In Horto is fairly new on the block. So new in fact that Google Maps took us somewhere else entirely. We eventually arrived after a few circles around said block and walked in through what we assumed to be an ordinary door, but turned out to be a portal through space and time. We were teleported from a dreary February evening in London, to a stunning Mediterranean beach bar in the height of summer.
The warmth hit us in the blissful way it does when you first step off a plane on your holidays, except we’d skipped passport control and all the airport transfer faff and were straight on the cocktails.
The cocktails at In Horto
We kicked things off with a Negroni and a Smokey Old Fashioned off the trolley and, while the Negroni was excellent, the Old Fashioned really hogged its limelight. Our waitress didn’t hide her excitement when this meant getting the blow torch out and, although smoking cocktails are hardly original these days, we were both in awe of this whiskey going up in flames (we don’t get out much, let us have it). In Horto’s cocktail menu is both elaborate and reasonably priced—a combination you don’t often see—and I can’t wait to visit again for a Moonlight Martini or a Mezcal Breeze.
The food at In Horto
Next came the bread basket which blew my fiancé’s mind. (We sound like a right pair getting excited by cocktails and bread, don’t we? But hear me out…) Onions and I don’t get along, so I can’t vouch for this one personally, but Sidney will be raving about In Horto’s homemade Burnt Onion Butter for months, I reckon. He said, and I quote, “Damn, that’s so good I’m going to double-side it!” before slathering the butter on both sides of his bread. If that’s not the highest compliment butter can get, I don’t know what is.
The starters were good, though I reckon we can whizz past them fairly swiftly. We chose the Padron Peppers (I will always order these if they’re an option) and the Burrata, Fig & Cherry Molasses. But let’s move on to the main event, shall we?
When I tell you I’d been dreaming about one of In Horto’s dishes for weeks before visiting, there is nothing but truth in my words. And, believe me, it was everything I hoped it would be. Forget what you thought you knew about cauliflower cheese, this dish is as magical as the portal we stepped through to get here. Whole baked cauliflower and potatoes, smothered in four different cheeses, garlic and parsley. Heaven truly is a plate on Earth [sic].
There were some glorious-sounding specials on the night we visited, but none of them were veggie, so we stuck to the usuals to gratify my vegetarian companion (he may very well be my future husband, but I think I’ll refer to him as this from now on). That’s not to say I was disappointed, of course. Along with the cauliflower dish, we chose the Vegan Nduja Corn Ribs with courgette, pinto bean and red pepper stew, as well as a side of Confit Potatoes. They came with a nameless sauce that I would describe as pesto mayonnaise, and I’d go back for them alone.
I was washing this all down with a nice Rioja, in case you wondered. And my vegetarian companion had another Old Fashioned (almost entirely so that our waitress had another chance to get out the blowtorch).
Let’s talk about In Horto’s desserts…
I don’t actually have it in me to turn down dessert—I’ve heard that people do it, but those people are wrong—so, naturally, we indulged. We went for the Tiramisu and the Chocolate Mousse respectively, and I subsequently decided that chocolate mousse is criminally underrated. In fact, I’ve been secretly planning a trip to Chez Janou in Paris for their famous Mousse au Chocolat ever since. (I promise this is a compliment to In Horto—and if only they’d left me with an entire sharing bowl of mousse á la Chez Janou, I’d have no desire to hop on the Eurostar.)
If you asked me, “What kind of food do they serve at this In Horto place, then?”, I don’t think I’d be able to give you a straightforward answer, but I could chat to you for hours about the general Good Vibes. In Horto—which translates to ‘in the garden’ by the way—made me feel like I was on holiday in my own city, and I can’t tell you how appreciated that was. The atmosphere, the attentive staff, the hearty food cooked in a big wood-fired oven – it all felt like a big warm hug. Oh and that stringy, cheesy, garlicky, cauli-potato situation? Pure joy.
In short, I’d say In Horto has definitely earned a spot on my ‘favourites’ list. Sure, not everything on the table blew me away, but the things that did hit us both with such a great gust that it might take a while to get over it. I like that it’s new and still feels like a proper hidden gem. And, between you and me, I’ve been plotting ways to sabotage this article so I can keep this little secret all to myself.
Find In Horto at 53b Southwark Street, SE1 1RU.
Also published on Medium.