It was the case of the disappearing ingredients when I had dinner at Kensington Place. My starter of asparagus salad (£7.50) arrived looking rather bare. Yes, it contained asparagus and a soft boiled egg but the egg was cold and gloopy and the advertised accompaniments of hollondaise sauce and Parma ham were nowhere in sight. Five minutes later the waiter appeared with a bowl containing the ham and apologised for the oversight not realising that another key component of the dish was still missing. Once alerted, a new starter was provided but it is amazing to think that the dish managed to get out of the kitchen and then was served by a waiter with no-one noticing the problem.
Mural at the rear of the restaurant
I have a feeling that when Rowley Leigh of Le Cafe Anglais fame was head chef at Kensington Place these sort of issues wouldn’t have occurred. Back then, Kensington Place was apparently a hot new restaurant with its futuristic decor of space age white columns and geometric furniture. In 2010 the whole place is looking a bit tired around the edges, particularly the worn floors and faded mural on the rear wall. It’s a shame because it’s a bright, airy room with big windows to people watch out onto Kensington Church Street and even its own fish shop attached.
The asparagus salad minus a few key ingredients
The fish shop signifies that Kensington Place is a serious seafood restaurant and the menu runs the gamut from a “crab martini” to whole lobster (£33). Some concession is made to carnivores with the option of a rib of beef for two for £45. There is a set menu which is only £23 for three courses but of course nothing that you would actually want to order is included on the set menu.
So, off to the a la carte menu we go. There is a variety of fresh bread to begin including a tasty tomato flavoured roll and excellent butter. Fried squid (£7) is crispy and contrasts with the creamy lime and sweet chilli mayonnaise it is served with. What’s more it contains all listed ingredients unlike the unfortunate asparagus salad.
A square of meaty monkfish (£18.50) has the pallor of a greying corpse and is teamed with a matching square of pork belly along with lots of artistic splodges of carrot puree which are obviously meant to compensate for the stingy serving size of the monkfish. A fillet of stone bass fried until the skin was crispy (£18) was given some punch with an accompaniment of a breadcrumbed roll of braised oxtail perched on top of baby gem lettuce. It’s good fish but the presentation is too contrived and the whole dish seems lacking in passion and flavour.
The desserts are so uninspiring (pannacotta, jelly and ice-cream and a cheese plate) that we decide to cut our losses and run. I have a seriously sweet tooth so abandoning dessert is a major decision. The fact is that given the prices charged, Kensington Place is one of the more disappointing restaurants I have eaten at in London. It is a restaurant bristling with unsuccessful pretensions that the service and food do not live up to.
Details: 201 -209 Kensington Church Street, Kensington W8 7LX (Ph 020 7727 3184)
If you liked reading this you might be interested in my review of Kensington Place’s sister restaurant which is infinitely superior, Launceston Place. If you are looking for seafood recipes try this one for shell baked scallops.