NOTTING HILL BRASSERIE: Notting Hill, London 0

June 7, 2009

In 1923, Coco Chanel said in an interview with Harpers Bazaar ”Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance”….she also described how everyone must look in the mirror prior to leaving the house and remove a single item, accessory or piece of jewellery so as to uncomplicate one’s outfit………the woman was wise…………perhaps she could have taught a thing or two to the person responsible for writing the menu at the Notting Hill Brasserie (NHB).

A group of 6 of us went to the NHB for dinner last night, and we had a lovely evening. But as everyone knows, a lovely evening doesn’t always mean the FOOD was perfect…..

The NHB is a very cosy, yet fancy-schmancy restaurant tucked off the side of a road, behind an archway, down a mini cobbled street, behind ultra-trendy Westbourne Grove in Notting Hill. This overly complicated (albeit very cute) entrance was a hint of what was to come on the menu….

As we entered NHB, we were greeted by a not-so-friendly maitre’d – ok whatever – she didn’t punch me in the face or anything – but again – no warm welcome……felt a little uncomfortable….seemed like I should have been thanking HER profusely for looking my name up on the reservations list……almost like I didn’t really have the right to be there but she was allowing me to dine just this once…. I AM OVER IT! I am the paying customerrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!! BE NICE TO MEEEEEEE – You are workingggggggggg thereeeeeee……it is yourrrrrrrrrr job to make meeeeeeeeee feel welllllllllcome! Sorry.. …but I am just sick and tired of attitude imposing itself on my (what is meant to be) pleasurable experience – and look it didn’t reallllllly ruin it but it does start the night off on the wrong note and it’s completely unnecessary!

At the other end of the spectrum, all of the wait staff were amazing – ultra polite, really efficient, not in your face, fast, down to earth and helpful…. They started by bringing delicious bread to the table – a selection of olive bread, walnut, and white sourdough. This was possibly the highlight of the evening – warm and crunchy – got the appetite going…

So…..on to the menu….ok…. I’m all for ‘interesting combinations’ and innovative, cleverly written recipes, BUT sometimes ideas work well in the mind or on paper but NOT in reality – and I say….if  you think it’s a great idea, and then you cook it and it doesn’t work – START AGAIN…. Pea soup served in a MAMMOTH bowl with a miniscule plate of fish and chips with a teaspoon of tartare on the side is just plain silly (image to be uploaded shortly – stay tuned)…….. Delicious JUMBO seared scallops DO NOT NEED to be served with gnocchi……. and gorgeously green seasonal asparagus doesn’t require an accompaniment of Pata Negra and Egg Beignet (WHATEVER THE HEAVENS THAT IS?!?! Please write the menu in ENGLISHHHHHHH – fancy descriptions / ingredients undeciphered only put people off ordering these dishes!)

Angry feelings aside – the entrees overall were tasty, well portioned and not TOOOOOO extravagantly priced. They were good.

Mains was just more of the same – nice, good, well cooked food that had been over complicated with bits and pieces – like a gorgeous home spoiled by the intrusion of trillions of ornaments lining every wall, benchtop and credenza. One example that I can discuss in detail is the Cod, as it’s what I ordered. A beautifully grilled fillet of cod served on a generous mound of lentils with a spread of carrot puree underneath……a chorizo sausage, deep fried pork belly and black pudding….WHYYYYYYY?!?!!?! Don’t get me wrong, I would eat pork belly with milk and yoghurt for breakfast if I could but it’s intense, salty, fatty flavours DO NOT GO WELL with COD! They overpower it, they crunch it, they ruin it. Againnnnn, all of this aside, the cod was delicious, as were the lentils….and yeah the pork stuff was fine too but the combination of flavours, colours and textures on my plate just sent me into a mad mental rage.

Dessert was fine – our table sampled the fondant, the mousse, the cheesecake, the yoghurt and the brulee – nothing outstanding – but all tasty and rather prettily presented.

Just re-reading this review – the overall sentiment is actually pretty psycho – so let me apologise for that – because in all honesty – this is a nice restaurant. Apart from miss maitre’d, the service was brilliant, the food was definitely good and the ambience and atmosphere in the place is lovely – but from a phoodie’s perspective, there are a lot of changes that need to be made…..

My advice to the NHB??  Coco’s principles are not only fashion – applicable…….Hold each dish on the menu up to the mirror and remove one ingredient before taking it off the pass and placing it in front of the customers….

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