Tag Archives: Notting Hill

Some nice places I’ve eaten at lately – The Albion, The Gay Hussar and Hereford Road

1. The Albion, 10 Thornhill Road, Islington, N1 1HW

All you need to know about The Albion is that it has a really really lovely big garden that would be perfect for leisurely weekends drinking Pimms in the sun, and does a great Sunday roast. Inside, its all wooden floors and tables and great sharing plates of beef rib, so it makes a great wintery Sunday lunch place too. Last time I was there (with Juicy Jigsaw and Helga), we ate THE most incredible sticky toffee pudding I think I’ve ever had, a ton of white wine and some lovely fishcakes, and it came to £40 each which was very reasonable considering the amount of vino we managed to consume. I’m definitely putting this in the “best Sunday lunch” / “best beer garden” lists.

The Albion on Urbanspoon

2. The Gay Hussar, 2 Greek Street, Soho, W1D 4NB 

A blue-blood London institution this and not normally one I would have chosen for a girls’ night oot in Soho, but thanks to a deal from Keynoir (3 courses for £16), Giovanna, Tallulah and I went merrily along for dinner a couple of Saturdays ago. Its a Hungarian restaurant famed for its patronage by politicians and the atmosphere can be a little old and stuffy – the clientelle was an odd mix of gentlemen dining with their mothers, couples, and groups like us all wet behind the ears and clutching our vouchers. It hasn’t had great reviews lately which would be the reason for the deal, but we had lovely service, really delicious Hungarian wine and I thought the food was great – my mackerel starter and sea bass main were delicious and my friends loved the venison goulash and choucroute-type thing. We were the last to leave at around 11pm though (I was tempted for a shot of Unicum to remind me of my trip to Budapest but sadly denied), so it’s not the best place to take a group of friends, but is still definitely worth trying for its amazing character and history (I loved the bookcases full of political biographies) and delicious Central European food. I’m putting this in the “best place to take your elderly Conservative great Aunt / Hungarian colleague / local MP” list.

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3. Hereford Road, Notting Hill, W2 4AB

Hereford Road was featured in Time Out’s best 50 restaurants in London, is near where friend Amaia now works, and it comes highly recommended from friends, so I went along for dinner last week. Try to get the booths at the bottom rather than the smaller tables at the top, but its a very cute restaurant inside. It features British cooking with a chef formerly of St John, so I’d go for red meat and sharing plates – the skate was beautifully cooked (above) but so delicate and tiny that we were starving afterwards and had to go for the chocolate cake to make up for it. The chocolate cake was INCREDIBLE but I was jealous at the beautifully smelling meat wafting around us from the open kitchen. Main, a carafe of wine and sharing a pud came to £30 each which wasn’t bad. I’m marking this as “best for date night” and am hoping to go back soon *HINT*.

Hereford Road on Urbanspoon

The tasting menu @ The Ledbury, 127 Ledbury Road, Notting Hill, W11 2AQ

So why would you go for a tasting menu at a Michelin-starred restaurant? I’ve asked myself this a couple of times, usually around they time they bring the mindnumbingly-expensive bill (about the same as you’d pay for a new bike, or a full head of highlights and a cut TWICE, or an iPhone 4). Or when I feel so full of food and wine I feel uncomfortable, can’t sleep.

The amuse bouches – foie gras on a ginger biscuit and an exceptionally posh Scotch egg type thing that made me giggle…

So why do I keep doing it? Because it’s bloody brilliant, that’s why. It’s silly and disgustingly overindulgent. You aren’t a regular customer of the restaurant who is on a normal night out that they can easily afford, eating their way through the a la carte menu one meal at a time. You aren’t rich or nonchalant or used to eating like this. You are a mysterious giggly stranger, a normal person wanting to experience something you’ll remember for years to come, dipping your toe in and tasting it’s delights. You probably can’t afford to eat there often so you want to try everything they have on a plate. With the best and most interesting wine they have too. It’s a special occasion – maybe the only occasion that you’ll eat there. It’s a treat.

The starters – raw scallop with horseradish, perfect for huge menu as so light and delicate, grilled mackerel with shisho and cucumber. Cucumber was amazing. Cucumber! And a giant slab of foie gras with apple and Christmas pudding sauce…

And for the restaurant too it’s a treat. They know that you are about to have a spectacular gastronomic experience that will last several hours (over 4 hours at The Ledbury) and they can ham it up as much as they like – the sommelier can tell you about how the grapes match the horseradish, knowing you don’t particularly care and are probably too pissed by the middle of the meal onwards to remember. The waitress will make you feel like kings, hiding the fact she knows you are unlikely to be back regularly. And the chef gets a chance to completely show off – he is a peacock showing you his feathers, a bit of frivolity here, an in-joke there, but most of all you see the full spectrum of what he or she can cook, the measure and essence and all.

The mains: absolutely incredible skate with truffle that you could smell when they brought the plates over, with cauliflower and parmesan gnocchi (my favourite) and shoulder of pyranean milk-fed lamb with artichoke witchedy grub (my words not theirs). Looking at this I can’t believe I ate all this. But there was more…

And so last Wednesday night I took the lovely Chef (who wrote a very nice review of the meal here) to The Ledbury for his birthday dinner. I booked it back in December, a bit of a Homer Simpson present because I’d wanted to go for ages too, and we got a little bit over-excited about the whole thing. Such is the pull of the Michelin tasting menu, especially at a place that many food bloggers have named the best restaurant in London, confirmed by the Restaurant Magazine awards.

The pre-dessert dessert (of course) and pudding of poached pear – the only disappointment of the meal, just a bit heavy-handed. But I don’t have a sweet tooth and meant I could have more CHEESE

Throughout this post are photos of the meal. Now remember, these are the photos of what ONE PERSON ATE, not both of us together. And seeing it again I can’t believe I managed to stuff it all in. But I did, plates wiped clean. Which is why I didn’t feel so good on the way home, which is a little gross. So you have to have STAMINA to eat like this, and time. Photos never represent how great it was – the smells, the tastes, but it’s a start. And it doesn’t show the wine which was fantastic and interesting and well thought out. And loads of it.

The cheese – I pretty much ate this entire plate to myself as The Chef’s lemsip had worn off by this time and he had started sweating profusely and coughing. It was amazing. And I ordered another glass of red to accompany it as the 5 or 6 other glasses hadn’t been enough apparently. The Chef was dying to leave. I felt over-stuffed like a foie gras goose…

So was it a treat? Hell yeah. We were one of the first to arrive and almost the last to leave. We ate the full menu – starters, fish, meat, puddings, cheese. We were Mr Creosote being asked what we want from the menu and responding “the lot“. They even printed off our menus for us to keep with the wine we’d had with each course typed alongside each course. A bit silly yes but special. Will I be back? Well I can’t afford it until 2015 but I’d like to take my mum for a lovely lunch one day. Or go back if I had something big to celebrate. If you’ve got £300 to spend (for this is how much a tasting menu with wine for 2 will set you back) then it’s probably the best resto in London right now. As I said at the start, you could buy a bike or a phone or a TV or a trip to the opera for this price, but for me I am paying for something that will last forever. A memory – of the smell of truffle, the cheese plate, the giggling, the extravagance, the taste of foie gras and skate and lamb all perfectly cooked. For me it’s worth it, but you have to decide for yourselves whether it’s the same for you.

A waahfer theen meent…

Note: for better photos of the food and the proper description of the tasting menu, please look at the HPL facebook page

UPDATE 21 January 2011: The Ledbury has just won best restaurant in London in the Square Meal awards 2010. Told you…

The Ledbury on Urbanspoon

Charlie’s Cafe, 59 Portobello Road, W11 3DB and Portobello market, Notting Hill

Note – these photos were taken on my new Panasonic Lumix LX3 – we like?

Went to Portobello Market with mi madre two Saturdays ago – she hadn’t been since she lived in London in the 60s but not a huge amount seems to have changed since then, apart from the size of it and the swarming crowds. Seriously though – where on earth does Kate Moss find those fabulous vintage dresses she wears? Most of what I saw was manky old tat and identikit art-student clothes – although there were some nice antiques by the Notting Hill side and I loved the food and plant sections. Did buy a lovely coat to be fair though (although I saw an identical one three stalls down, so much for bespoke) – well it would have been rude not too. Personally I prefer Spitalfields market I think. Am I totally missing out on some secret fabulous bit of Portobello market? Are the boutiques better than the stalls? Please let me know where’s good to go for next time!

Anyway we also met Lady B and Captain Von Trapp in Charlie’s Cafe – which is just off Portobello Road (follow the little sign by the Highland Shop at the Nott Hill end) – a gorgeous little oasis from the busy crowds.

Its an organic lemonade and quiche kind of place and it had free tables and a cute little outside terrace, which is all you need for Saturday lunch really. The waitresses were hilarious – in a don’t-speak-English-very-well-not-entirely-sure-what-I’m-doing kind of way. A decent quiche, coffee and juice came to £55 between 4 or £13.75 each. A great place to meet friends pre- or post-shopping.

Charlie's Cafe on Urbanspoon