Paradise by way of Kensal Green

Paradise by way of Kensal Green?  How the current owners must have chuckled when they dreamed up that name for a stately Victorian pub in the heart of West London’s gastronomic void.  You might choose to visit Kensington or Hammersmith, but Kensal Green?  Not known for being home to paradise, least of all in the form of a gastropub.  The irony is palpable!

My friend had been there previously and was not wildly enthusiastic, though she liked the slightly spooky makeover that gave it the appearance of Les Trois Garcons-lite (about which I will write on another occasion.)  From artwork in old frames to chandeliers and drapes, odd bric-a-brac everywhere (bird cages hanging from the ceiling to give overtones of M R James stories), misty ferns, creating a knowing ambience of faded grandeur.  Luckily this had been done with a degree of charm and wit, and not like the big brewery chain paint-it-on-by-the-yard style of pub decor.

We were however both favourably impressed by both food & service, perhaps slightly to our surprise.  The menu is unquestionably aspirational, though the chef has more talent than usually found in such a location.  In short, the expectation gap was much closer than it might have been.

My crab & avocado starter was fresh and zingy, but for some tired watercress, while her asparagus with a poached egg pleased.  The bread, usually a tell-tale sign for a restaurant’s attention to detail, was better than it might have been, without ever hitting the loftiest of doughy heights.  Full credit to the waiting staff for giving us more bread when we ran out though.

The quality of rib eye steaks was exemplary, though we did discuss at some length how long ones butcher should hang the meet for, particularly since PbwoKG’s website declared the rib eye to be hung for 28 days but the menu had suffered deflation to 21 days (my friend’s mother believes 42 days is the absolute minimum permissible.)  Luckily, the steaks were rare, tender and delicious so we had no room for argument on that score.

The main course was washed down with an impressive bottle of chablis, selected only because my friend does not drink reds, not even with finest steak!  A shame, because the wine menu has a number of juicy-looking items from France, Europe and the New World.  Since I was driving, I could not venture into another solo bottle, tempting though to try a glass or two.  Credit too for bringing us a jug of tap water without any complaints.

We shared cheese and chocolate marquise for afters, both generous and to die for.  The coffee fine and the service both attentive and knowledgeable.

Shame about the acoustics though. Wish they could deaden the noise a bit – perhaps the budget ran out when it came to decent carpetry in the dining room, or maybe that would have spoiled the decor?  Conversation was somewhat difficult when the room filled, but overall a decided success of an evening.

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