When Nick Revell, James O’Brien and I first started producing our topical panel show and podcast, No Pressure To Be Funny, we did so at the quite lovely, but somewhat distant, Hob in Forest Hill. Despite wonderful support from everyone down there, after a while it became clear that we were going to have to find a new home which was slightly easier to get to. We ended up in the Leicester Square Theatre, from which we amicably parted company after a season to take up a monthly residency at The Soho Theatre earlier this year. This August also sees Amnesty International taking us up to Scotland for a one off special at the Edinburgh Festival, so I think it’s safe to say that, for a show involving quite a lot of sitting down, it certainly gets around.
One thing has remained constant – the huge importance that we all attach to getting together a couple of days beforehand to discuss an upcoming show. It is absolutely vital that these meetings take place somewhere highly conducive to the preparation of top quality comedy debate and merely coincidental that this inevitably means a really good restaurant. I have previously reviewed a quite celebratory meal at Les Deux Salons, where we usually meet, but this was not our original haunt. Back in the halcyon days of 2010, when you were fairly sure which Milliband to back and the idea of a pasty tax or Englebert Humperdink at Eurovision was deemed too far-fetched for satire, we were regulars at Terroirs, just around the corner. The food was excellent and the staff were friendly, helpful and just the fun side of familiar.
We enjoyed a heady start to the relationship, as so often happens – I even took my parents along to introduce them and they were thoroughly charmed. However, after a while, faces changed and things started to become a little distant. The food, while still generally very good, took a little longer to order, and even longer to arrive, and we began to drift apart. Things came to a head one day when Nick’s starter had still not arrived as James and I were finishing our mains – when questioned about this for the third time, the waiter gave a shrug so Gallic it would have been comical if it hadn’t been so annoying. Words were spoken and we left. We stopped calling and, inevitably, we lost touch. Life moved on and we started seeing other people – about fifteen metres away, to be precise, which may have been a little indelicate.
However, as I have been slightly remiss on the blogging front recently, I suggested that this month we went back to see how things were, and whether we could rekindle some of the old magic. To take the already somewhat overstretched metaphor even further, I’m delighted to announce that No Pressure and Terroirs still quite fancy each other. The smiley service that we originally remembered was present and correct, even if things slowed a little towards the end of the meal, and the food was every bit as good as it used to be. Terroirs was originally at the forefront of ‘small plate’ eating, whereby you can order as many of them as you like, in a sort of French tapas manner, dip into a superb selection of charcuterie, or go for the more substantial plats du jour. Or all of the above. We decided on this occasion to take the traditional three course route – after all, you don’t want to ruin a reunion by being too experimental.
James’s pea and sorrel soup had just that hint of herb that can easily be lost, while Nick’s duck rillettes were large juicy quenelles of moistness, perfectly accompanied by deliciously dense sourdough. I had a large globe artichoke with a mustard vinaigrette that had just a little too much kick for my liking – I must admit I prefer my artichokes warm, with garlic butter – but it remained a thoroughly enjoyable dish, and the heart was outstanding. The mains were pretty much faultless. My superb boudin noir was deliciously crisp on the outside and came with spring vegetables in a gently fresh broth that was further flavoured by the boudin as you went along, while Nick’s wonderfully tasty pork chop with beautifully rendered fat sat perfectly on a bed of peas, broad beans and mushrooms. The stand out dish, however, was James’s rabbit and ham hock broth with pearl barley – generous hunks of delicately cooked and seasoned meat and vegetables in a stock that managed to be both light and hearty at the same time.
As we were clearly considering getting back together at this point, dessert was inevitable – Nick went for a salted caramel crêpe that was just this side of properly decadent, while my pannacotta with fresh raspberries was perhaps not as firm as it might have been, but then you could say that about all of us these days. Added to which, I much prefer the sharpness of raspberries cutting through the creamy taste of a slightly wobbly pannacotta than bouncing off an overly rubbery one. James had some wonderful Munster cheese and a slightly less inspiring Bonde de Sologne, and we finished off with an espresso each to kick us into the afternoon. Perhaps we shouldn’t have needed the coffees as we were all drinking water (alcohol might have ruined the moment,) but somehow they just felt right.
As did the whole meal. As we got up to leave, James suggested that this was perhaps the best meal we’d ever had at Terroirs, and I tend to agree, even if I retain a certain fondness for our earlier dalliances. The bill came to a not unreasonable £109 including service, and I think it’s safe to say we may be seeing each other again. I mean, don’t buy a hat, but watch this space.
‘Amnesty International presents No Pressure To Be Funny’ will be taking place at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre at 15:00 on August 18th. Guests include Mark Thomas and Pippa Evans. Tickets and further information are available here.