Love yourself a hidden gem? In Horto is an outdoor dining destination on Southwark Street that you would hardly even know was there. Found in a wooden building behind a small courtyard off the main road, its promise of rustic, wood-fired cooking washed down by organic and sustainable wine certainly caught my eye.
Decorated like a sunny patio in the Med, including terracotta tiling, a wood-fired oven, woven trellis ceiling and richly coloured benches, In Horto also had the toasty temperatures to match, despite it being a blustery March afternoon. Picking out a roomy booth that boasted comfy cushions, we kicked off where all good meals begin: wetting our whistles. This meant a Mezcal Breeze (£13) for me and the cocktail of the day, a Pepino Picante, for my bestie. The former was smoky and sweet with pink grapefruit, while the super refreshing riff on a margarita got the seal of approval too - even though I'm not a cucumber fan.
Starters were up next, which we had thrown in the middle of the table for a sharing-style feast. The burrata (£12) accompanied by figs and cherry molasses balanced creaminess with a sweet-sour hit for an indulgent beginning to lunch; one so moreish, I wouldn't have said no to another plate. The white crab meat, charred baby gem and brown crab mayonnaise (£13.50) was a totally unique take on the crustacean, bringing tang and charcoal in equal measure. Finally, the punchy chorizo in honey and cider special (£7) came served as snack-sized bites on sticks, making it a great way to nibble in between courses.
To accompany our mains, I was recommended the off-menu orange Grenache (£11 a glass) on account of it being slightly less dry than the usual. With a summery feel to emulate the restaurant itself, this skin-contact vino was happily guzzled down. Rioja negra (£12 a glass) was my friend's choice, a full-bodied number that made the perfect match for the spices of our 12-hour braised lamb and harissa vegetables (£19). The meat here practically fell apart at the touch of a fork and the veggies were nicely al dente. My stand-out dish, however, was the sea bass, roasted fennel and salsa verde (£19). It had crisp skin, soft, flaking fish and a sharp herb dressing; a gorgeous example of how seafood should be - stripped back to let it shine.
The favourite from my partner in dining was the wild mushroom gnocchi (£16). Coming to our seats on a sizzling skillet with soft shallots, rich chestnut and bubbling parmesan, it certainly ticked the comfort food box. As a side for all this grub? Confit potato chips (£6), which consisted of pillowy soft potato layers and a gloriously fried outside. Overall, we definitely had far too much food than needed between two, so you should just go for one main plate each (if you can choose, that is).
Despite being stuffed, we had to make room in the pudding stomach for something sweet. First to grace our spoons? The limited-edition panna cotta (£8) with vanilla, tart rhubarb, rich chocolate crumb and a hint of orange. Each delicious mouthful of the soft, silky dessert was savoured, that's for sure. I'd also suggest the beautifully whipped chocolate mousse, honeycomb and salted caramel ice cream (£8) to the cocoa-addicted among us. This one had the ideal ratio of bitterness, sweetness and crunchy topping, swoon.
The DesignMyNight Digest
In Horto really delivers on its pledge to delve out stripped-back dishes and pastoral dining, perfectly pairing simple flavours, a smoky, wood-fired touch, and a variety of textures together across each plate. For a quality meal that's very well-priced for London too, look no further than this hidden garden restaurant.
💰 The damage: £135 for three courses and two drinks each, plus service charge.
📍 The location: 53b Southwark Street, SE1 1RU.
👌 Perfect for: A top-notch, affordable meal in a unique setting.
⭐ Need to know: Service here is exceptional, so let their knowledge and recommendations guide you.