Usually when your job requires you spend the night in…
Paradise by way of Kensal Green: it’s hard to resist the temptation to say that this pub and restaurant truly is a pocket of paradise via W10 – so now that’s out of the way, let’s talk game. Just wait until you sample the meat and fowl concoctions they’ve cunningly matched with inspired reds to celebrate the start of game season…
As far as the best gastropubs in London go, the newly refurbished Paradise certainly punches above its weight when it comes to the chef at the helm: Tim Payne comes from seriously good stock (the Ivy, Le Caprice and J Sheekey, among others – not to mention a stint on Hell’s Kitchen under mentor Marco Pierre White). Enlisting suppliers such as J&J Meats and Donald Russell, Payne plucks the season’s finest ingredients for his fine-dining-without-frills culinary creations.
A little background on the Paradise: an institution in this ’hood just north of Ladbroke Grove, the bohemian Kensal Green boozer has been beloved by West Londoners not just for its Sunday roasts over the years, but also for its heady live-music-fuelled parties. By 2007, the venue was beginning to show its age, and given an on-trend makeover; now, its sage-hued shabby-chicness features touches such as clusters of horned animal heads, and vintage cup-and-saucer tea-light holders. Big armchairs by the fire, the soft glow of chintz-shaded lamps – its sophisticated homeliness exemplifies that boutique-hotel hipness that we Smiths are so fond of.
Since relaunching last August, the Paradise reached an all-time high not only for its food and drink and stylish good looks, but its star-packed social scene – the press regularly grasses up the likes of Jamie Cullum and girlfriend Sophie Dahl for their shenanigans here. With a dazzling calendar of live music, burlesque dancing and more (Ronnie Wood threw an impromptu gig there a few days before our visit), it’s easy to be distracted from the headline gastro acts, but when Lucy and I rocked up on a Monday night we only had eyes for the eating.
As for talk of a credit crunch – no signs of any waistbands being tightened on this patch: it was a full house, even on this usual graveyard-slot in Restaurantland. In fact, the manager, JP couldn’t have been cheerier. A background in wine has dripped through to the offerings and oenophiles can enjoy a tipple matched to each course, should they so desire. We tapped him for a few insider tips. Gavi di Gavi is a current favourite apparently, and throwing the rulebook out the window, he also advocates a chilled red a little like Beaujolais, a Californian Valdigiué/Gamay – it’s a great winter alternative to the idler’s drink of choice, rosé, and he advocates whiling away an afternoon in a cosy corner with J Lohr’s 2007 Wildflower Monterey.
The menu is market-led and changes daily and at this autumnal time has a gamey slant. Terrine of wild rabbit, sweetbreads and foie gras, sauce gribiche (£8.50) is a grown-up starter option; anything in aspic usually sends shudders, but as with everything here it’s all done in the best possible taste. Mmm, next for me came roast highland venison, Koffman cabbage, polenta, chocolate and raspberry sauce showcased the classic but playful (£18) best-of-British fare. This was teamed with a Le Cigare Volante 2003, Santa Cruz, North America (£30; £7.75 glass) – ‘cherry, raspberry and red liquorice leading to a full-bodied ripe plum goodness’.
Lucy meanwhile tucked into cinnamon-dusted, orange-infused scallops served in their shells (cleverly re-sealed with a fluffy potato ‘beard’), followed by a rich roast pheasant with braised red cabbage, girolles, mash and madeira jus (£16.50) and had a Soleus Organic Merlot 2007, Chile (£17.95, £5 glass) – ‘plum, red berry with hints of forest floor’. Lucy reveled in the descriptions, having only just written up her wine-tasting experience of a gala dinner at Chewton Glen in Hampshire. Our challenge to you? To figure out which tastes like bilberry vanilla and French toast. We’ll give you a clue – it comes from Sicily and it tastes wild with roast widgeon.
We can’t guarantee you’ll be sitting next to Lily Allen or Kate Moss when you come, but if you are, tap your nose knowingly and recommend the Californian Zinfandel with the roast teal…
Paradise by Way of Kensal Green
19 Kilburn Lane, Kensal Green, London W10 4AE
(020 8969 0098)