It happens often now, that a pop-up transforms into a restaurant proper. This can be said of Salt & Smoke, which originally found its home in Brixton’s container-filled street food destination, POP. Having shifted south slightly, its new home in Tooting seems to be suiting the team well.
The atmosphere is a buzzy one - warm and lively - and the dining room packed out with the same crowd of young professionals who once graced its SW9 original. Interiors are simple and in keeping with its already recognisable aesthetic – clean modern lines, functional table and chairs, and the odd delicate element (like the gold cutlery) to tie everything together.
The menu offers guests the chance to try an a la carte selection, or to put their trust in the chefs’ hands with a tasting series. Dishes are wonderfully colourful and come prettily plated, for that all-important Instagram fodder, delivered by way of genial front of house staff who are happy to explain the various techniques that have been employed for each plate. Smoked trout is cut with the sharp pickling liquor of blackberry vinegar for a lively opener; while a courgette salad combines varying varieties of both roasted and raw vegetables. Elsewhere, a mussel and aubergine pasta was all smoke and all salt thanks to its charcoal flavours and rich seafood notes, although it perhaps teetered on the edge of bitterness, so the sweet toothed should beware. A meal like this could never get boring, with flavours and textures evolving with each course, ending in a suitably indulgent pud of roasted pears with cake and ice cream.
At £32 for six courses, there’s no denying the tasting menu represents considerable value for money for the level of food offered, but by doing away with the rough edges of its original home, somehow some of the spark seems to have been lost at Smoke & Salt. However, the team here are obviously passionate about what they do, and little touches like petit fours represent their commitment to true hospitality and ensuring guests have a good time. Also – a very important note – they do a great cocktail.