Restaurant Review: Kitchen W8, Kensington in London
It is not always easy to find casual, relaxed and affordable dining at Michelin star level but London’s Kitchen W8 offers just this.
I visited on a busy Sunday lunchtime and was interested to see every table taken and to hear the restaurant full of happy diners enjoying their food and company. The restaurant sits on a side street off Kensington High Street and has a contemporary and elegant dining space. Round tables adorned with white cloths sit on top of wood floors, while a blend of brown and olive wallpapered and lightly painted walls host monochrome modern art.
The elegant setting was opened in 2009 and gained its Michelin star in 2011. It is owned by Philip Howard, head chef of the two Michelin star eatery, The Square, and Rebecca Mascarenhas, owner of four other top neighbourhood eateries across London. Mark Kempson is the head chef and joined at the time of opening, joining from The Square. The food he produces is described as a combination of modern English style with a French soul and ranges from light and simple to complex and hearty.
My Sunday lunchtime visit combined my very favourite foods – scallops, beef and chocolate, while I also enjoyed some very well matched wines. Upon arrival, my guest, Nick, and I were offered a glass of Champagne and some bread to sample while we made our choices from the day’s three course lunch menu. There were five choices for each course offering a range of meats, fishes and vegetarian options as well as an array of seasonal fruity treats with a chocolate and a cheese option. Three courses cost £35 – a very reasonable price for Michelin star dining.
As previously mentioned, I opted for the scallops for my starter, which came from Orkney and were served with celeriac, chanterelles, truffle pesto and chicken skin. I have sampled a lot of scallop dishes and it amazes me how a simple ingredient can be prepared in so many different ways. This time three delicate portions were fried to create a delightful crispiness on one side. The smell, no doubt from the truffle pesto, was mouth-watering and the tiny crispy chicken skin pieces were amazing. The dish was well balanced with strong flavours sitting beautifully beside such delicate textures. The celeriac was puréed and creamy and the wine choice – a 2013 Chardonnay, Quartz Stone, Glen Carlou, S.A – was perfect. The wine was light, fresh and easy to drink and one that I could easily enjoy on its own at a barbecue but here it complemented the rich truffle flavour very well.
Nick enjoyed the same wine with his starter of scorched hass avocado with salt cod, artichoke and crispy squid. The cod was served as a cold mousse and, I was told, had a deep salty flavour. The avocado was soft and tender, the dense artichoke added acidity and the squid added a different texture altogether. Nick described the dish as refined and well balanced – a very good start for us both I would say.
For my main course I opted for the traditional roast rib of 35 day dry aged beef with Yorkshire pudding, which was served with roast potatoes, carrot and swede and broccoli. The beef was served medium/rare and was a beautiful piece of meat. The massive Yorkshire pudding was crisp, while the carrot and swede was sweet, the potatoes were crispy and the green element of the broccoli was welcome. The gravy was incredibly tasty with its light, sweet and salty flavours and my glass of deep, fruity wine was a fine pairing (2012 Zinfandel, Incredible Red, Peachy Canyon, California). I would struggle to find a better roast beef dinner than this one, it was pretty perfect.
Nick’s main course left him raving about the fine attention to detail. He enjoyed the shoulder of suckling pig with creamed potato, roasted roots and Iberico lardo. He described the pork as lean, moist and tender and said it was mouth-watering and it fell of the bone. A piece of crackling on the plate tasted better than it looked, while kale added a salty flavour, and colour to the plate. He said the creamy potato was delicious and overall the dish was tasty and moreish. He sampled a glass of 2013 Pinot Noir (Ma Maison, Leung Estate, NZ) and thought it was a great choice.
We were both rather full after our previous courses so, after a short break, we decided to share a dessert. We both loved the sound of the chocolate pavé, which was served with peanut ice cream, salt caramel and lime, when we saw it we knew we had made the right choice. The smooth and shiny dark chocolate slab was deliciously rich, while crunchy nuts, lime and chocolate shavings, ice cream and tiny bits of honeycomb were a great accompaniment. There were a lovely mix of textures on the plate and it was a delightfully rich end to the meal, even if I couldn’t taste much lime on the plate. It just about finished us off and ended the meal with a bang!
The friendly staff are a credit to Kitchen W8, they are smartly dressed and on the ball and there are plenty of workers to make sure things run smoothly, while offering impeccable service.
In a nutshell
The aim of Kitchen W8 is to be a home from home, the benchmark for success is “to send you back out into the world feeling better than when you arrived” – this was certainly the case for Nick and myself.
Address: 11-13 Abingdon Rd, London W8 6AH