West London is a funny old place. This always occurs to me when I enter the borough of Kensington and Chelsea, a far cry from my humble Hackney home. It’s fancy beyond belief. Mansions line the streets, great yoga centres are filled with bendy housewives, Michelin restaurants are standard fare and snazzy boutique hotels are on every corner – just like the Portobello House Hotel. A 12-roomed guesthouse, each individually designed, up the slightly dodgier (I mean ‘real’) end of Ladbroke Grove. The hotel boasts a bar, The Percy Bar no less, and the new addition of a bistro. I braved the torrential rain to sample what this new bistro appendage has to offer.
First things first, the Bistro and Bar they talk of, it’s a pub. It’s a nice pub. But, it’s a pub. You know it, I know it: Pub, pub, pub. No need for the fancy name. It simply detracts from the fact that this is a pub that does pretty good food, at really good prices. And, in these moneyless times, that counts for a lot. Even on a sodden Wednesday night there was a lively atmosphere. The chef, Jan Ostle, worked at Gordon Ramsay’s Chelsea flagship restaurant, so we weren’t expecting run of the mill food and we weren’t disappointed.
Service was swift for our orders and a welcome portion of homemade dense bread with balsamic and oil kept us going until the starters arrived. We took in the House cured salmon with Clementine vinaigrette, thickly sliced and accompanied by plump capers; it tasted fresh with the right amount of tang from the vinegar. Artichoke soup was exceptional, rich and creamy comfort food with a parsley pesto drizzled on the top; a small portion but probably wisely so. The main dishes sounded pub-like, fish and chips, house burger but also roast pork belly and whole cooked bream. We opted for corn-fed chicken with mushroom puree and pine-nut and truffle pesto. The flavours worked well together and made up for the slightly dry chicken breast. Disappointingly, the only vegetarian main on offer was a Butternut Squash risotto, but it was saved by the fact it was well cooked, creamy and reeking of truffle (probably my favourite food smell of all time). Dessert was a chocolate mousse with salted Honeycomb – which lacked real pizzazz, but would be wolfed up by any Crunchie fan.
The Portobello Hotel is a good place to eat and relax. The staff are friendly, the atmosphere welcoming and the prices are very reasonable – just like any good pub should be! And could make the perfect pit stop after a hard day at Portobello Market. (Words: Laura Thornley)
For more info, visit www.portobellohouse.com