So I got the feeling things were going to be a little different at Cheneston’s Restaurant when the excellent pianist sang a medley of ‘fly me to the moon’ and Cream’s famous hit ‘crossroads’. Not your average lounge music then and all the more welcome in my book.
Cheneston’s Restaurant is one of the hidden secrets of The Milestone Hotel, a wonderful five star boutique hotel set in a listed building directly opposite Kensington Palace. A quintessentially English abode of elegance and timeless sophistication, the restaurant is a cosy representation of a country house dining room serving beautifully prepared English fare supported by a cast of very impressive wines.
With just nine tables, the service led by Maitre’d/sommelier Emanuelle has the time to endear themselves to you, carrying you along with them all the way on this culinary journey of discovery.
We are faced with a number of intriguing starters, many the favourite recipes of South African owner Bea Tollman. Do we pick a ceviche of Salmon, Tuna and Halibut, or perhaps Eggs Royale (scrambled eggs in their shells, with caviar, potted shrimps and smoked salmon) or Orkney scallops with cauliflower puree, roasted chorizo and girolle mushrooms. My dining partner chooses a classic prawn and crayfish cocktail (£15), while I elect for Bea’s Hunter Salad (£14), a refreshing mix of celery, beets, avocado, carrots and lettuce with a sour cream vinaigrette. Both are a triumph, served in generously deep cocktail glasses and bursting with flavour.
The main courses are equally intriguing. We’re told the Pot Roasted Dover Sole (£40) is stuff of legend here, and I have to admit I’m tempted, but the lure of a 6 oz Kobe fillet perfectly pink with black truffle hollandaise and hand cut chips (£42) wins out. My companion has no hesitation in choosing the trolley dish of the day carved at the table which tonight is a succulent rack of lamb with all the trimmings (£27)
It is at this point that Emanuelle deftly mentions our wine selection might not be best suited to our food choice and delicately suggests instead a 2004 Chryseia from the Douro which turns out to be nothing short of spectacular. It also happens to be in very short supply these days, and we savour every drop with reverence.
Things are all going in the right direction, and even the pianist has begun another inspired medley as we ponder dessert.
Faced with so many possibilities, from a plum soufflé to poached pears, we decide on a sharing plate, a quartet of desserts (£16) chocolate parfait, Bea’s cheesecake, rice pudding and stellar honeycomb ice cream.
Cheneston’s Restaurant is Kensington fine dining for sure; beautifully presented dishes but without a hint of pretentiousness from a team who know their craft and deliver it perfectly.
London is awash with good restaurants, celebrity chefs and temporarily trendy eateries. Those in the know though, keep little secrets to themselves to unwrap when the occasion allows. For me, Cheneston’s Restaurant is my little secret, so let’s keep it just between us then.