REVIEW: Tonco on Sharrow Vale is one happy plateful surprise after another

The arrival of new kid on the block, Toncos, in Sharrow Vale will impress you to no end with it’s ever changing menu based on seasonal ingredients.

Wednesday, 15th January 2020, 3:36 pm
Updated Wednesday, 15th January 2020, 3:37 pm

The new establishment of Tonco on Dyson Place recently opened under the new build after a while of serving their food in pop-ups and I couldn’t be happier they finally have their own space. The service was good, we didn’t have to wait long and staff were good at checking up on us at appropriate intervals. Staff were friendly, welcoming and very helpful. Co-owner of Tonco, Joe Shrewsbury wasn’t shy about coming round tables and speaking to his diners and helping folks with their orders. The speciality of Tonco is that they work their menu based on what ingredients are in season and source them all locally. This means that their menu changes regularly, making the other co-owner of Tonco, Chef Flo Russell - an original flavour genius. Before I continue, I consider myself an experienced foody with quite a bit of knowledge of food and cooking, with trustworthy taste buds so dining at Tonco I didn’t know what to expect because all their dishes are original but found myself, continuously surprised plate after plate. Chef Flo so obviously knows what she is doing when she creates her dishes. She is utterly talented to be able to not only regularly create new original dishes in line with what is local and in season, but to make it so tasty as well!

The inside of the bar and restaurant is very comfortable, warm, simple but chic. Nothing was too loud or too boring. This seems to be the theme with Tonco as it translated into their cooking too. The restaurant is bright and clear and holds no secrets as the kitchen is right in front of you when you dine. The kitchen is completely open and you’re able to see the chef herself with the team cooking up the food of the day.

For starters, Joe recommended Bread with olive oil and olives that deserve so much credit. Now, this may sound like high praise just for some humble olives but Tonco have somehow improved by marinating them into the best olives I have ever had. They were gigantic, juicy flavour bombs covered in salt, oil and thyme. These babies were so good, I found myself speechless yet giddy at my first bite. I didn’t want them to end - this, in my personal opinion is enough to send me to Tonco every week just for those olives.

Co-owners, Chef Flo Russell and Joe Shrewsbury. Photo credit to: Danni Maibaum
Co-owners, Chef Flo Russell and Joe Shrewsbury. Photo credit to: Danni Maibaum

The bread was freshly made and went really nicely with the olive oil that we were told was made and sent over from Greece by a friend of Joe’s. The olive oil was especially fresh with bitter and peppery flavour with a bright green colour. This type of olive oil holds a lot of polyphenol and vitamins which is very good for you but makes it taste bitter and peppery. It’s a clean flavour but you don’t lose any of the creamy aftertaste.

For drinks I had the 2016, Moscatel de Alejandria, Bodegas Vinessens, Orange wine at £6.50 a glass. I had never had this sort of wine before, so I asked Joe before making a decision. He explained that the wine was made and then put back onto the grape skins to ferment further making it a very dry type of wine, which went down easy. He even let my friend and I try some just to see if we’d like it.

For mains we shared two plates: Lemon Sole with buttermilk emulsion and leeks and another dish: Squash, Carrot, toasted buckwheat and labneh. The Lemon sole was very good, nicely cooked and the meat was so tender it literally fell off the bones. This was another matter - the fish was beautiful and so flavourful with secret nuggets of meat the further you go into it, but you have to be careful of the bones. Other than this, the dish was good. The squash and carrots, dare I say, were actually the best dish among the main dishes we had. The squash and carrots with labneh and buckwheat were absolutely genius. The combinations of texture and flavour worked so perfectly together, and though this looks like a simple dish nothing is on that plate for no reason - every ingredient played a part in the tasteiness of this dish. Again, Flo knowns what she is doing. The squash was beautifully soft and slightly sweet which went with the creamy, tanginess of the labneh yogurt. The Yogurt was a big surprise because it was so delicious. It made a big point to not go unnoticed among everything else on the plate, the squash was soft and the carrots were caramelised with only the tiniest bit of crush still left in it, leaving only the buckwheat to flow through altogether really wonderfully. The lasting impression that these dishes are that they are simple, humble ingredients but the textures put together were unexpected; you probably wouldn’t think to put them together but they are really something special and that is where the surprises lay.

For dessert, my friend and I shared the Quincewell Tart with yogurt and Ice cream with apple syrup. These two dishes were absolutely de-lec-ta-ble. The tart is not any old tart, but a beautiful scrumptious Quincewell Tart that went beyond what we were expecting. Toncos treated us very nicely when they served us this because it was a rather generous size. It was moreish, yummy and the texture was satisfying. The Ice cream was vanilla and came in a very cold bowl to keep the ice cream from melting too fast I believe. It was creamy and soft but the kick was the apple syrup. Sour, tangy and sweet apple syrup that covered the ice cream was a great way to end the meal. Beautiful work Tonco. Something should be said about the prices that Tonco offer - nothing at this restaurant is overpriced making all of these delicious plates affordable for everyone that wants to experience a fully satisfying, surprising, scrumptious meal. I will definitely be returning to Tonco for more.

New neighbourhood bar and restaurant at Sharrow Vale, Tonco. Photo credit to: Danni Maibaum
Main course: Squash, Carrot, toasted buckwheat and labneh dish. Photo credit to: Danni Maibaum