Everyone knows that in order to achieve peak coolness, it must be done totally effortlessly, a requirement that Toklas understands to a tee. The spacious dining room is boldly unembellished and feels a little like an urban-style canteen. Aside from a few widely-spaced wooden tables that just about fill the space, there’s little else to add. This is low-intervention dining at its very purest. It’s not a bad thing and, actually, we respect the confidence that comes with such a low-effort (read: cool) approach. Even the staff who served our table all evening seemed understated in a polite and calm sort of way.
The menu is as you’d expect: concise, simple and mostly familiar. In true Mediterranean style, Toklas bases each plate around a few simple ingredients cooked really well. Such stripped-back cooking requires every element to be faultless in execution, however, a standard that even the best restaurants in the UK struggle to meet. That’s not to say Toklas’ food isn’t delicious. Torn hunks of mozzarella are paired with crunchy shards of celery and salt-imbued anchovies, while velvety spring onions with a chunky romesco, roasted almonds and crème fraiche demonstrates an excellent understanding of texture and seasoning. For two cold starters, they managed to be exciting and gratifying.
Mains were good, with a meaty piece of monkfish served on a bed of bulbous butter beans and miso-rich greens delivering salty and slightly smoky flavour. What we struggled with was the prices. The monkfish alone, which for all intents and purposes was fish and beans, came in at a whopping £30, and that’s before you’ve reached the wine list, which are all natural by the way, and start at £28 for the cheapest white.
The desserts, however, are priced at their worth, and included a perfect triangle of mousse-like chocolate cake, plus an intensely zingy lemon tart with a custardy middle and short pastry case. Oh, they were good. Don’t visit Toklas expecting anything new, but for confidently classic cooking in an unpretentious - for it is unpretentious - setting, Toklas is your ticket.