London last Saturday was a lovely place to be. The weather was perfectly sunny and it felt like summer had actually arrived. We had booked lunch at Julie’s in Holland Park to celebrate our friend Brandon’s birthday. Julie’s is a West London institution still going strong after 40 years. Part of it’s appeal lies in the bohemian atmosphere of the restaurant. It is made up of a rabbit warren of lavishly decorated tiny rooms each one more over the top than the next complete with church pews and marble busts. However it was much too nice a day to spend any time inside however stylish and quirky the surroundings may be. Our dilemma was solved when Brandon got a phonecall from the restaurant asking if we would like an outdoor table. Brilliant for us and full points for a proactive front of house team.
|Asparagus with pecorino and poached egg|
The phonecall was just one element of the excellent service at Julie’s. The waiters were attentive and considerate which is lucky really because the food was uneven. To start with vodka and vanilla cured salmon (£12.95) was vibrant and fresh but highly priced for what it was. I wasn’t sure about curing it in vodka either. Surely the whole point of decent vodka is that you can’t taste it? Thick spears of asparagus (£12.95) were lightly chargrilled to a point of tenderness and topped with a sliver of earthy truffle and a perfectly cooked poached egg. The runny yolk of the egg acted as a satisfyingly rich sauce for the asparagus. Not so impressive was the langoustine and clam chowder (£8.95) which was thin and anaemic rather than the thick and filling broth we expected.
|Vanilla and vodka cured smoked salmon|
Lamb cutlets served with morels (£23) were plump and juicy but the cutlets were tragically overcooked. A better option was the crispy skin seabass with pancetta, potatoes and a punchy orange salad (£22).
|Lamb cutlets and morels in a Madeira sauce|
Desserts were less of a minefield. A solid banana and coconut cake (£8.75) was sweet and dense. It wasn’t really refined cooking but it was tasty. Similarly a wodge of orange cheesecake (£8.75) was velvety smooth and paired with a rhubarb puree which provided a sharp contrast.
|Banana and coconut cake|
While some dishes were good and some bad, more consistency is required at the prices Julie’s charges. Still, it has never really been all about the food at Julie’s. It’s a fun restaurant in a pretty little neck of the woods. I spent a brilliant new years eve there a few years ago guzzling champagne and it is famously where Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna used to eat for intimate tête-à-têtes until it was revealed the food which was advertised as organic was not organic at all.
|Orange cheese cake|
Such indiscretions don’t seem to have turned the celebrities off Julie’s entirely and Jade Jagger was sitting at the table next to us. It seems some things don’t change at Julie’s. Go for the atmosphere and the service but don’t hold your hopes too high for the food.
|The bar at Julie’s|
Details: Julie’s, 135 Portland road, Holland Park W11 4LW (Ph 020 7229 8331) Tube: Holland Park
Damage: Pricey. Our meal (with admittedly a lot of wine) came to £90 a head.