.Considering he was the third chef in three years to head up this brigade, Mark Lloyd wasn’t looking the slightest bit ruffled. “It’s been a struggle but the neighbourhood’s slowly coming round,” he told me after delivering a very impressive dinner.
It’s a challenge this talented forager, presenter and former River Cottage chef is relishing with just a couple of months into his tenure. But the residents of Notting Hill’s leafy lanes are a tough nut to crack. “It’s like a village here and word needs to get around. You might get the benefit of the doubt once, but I’m the third face, so I’ve had to change things quickly.”
With the benefit of no previous, I was seeing it with fresh eyes and it was a delightful experience. To me, the teaming up of Lloyd and restaurant director and wine expert Jay Decker is a genius move.
This former pub, just a hop and a skip from Portobello Market, is a generous space and coming in on a cold December night, it felt a bit like entering Santa’s Grotto. The twinkling lights and indoor foliage gave me a heart warming glow as I made my way in. But this is far from a fairytale wonderland. On one hand, the room is all about sampling some serious wines and cocktails and on the other, sitting down to chow on some farm-fresh fodder.
Two specials for our starters then; butternut squash soup with rapeseed and sunflower (£6), an absolute belter of a winter warmer and for me, small breaded bocconcini balls with tomato ragu and basil oil (£8) which was like Sicilian arancini but made with mozzarella instead of rice. The ragu and rocket was a spicy kicker to the creamy mozzarella.
For the main, my partner plumped for another special; confit duck leg with lentils, kale, button onions and bacon (£14.50). Lloyd again: “With a duck tagine on the menu, what are you going to do with the leftover leg? Make a confit obviously.” Sitting there on a massive bed of lentils, it was the perfect example of Lloyd’s mantra; “freshly-sourced produce heavy on flavour”. It’s what happens when you have a forager chef who’s bought into sustainable farm-fresh ingredients.
With the discovery of a wood-fired Bertha oven for smoking grilled meats I had to have the fillet steak with sweet potato fries and a pepper sauce (£32). Perfectly grilled and suitably smoky. There were other contenders; ox cheek, celeriac, smoked apple, king oyster mushroom, truffle, lardo and beers sauce (£22) or the aforementioned duck tagine, couscous, raisins, chamomile and ras al hanout spice (£24). There was even a Yorkshire wagyu burger with truffle mayo and smoked cheese (£21)
Decker’s influence at the bar is self-evident with some ingenious cocktails such as Japanese plum negroni ((£12) and salted caramel espresso martini (£12)
But I was drawn to the Coravin selection; a process of drawing wine from the bottle without extracting the cork. Having never had the pleasure of a Coravin wine, I was delighted to spot a glass of 2013 Barolo Serralunga Rivetto for £13/125ml and £18/175ml. It did not disappoint in any way whatsoever and matched beautifully with my fillet. If this is typical Coravin then I’m all in.
As a fitting finale, our coconut and lime pannacotta with charred pineapple, sorbet and coconut flakes (£7) was the ideal palate cleanser. I was torn between that and an olive oil, orange and polenta cake with orange gel and yoghurt sorbet (£7). The children’s pudding menu of two scoops of ice cream or mini sticky toffee pudding sundaes was to me, a subtle nod towards making up with the local gentry.
They say third time lucky. I for one think Ponoma’s is now a neighbourhood restaurant that should be forgiven for any past sins. This is version 3.0 and it’s great.
All food shots (C) Andy Mossack
Tell me more about Pomona’s Restaurant & Bar
Pomona’s Restaurant & Bar 47 Hereford Rd, London W2 5AH ( just 10 minutes walk from Notting Hill Gate or Royal Oak stations)
T: 020 7229 1503