Anthea Gerrie travels to west London to experience Kitchen W8’s neighbourhood fare.
Kitchen W8 is that rare beast – a neighbourhood restaurant offering a menu of metropolitan sophistication in a room that oozes buzz, yet feels serene. Add to that rare mix service that manages to be both impeccably professional and gloriously relaxed at the same time.
You’d be right if you suspected top-level restaurateurs were behind this delightful place – two-Michelin-starred Phil Howard and his business partner Rebecca Macarenhas launched the Kensington joint in 2009, and the kitchen is helmed by Mark Kempson, who earned a Michelin star for the restaurant in 2011 and has retained it for a decade.
The cosily elegant room in Abingdon Road can seat 60, but feels much more intimate, with its perimeter of green velvet banquettes, pair of pleasing round mirrors echoing a circular cutout in the wall and stunning silver wallpaper decorated with birds which seem to fly off their perch in 3D when the lights are lowered.
Interesting cocktails are on offer; my other half opted for an Earl Grey martini(£14) made with Stolichnaya and lemon juice which complemented the bergamot in the tea. To me, a Campari soda seemed and was the perfect choice as the prelude to a pretty traditional European meal.
Superb sourdough with homemade butter was delectable enough to consider a course, and amuse-bouches luckily left room for me to thoroughly savour a wonderful risotto combining ceps, aged Parmesan and Perigord truffle(£19). This starter, substantial enough to be a main course, was excellent value considering the pedigree and rarity of the ingredients, rarely seen on London neighbourhood restaurant menus. Another starter combined the fragrant fungus with rump of veal, dressing the cold, thinly-sliced meat with truffle cream, crispy shallots and pickled mushroom (£17.50).
Once we spotted Iberico pork on the menu it was impossible to consider anything else; we savoured every mouthful of roasted rack of this pig which has no culinary equal dressed with cracked wheat, roast fennel, plums and stem ginger(£28.95). Although we are the first to avoid an excess of truffle, we could not resist a bowl of mashed potato with more of the Perigord, which at £7.50 would be worth popping in for alone to enjoy as a guilty pleasure with a glass or two of wine. Talking of wine, each course was paired for us by maître d’ and sommelier Charlie with a perfect choice from a short but interesting list of wines by the generous 175ml glass. The divine Rully we had with our starters was at the top end at £17.50 – only what you expect for white Burgundy – but you can get a decent drop of red, white, rose or Prosecco for less than half that.
For dessert, a toasted cobnut financier with roasted black figs, fig leaf and Madagascan vanilla cream (£10.50) was suitably autumnal, and apparently a favourite with regular diners, who simply will not let Mark remove the Valrhona chocolate pave from the dessert menu, although it is intense enough to keep you up at night (£9.75) and we did not quite get the salted caramel coming through in the accompanying ice-cream. But we were already sated by a rich feast, after which a lighter choice of pud might have been advisable.
While Mark is the kind of generous chef who likes to put truffles on whenever they’re in season, splurgers will want to know about his special four-course truffle menu, running November 16 through 28. The full gamut will be run, from Wiltshire autumn truffles to Perigord black, prized white Alba and the honey truffle said to work with ice cream as well as cheese. It would be hard to imagine a richer dish than the aged beef fat and cep brioche with melting Tunworth cheese, autumn truffle and walnut ketchup which kicks off this extravaganza, and that’s just the first of four courses ending with a take on banoffee – toasted oats, smashed banana and that wicked Argentinian caramel confection dulce de leche, finished with a honey truffle-laced cream.
It’s a veritable fungus feast, but for a fraction of the price you can enjoy just one or two truffled dishes before the season ends – they may not be the same as the ones we enjoyed, given the frequently-evolving menu, but they are certain to be sublime.
Tell me more about Kitchen W8
Kitchen W8, 11-13 Abingdon Road, London W8 6AH
T: 020 7937 0120