Believe it or not some people do not like oysters. Woody Allen said “I will not eat oysters. I want my food dead – not sick, not wounded – dead”. There are a whole tribe of people who dined at the Fat Duck who probably think twice about tucking in to a freshly shucked oyster. For the rest of us though, you probably need no reminder that it is now September and officially an “r” month which is one of the best to eat oysters in.
Fin de Claire oysters (at the rear) and Scottish fresh water oysters (foreground)
So off I trotted with three girlfriends – Alice, Suze and Jen – to The Cow in Notting Hill. Tom Conran’s pub is famous for two things: oysters and Guinness. You can eat at the atmospheric wood panelled bar downstairs or take things up a notch and head upstairs to the restaurant proper. There is a Conran involved at The Cow so of course the look is spot on. Sunny yellow floral paper lines the walls and large windows open up onto the street below where you can see the outdoor drinkers at The Cow and The Westbourne almost merging together to create a
huge outdoor street party.
This is a girly dinner so we eschew the Guinness for Sauvignon Blanc but we do order a selection of oysters. Our waitress recommends the Fine de Claire oysters and Scottish fresh water oysters. The Fine de Claire oysters have that classic salty taste of the sea while the Scottish fresh water oysters are decidedly different in both appearance and taste. The oysters are rounder and a brown colour with a much sweeter and less salty taste. Both are simple, fresh, glorious. While the oyster suggestions are spot on service is erratic with both of the waiting staff asking us for orders repeatedly and then at other times when we need another bottle of wine (surprise!) neither are anywhere to be found.
Besides the extensive oyster selection, the menu at The Cow is limited with an emphasis on seasonal food. At this time of year grouse is on offer however I am not keen to stump up £34. The perfectly cooked whole sea bass served on a bed of lentils is more accessibly priced. Orecchiette pasta (or “little ears”) served with a rich hare ragu is rustic but delicious. Robust flavours are also on display in the duck breast which is perfectly pink and served with minted peas and broad beans. We finish with a shared selection of British cheeses which are deliciously stinky.
While the food at The Cow is top quality, prices are steep for a gastro pub with patchy service. Next time I think I might just order a plate full of oysters and grab myself a table downstairs.
Details: 89 Westbourne Park Road, Notting Hill W25QH (Ph 020 7221 0021)
If you liked this you can read my review of Tom Conran’s neighbouring Mexican restaurant, Crazy Homies. If you want a cheaper (but delicious) pub meal in Notting Hill try the nearby Prince Bonaparte.