Everyday when I get off the tube at Tooting Broadway, I think to myself – I am home. Not only physically but emotionally. The sights, smells and sounds are a hectic and eclectic mix which all harmoniously come together to create what Lonely Planet this summer named as one of 10 of the world’s “coolest neighbourhoods to visit right now.” While I don’t think Tooting is quite there yet, I definitely delight in inviting friends from near and far to visit and explore the surroundings with me, knowing that there is something for absolutely everyone here.
Growing up near Brixton has already made me a witness to one major London marketplace transformation. Judging from the wide array of trendy eateries popping up alongside the traditional Pakistani and Sri Lankan restaurants surrounding my Tooting abode, I now believe I’m witnessing another. Plot is but one of many new hot spots which no matter the day of the week is always bustling, with all seats both at the elegant marble bar and at lower tables permanently occupied by hungry patrons.
The restaurant opened its market stall to the public this year with a kitchen headed up by former Roux at Parliament Square chef Giles Elstob and an emphasis on locally sourced produce. The concept is small plates, with staff recommending two to three plates each. This week I ventured there for the second time since its opening with fond memories of gluten free friendly options and a kitchen willing to adapt. I was delighted to learn upon being seated that five out of six plates on the small menu were naturally gluten free with the final option – Smoked Salmon, Beetroot & Douglas Fir Mayo – easily made me-friendly by removing the Treacle Soda Bread.
I opted for the London Burrata cheese – a long-time favourite of mine – served with walnut pesto and crispy Oxspring’s ham, the latter of which added a delectably salty edge to a traditionally creamy and understated flavour.
This I shared with my partner, alongside a Cured Beef Carpaccio with the most decadent and flavourful celeriac remoulade I think I have ever tasted. The carpaccio came drizzled with truffle mayo and pickled girolles.
For a heartier plate, we decided on the Roast Shetland Cod, atop a bed of creamy butternut squash puree and sea vegetables. Everything was delicious and beautifully put together on an array of ceramic and white enamel plates with that familiar farm kitchen-style blue rim.
While I enjoyed another relatively carefree night at Plot, a friend I dined with was sadly not privy to the same experience as a vegetarian and was left with incredibly limited options. Amazingly, the kitchen had only one entirely vegetarian friendly plate on offer: Charred Hispi Cabbage. While another dish was adaptable, there appeared to be no sides or additional vegetables that the restaurant was willing to improvise with to create an additional small plate.
After much debate, our waiter finally got word that some fried potatoes from a meat dish could and would be brought to the table as a small dish themselves, but we were told that the kitchen did not want to “just throw other ingredients together.”
The vegetarian plates which arrived my friend said were flavourful, but by that point fatigue from negotiating choices had already clouded the atmosphere around the table. As a meat eater through and through, that night I counted my blessings for having to cut out only one thing and one thing alone: gluten. To appeal to a wider array of eaters however, I realised that Plot’s “modern” kitchen still has some distance to go.