Kitchen W8

Kensington, London

From our very first mouthful – an appetiser of a silky-smooth oil-potato emulsion dusted in seaweed powder, with homemade rice crackers to dip – it is clear we are in safe hands. So much so, we ponder if we are the first to contemplate kidnapping head chef Mark Kempson – man at the helm since Kitchen W8’s 2009 opening.

This is the kind of restaurant that every neighbourhood should have. Open for lunch and dinner seven days a week, and just a pigeon’s hop from the thrum of Kensington High Street, its fragrant, green tea-hued interiors cosset with hand-painted wallpaper featuring bird and botanical motifs and the erudite murmur of a loyal, well-to-do clientele. The 70-seater was awarded a Michelin star in 2011 for its fine British cooking with European soul, and has held it ever since.

Our starters leave us in no doubt as to why. A whole, warm Puglian burrata arrives atop a bed of baked fennel. Topped with a blood orange dressing and agretti, the dish is a masterclass in Italian harmony. Equally good is a fricassee of St Austell Bay mussels with garlic, Mangalitza lardo and ‘scraps’ – crunchy, vinegar-tangy morsels that look like Nik Naks and taste like heaven. As with all of her matches, sommelier Charlotte Prescott’s pairing here, a Canarian Tajinaste Blanco, is spot on, the wine’s tropical fruit notes complementing the mussels’ richness.

A main of Cornish cod with crushed potatoes, Salcombe Bay crab, monk’s beard and spring onions boasts the colours of an Easter greeting card, its flavours evocative of a top-notch harbourside dining room – though, if it were music, it would be more ‘symphony’ than ‘shanty song’. The caramelised truffle and Parmesan gnocchi, meanwhile, is an earthy delight, and mercifully moderate in portion size, otherwise one wouldn’t have room for dessert, which would be a crime.

A chocolate pavé with salted caramel ice cream, hazelnut milk and lime won’t disappoint a single chocoholic out there, but the star of the show is the spiced Comice pear. Served with gingerbread ice cream and delicate shavings of kumquat, its warm, milky orchard notes are set off to perfection by a nectar-sweet, topaz-yellow Tokaji. We’re still praising the pear when we leave, full and happy. Chef Kempson might want to watch his back. 020 7937 0120,

Words by Julie Alpine

This review was taken from the April 2020 issue of Food and Travel.

To subscribe today, click here.

Get Premium access to all the latest content online

Subscribe and view full print editions online... Subscribe