Posted on Monday, 16th November 2009
Note: Kitchen W8 gained a Michelin star in 2011.
Kitchen W8, which opened about three weeks ago, is co-owned by none other than Philip Howard of the two star Michelined restaurant The Square, and Rebecca Mascarenhas of Sonny’s (which I also coincidentally visited recently). Wow. Philip Howard is some star backing. But Rebecca is no new comer to the restaurant dining scene either. She owns not only Sonny’s in Barnes, but Sonny’s in Nottingham and The Phoenix in Putney as well. With Kitchen W8 she has her fifth restaurant opening for it is located on the site of one of her previous restaurants, the appropriately named 11 Abingdon Road (the address of the restaurant), which closed in July this year and which subsequently made way for this new joint venture.
The premise for Kitchen W8 is simple – a neighbourhood restaurant that serves good “modern English style food with a French soul” at decent prices. The décor feels too glamorous to be a simple ‘neighbourhood’ restaurant, but then this is Kensington after all. It’s very stylish and warm – the walls are of a grey colour and the floor of a walnut wood. The lighting is also cleverly done to great effect – the restaurant is nicely dimmed, but there are individual spotlights illuminating each table for better visibility.
Even if this was meant to be a ‘simple’ restaurant, I didn’t have simple expectations. It’s hard to overlook the pedigree of its backers and the type of supply contacts that they would have cultivated over the years, not to mention the culinary influence of Howard. I must say, I was pretty excited about this meal.
We started with little canapés of crumbed salted cod fish balls which were crispy on the outside with a buttery, creamy salty fish centre. My starter was a squid ink ravioli filled with crab and red mullet, topped with cuttlefish and octopus and finished with a lemon sauce (£10.50). The seafood was fresh, sweet and delicious, and the ravioli was generously filled with a decent sized portion of crab and mullet. The lemon sauce was light and buttery and not overly lemon-ly. There was lots of lovely flavour in this dish with the only disappointing aspect of it being that the pasta, whilst tasty, was overcooked and limp. Otherwise this was an excellent dish.
A main of fillet of Cornish sea bream (£14.50) was nicely cooked and moist with a fish skin that had been finished to a perfect crispiness. It was accompanied by a very flavoursome cream of leek, finessed with chives and carrots and filled with lots of plump and juicy oysters and mussels. This was a lovely and satisfying fish course.
However, a roast Icelandic cod with caramelised pig’s trotter, savoy cabbage and lentils (£15.00) was less successful. The Icelandic cod, whilst well cooked and moist, was a little lacking in flavour and very underseasoned. The cabbage was slightly vinegary which added a much needed zing to the fish. The lentils which had been enriched by the juices of the pig’s trotter were very tasty and enjoyable. On balance this dish was acceptable for the lentils helped to lift the otherwise dull cod.
To desserts, and the first was a crème fraiche tart with lemon curd and lemon ice cream (£6.50). This dessert was superb. The tart was light and creamy with a buttery pastry which had been topped with a crispy caramelised sugar crust. The lemon curd was just the right balance of tart and sweet, and the delectable lemon ice cream had just a hint of lemon to it. When all three elements were eaten together it made for something fantastic. This dessert was of a fine dining standard, and at £6.50, was incredible value. I’ve paid more for far less at some other establishments.
A second dessert of passionfruit and lime mess with Brillat-Savarin cream was also delicious (£6.50). A zingy, tangy lime sorbet had been drizzled with tiny bits of passionfruit and then covered with a creamy foam made from Brillat-Savarin cheese. The combination of the three worked really well together, and the cream was so light that it did not overpower the rest of the dessert. There were also tiny little bits of crumble in this dish for added crunch, although I would have preferred slightly more crumble for even more crunchiness.
Breads were baked on the premises and were well seasoned and delicious. Particularly enjoyable were the pumpkin and wholemeal breads. There was also a white bread as well.
The service was acceptable, but it could have been better. At times, our waitress seemed slightly lost. She forget to tell us about the specials of the day which I only found out about when I overheard her telling the table next to ours about them after we had placed our order. And at times, it wasn’t as easy as it should have been to attract the waiting staff’s attention. But the restaurant has only just opened, and I suspect the service should improve with time.
This was a really good meal. It is evident that the overall technique is excellent. Despite the cod and the overcooked pasta in the starter, the positive elements of the meal were so good that they far outweighed the negatives. The standard of the cooking is clearly quite classy, and that crème fraiche tart was fantastic. But what further elevates this restaurant is the pricing. If you exclude the cost of the Dover sole at £24.50, the remaining 10 main courses on the menu come in at an average of £16 (I sat and did the maths – yes I am sad), which I thought was very reasonable given the overall standard of the food. And shall I mention again what good value the desserts were given their quality?
If the objective of this place is to achieve a good neighbourhood restaurant, then Kitchen W8 is onto a winning formula. I suspect it will also continue to improve with time, and for me, this restaurant is a definite must try.
For another favourable review of Kitchen W8, go to An American in London.