On a residential street in Notting Hill, Beach Blanket Babylon is a neighbourhood institution, ushering glamourous groups in search of a good time. When I visited a decade ago, the bar and restaurant, set in an old Georgian mansion building did well at attracting discreet but discerning lassie-affair gatherings. Since then, and the growth of its reputation (most likely down to its frequent appearances on reality shows such as Made in Chelsea) – Beach Blanket Babylon has established itself as a place to ‘be and be seen’ – filling its decadent Baroque style interior with cash splashing party-goers filling themselves up on boozy brunches and red wine-fuelled dinners.
Across a Disney style drawbridge and up some narrow steps we are led to our table within the ‘chapel’ and just one table from where I sat a decade previously. Enthusiastic groups around us fill the space for a lively, fun atmosphere as we span our cocktail menus at our modest candlelit table. Colourful cocktails reflect the fun-loving clientele – these include a ‘Tropic Highball’ combining spiced rum, lime and tropic soda or the bittersweet ‘Semiramos’ which features gin, blood orange triple sec and lime.
Previously head chef of the Ivy Collection is Beach Blanket Babylon’s newly appointed chef Jan Pace. Brought on board, no doubt, to revitalise this long-standing drinking and dining destination, his new menu leads with simple but expertly finished ‘brasserie favourites’. He is just the man for the job of satisfying its punters – freshly spat out from the success of the Ivy’s kitchen which has now made a name for itself up and down the country with its comprehensive brasserie-style menus.
Unsurprisingly, many dishes here reflect what the Ivy dish up – shaken up within a hedonistic Saturday night setting. Highlights to note include an aromatic crispy duck salad with chilli and ginger, linguine chilli with aglio olio and a chicken Milanese complete with a fried egg, artichokes, and a rocket and parmesan salad with truffled mayo.
No brasserie menu would be without burrata, which is of course on the menu to start. A staple dish that has proudly made its way out of the majority of London’s kitchens over the last few years, this was generous in size and atop a bed of salty sundried tomatoes – not the most original, but just as I’d hoped. I share this with my guest alongside a middle eastern-inspired sumac spiced aubergine sprinkled with bright pink pomegranate seeds and dressed (suitably) with vegan cheese, mint and tahini sauce.
For mains, I decide it’s only fair to opt for if I were at The Ivy: the chicken Milanese. Safe to say, this brilliantly pleasing dish completely mimicked that of the Ivy – offering a lack of individuality, but utterly delicious all the same. Across from me, another carnivore chooses the 300g HG Walter ribeye finished with watercress, rosemary salted fries and béarnaise sauce, medium rare, finishing his plate washed down with red wine and equal satisfaction.
Across its three decades, Beach Blanket Babylon has hosted a string of names from Rita Ora and Selena Gomez to even Prince William and Kate. As its profile has grown and developed as the years have passed, here is an all-together elegant place in a refined part of town. It may have misplaced some of the imagination it once held, but its food remains an excellent crowd pleaser and I can guarantee you’ll have a good time.
Address: 45 Ledbury Rd, Notting Hill, London, W11 2AA
Phone: 020 7229 2907