Thursday, January 31, 2013
When it comes to dining out in London, locals know that the best restaurants are often the best kept secrets. Kitchen W8 in Kensington is no exception. Despite being located in central London and having a Michelin star, it seems that nobody knows about it. But I’m going to spill the beans, because this restaurant can’t be missed.
I first discovered Kitchen W8 two summers ago when I veered off Kensington High Street by accident. I liked the look of it and made a mental note to go back. Then London’s ten million other restaurants jumped the queue, and it wasn’t until they invited me for dinner last night that I made it. I regret not going sooner.
Why? For starters, the starters. Well, first the glass of Champagne and amuse bouche of moreish fried salt cod. Then the starters, which in my case consisted of risotto of Jerusalem artichoke with Vacherin Mont d’Or and winter truffle. The risotto was perfectly cooked, and the cheese added an amazing velvety, buttery component to the dish.
Across the table, my friend dove into a plate of potted venison with beetroot relish, walnut salad, a black pudding scotch egg, and toasted rye bread. The venison was so seductively smoky that I couldn’t even pretend to argue when he offered me the last bite.
As we worked our way through our starters, a bottle of 2009 Au Bon Climat Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir poured its way into our glasses. It was the perfect California Pinot; rich, elegant, and fruity, it took me from Kitchen W8 to my home terroir on the first swirl.
When it came time for the mains, I relished my braised beef cheek with oxtail and onion pie, smoked beetroot puree, and crushed carrot and horseradish. The meat was tender and flavorful, and the beetroot in particular was winter comfort food on a plate. Across the table, the rump of veal with thyme gnocchi, peppered swede, chestnuts, sprouts, and salsify was enjoyed with equal enthusiasm.
The starters and mains all being winners, dessert was much anticipated. I went with the warm ginger financier with Medjool date ice cream and whipped white chocolate rice pudding. The financier was perfectly light and moist, but the ice cream was a bit too sweet for my taste, and the bits of date on the plate seemed superfluous.
My friend’s roasted hazelnut parfait with salt caramel ice cream, chocolate-soaked brioche, praline, and lime was a dream.
And so was the meal overall. The ambiance in the dining room was light and minimalistic, leaving the food to play the starring role that it did. The service was so flawless that my friend remarked that he barely noticed the comings and goings of our plates and glasses. And the food. Was. Divine. So maybe that’s why Kitchen W8 restaurant is a hidden gem hiding in plain sight. Everyone leaves thinking it was a dream.