Saturday, 4 December 2010

Notting Hill Brasserie

92 Kensington Park Road, London. £150 for two including wine

As I suspected he might do, TOD met my latest arrival in West London with some violent and suspicious behaviour.

The area's cartographers, some deaf people, and a young lady who happened to be standing where he wanted to be, all came under attack. But particular vehemence was reserved for a woman sitting next to us in a pub who was wearing a preposterous hat.

The lobotomy of TOD's social conscience has led to a game in which he enjoys loudly speculating to himself about the dress sense, moral integrity and relative unintelligence of those in his immediate vicinity. And this regrettably-hatted woman had the great misfortune last Saturday of entering it.

She and her companion left half their drinks.

Having known him for far too long than is good for me, I understand that this kind of behaviour is in fact his way of expressing quite how happy he is with his lot. However, at this point, I was rather regretting stoking this particular fire by bringing him a lovely postcard of an umbrella shop as a gift.

Several pints of bitter later, we pointed ourselves in the direction of the Notting Hill Brasserie, TOD having begun the first of the day's many efforts to leave his postcard in a pub.

Good Espresso Martinis at the bar were enhanced by conversation with a charming and knowledgeable barman concerning his trade, before we made our way to a grand and almost entirely empty dining room.

I was prepared for the intimidating feel of the place having earlier purchased a smart handmade umbrella which lent a considerable gravitas to my operation, but it was clear that my umbrella-less companion was a little non-u.

I went for the excellent value £15.50 set lunch, whilst TOD opted a la carte because he wanted a rich and satisfying lobster and scallop starter.

My own starter comprised five melty medallions of pretty well completely raw tuna perched on a salad-y thing, which added a satisfying crunchiness, but little in the way of flavour. Delicate and unpretentious.

After the starters were cleared the excellent barman returned to give TOD back his postcard, which I was now beginning to suspect he probably wasn't responsible enough to look after properly.

For mains TOD enjoyed a high-quality fillet steak, but this was effortlessly trumped by my own braised beef cheek, which oozed a rich umami savouriness.

Earlier TOD had cemented his burgeoning reputation as a selector of poor wine, by ordering a glass of pretty dilute and indistinct Argentinean Chardonnay as an aperitif. Luckily my own choice of a bottle of Dolcetto D'Alba was sound, the wine full of bright racy cherries, and just enough body and structure to stand up to the beef .

A very decent, if diminutive, cheese plate preceded coffees and the bill. It was a good and precisely cooked meal served with a welcome side portion of surreal created by the design of the place, and a staff to customer ratio that can't have been too shy of 10:1.

We made our way back to the Earl of Lonsdale via an unsuccessful attempt to buy a sword from a man with a pony-tail ("Probably not the sword for you mate." after I told him that I just wanted a sword to walk into a pub with).

At some point later TOD lost his postcard.

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