufo Nero. However the Crocante is an almost worthy replacement. Ice cream ball with a meringue centre, covered in toasted crushed nuts. This is the perfect end to a perfect meal. Again, no one flavour overpowering, the different tastes all working together to give it the "mmm" factor.
I am no wine connoisseur, nor do I pretend to be, but we usually go for the Cortese (£16.35) which seems to compliment everything we usually have nicely. It is a dry white, full of fruits and very easy to drink!
Bearing in mind we usually both have a starter, a mains, a side between us, sometimes a dessert and usually a bottle of wine, the bill comes in most times between £45-£50. Now if that isn't good value then I don't know what is. Value not just for the food, but for the hospitality, the romantic setting, and the smug feeling that I have my very own delicious secret in Central London.