Open Mon–Fri 5.30pm–10pm, Sat 5.30pm–11pm, Sun closed
“Welcome to Wellbourne, informal and informed. The team have over 30 years’ experience running some of the most highly acclaimed kitchens and restaurants in the UK. Our main focus is to ensure every customer leaves having been cared for on a personal level and with a sense of value from their experience.
“Ross Gibbens was most recently employed as Head Chef of Dabbous and has worked in kitchens in some of the most highly acclaimed restaurants and hotels in the UK including, Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saison by Raymond Blanc, The Vineyard at Stockcross, The Square in Mayfair and Launceston Place.
“Originally from New Zealand, Michael Kennedy came to London in 2008 to further his career. After time spent under Richard Corrigan at his Mayfair restaurant, he moved on to Launceston Place, where he first met Ross. Following Dabbous, where he was Senior Sous Chef, Michael relocated to Bristol in 2016 to work at Wallfish Bistro ahead of the opening of Wellbourne.”
Industrial warehouse chic. High ceilings supported by black metal girders, pendant lights suspended from wire cables, bare pine tables, some round, some refectory style, walls tiled in a manner vaguely reminiscent of an upmarket public loo. A well-stocked galvanised metal bar runs along the back wall; the large room is flooded with light through floor-to-ceiling windows.
The night we visit, nineties house music is playing and—food aside—the whole enterprise has a slightly grungy nineties vibe (a good thing). There’s an 80-seater south-facing terrace outside, which should prove hugely popular on sunny days.
Mixed groups of cheerful, noisy west Londoners falling short of too-cool-for-school due to innate good breeding. Overheard at adjacent table: ‘Thank you so much, that was absolutely delicious.’ Lots of old-skool Adidas trainers, skinny jeans, retro slogan t-shirts. With the Soho-House White City-led regeneration of the area, expect the terrace to be heaving with media types come high summer.
The menu is divided into Appetisers (olives, home-made crackling with paprika, £3; flatbread with taramasalata, £5), ever-so-surprising Vol au Vents (one for £2.50, two for £4.50, three for £6), Starters, Mains, From the Charcoal Oven, Sides and Afters; there are daily changing Plats du Jour at £10 each—Bavette, chips & aioli on Monday, Cassoulet on Wednesday, Fish pie & petit pois on Friday—you get the picture.
Our engaging, humorous and knowledgeable waiter insists we try the vol-au-vents, and we’re very happy to have followed his advice. Bite sized morsels of light, crisp pastry encase fillings of broad beans, ewe’s cheese and mint, salt cod brandade and pulled lamb’s shoulder with violet mustard. They are all delicious, the bean mix elegant, fragrant and redolent of spring, the brandade light, fluffy and not remotely fishy.
But the pulled lamb is the standout: rich and savoury, the violet mustard lending a distinctive, grapefruity kick. A vivid purple flower indicates the presence of this intriguing condiment here and elsewhere in the menu; it’s a fair guess that chef Ross Gibbens was introduced to it during his tenure as Head Chef of Dabbous, as it’s long been a feature of eponymous proprietor (and foodie favourite) Ollie Dabbous’s cooking.
To start, I went for the seasonal ‘Ross-on-Wye green asparagus, cooked over hot coals, sunflower seed praline and salted butter’ (£8), which was as good as asparagus in season should be, the sunflower praline adding a voluptuously nutty element. Even tastier was Andy’s ‘Spatchcock quail, freekah, tahini yoghurt & preserved lemon’ (£9), the zingy Middle Eastern flavours sparkling against the bird’s pink and lightly gamey meat. With commendable succinctness, my notes read ‘YUM!’.
To follow, Andy’s ‘Ibaiama pork loin with XO greens and violet mustard’ (£15) was a picture on the plate, again adorned with those pretty purple petals. The meat was exquisite, though he thought its delicate flavour slightly over-powered by the pungent, dried shrimp umami of the XO sauce. My ‘Whole lemon sole, sea vegetables & brown butter’ (£17) had been beautifully cooked in the charcoal oven, the slight mineral salinity of the sea vegetables proving a lovely accompaniment to its sweet, delicate flesh. My side of buttery, nutty Jersey Royals (difficult to resist during their short season) slipped down a treat.
My ‘Dolce de leche ice cream sandwich’ (£6) was eyes-shut-moaning-with-pleasure pudding heaven, sweet, rich and densely creamy, sandwiched between two crisp layers of fine pastry, luscious enough to make me suspend my ‘sugar calories should only be spent on wine’ rule. Andy’s ‘Cambridge burnt cream’ (£6) did everything a crème brulee is supposed to do (pretty much all of the above). Afterwards we were introduced to the super-talented chefs, a couple of genuinely nice guys—as seem to be all involved in this thoroughly appealing venture.
We kicked off with a couple of glasses of prosecco each—a suitably ebullient choice to accompany the vol-au-vents. Next, from a very fairly priced list, a Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc with our starters—fine, fine, perfectly drinkable. But then—wow. The Primitivo di Mandura 62 recommended to wash down Andy’s quail was exceptional, brimful of fruit with a long lingering on the palate; the Riccitelli Semillon suggested for my lemon sole oozed complexity, subtlety, elegance. These chaps know their stuff.
There was something sweet and syrupy with pudding (by now we’d given up on taking notes, concentrating instead on enjoying ourselves—not difficult in a place like this). We could have stayed for a post-prandial cocktail in the buzzy bar, but all things considered thought it best not to outstay our welcome.