Toklas, the upcoming Mediterranean restaurant, bar, bakery, and garden terrace from the founders of world-renowned art magazine and art fair Frieze, will open for dinner on 19 October. Lunch will follow, alongside a very promising bakery and shop, from 16 November.
Mediterranean here means largely French, Spanish, and Italian, with a touch of Greek. Chef Martin Lyons’s culinary background is blended between time at Spring and Moro — both exemplars of light, unfussy cooking — and the often verdant meticulousness of Ollie Dabbous’s former eponymous restaurant. He told Eater that “I grew up in Arnos Grove which has a large Greek community. All my Greek mates had big open fire pits for grilling meat and fish in their back gardens and on the weekends we would run up and down Green Lanes grabbing meats, fish, veggies, fresh cheeses and herbs then come back and cook them together. Then two years into my career I began working at Moro which just felt like the same thing except this time I was being paid for it.”
His opening, sample menu includes sardines with salsa rossa; fettucine with ceps; a “Big green salad”; and heartier dishes like cuttlefish and chickpea stew; chicken with peppers and torn bread; and a whole sea bass to be accompanied by chips and bitter greens. Lyons has a keen focus: “I would like our food to be comforting. People often associate the term with heaviness but for me personally there is very little comfort to be found in the feeling you get after eating a heavy braise or a bowl of buttery mash.” He hopes that focus, on an atypical rubric of comfort food, will set Toklas apart among the many London restaurants cooking in the light, unadorned Mediterranean style.
The restaurant and bar, set in a 1970s brutalist building at 1 Surrey Street garlanded by a 3,000 square feet garden terrace, with space for 100 covers, will later be joined by a bakery with serious pedigree. It’s a reunion of sorts for Adam Sellar — who established the pioneering Little Bread Pedlar’s bread programme — and Janine Edwards, who was head pastry chef at the same bakery and has more recently been at the quietly excellent Rye by the Water, in Brentford. Its concise range of breads and patisserie holds much promise which will hopefully be realised in November, alongside an equally concise cookware and food shop.
The space is appropriately stylish given its ownership, with a reclaimed parquet floor, reclaimed iroko counter and table tops, and even clever pendant lights, produced by main designer Stafford Schmool, whose reflective properties hide the light source itself. The whole thing is set off by a large 1993 photograph by Wolfgang Tillmans, which depicts tomatoes and aubergines by a cool, sunny pool.
Frieze co-founders Amanda Sharp and Matthew Slotover told Eater that: “We hope Toklas will add to the list of destinations for people who really care about eating. We are aiming for great food in a fairly relaxed environment, and excellent bread and patisserie in the bakery. We are planning some very special produce and products for the grocery shop that are not yet available in London.”
And, given Frieze’s pedigree in hosting acclaimed London chefs and restaurateurs, they think the world they know best will take very kindly to Toklas:
“The art world loves good food - artists and gallerists always know the best places to eat in each city. Artists and chefs are always trying to perfect their craft, and care deeply about the tactile, the physical and the aesthetic.”