'They do not always hit their target, but when they do get it right it is excellent'

Kensington Quarter

Mon—Fri 6.30am—10.30pm, Sat—Sun 7am—10.30pm

The style:

Adjacent to Hotel Indigo, within a stone’s throw of Earls Court tube station, Kensington Quarter is the latest addition to the Quarter Group, aiming to bring ‘neighbourhood homemade food’ to vibrant corners of London. It is freshly decorated, with a modern, Mediterranean cafe or market feel, any hotel blandness offset by characterful touches like the unique oddities on every table. I was particularly taken by the miniature papercraft theatre scene on ours.

The crowd:

Being closely intertwined with the hotel—there is an entrance through their lobby as well as from the street—it seems to have a steady flow of customers. Mainly couples and businesspeople, alongside the larger groups of colleagues and friends and other local residents. It is a well-dressed set, as you’d expect from the area.

The food:

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the appearance of Kensington Quarter when we arrived—would the food be more aspirationally ambitious or solid and reliable? Would the kitchen rise to the menu or present it at face value, pub-style?

Starting with the salad of confit duck leg, I was glad to find it was definitely the former, the smoky richness of the meat echoing down my throat and perfectly offset by the sweet tartness of melon balls and pomegranate seeds. My friend’s Cornish crab salad was pleasant and creamy, but we might have preferred the wasabi more evident to add a little excitement—it won my favourite presentation of the night, though, arriving on palette-shaped shale, with sauces and accompaniments dotted about like paint.

Moving to mains, my calf’s liver was, although well cooked, a little overwhelmed by the accompanying sweet potato mash, which was so rich and creamy it felt almost sickly. The shallots were at the peak of what shallots can be, however, and the red wine sauce also delicious; it was just a pity the sweet potato was not cooked another way that did not so dominate the other flavours, as seeing it on the menu in the dish had actually been the selling point for me.

Crispy roast sea bass, on the other hand, a lovely sound dish, full of interesting taste and texture. The lemon oil richness, potato crunch and delicate vegetable flavours from the pea veloute and salad made a fresh, strong combination that heralded the coming of spring.

We finished tempted by the platter of desserts, which included miniature versions of all the pudding options—I am always thrilled to see lemon meringue pie, but in reality the stand-outs of the four offerings were the stunning spicy banana and ginger tarte tatin, which unexpectedly blew us away, and the dense, blueberry-tinged chocolate delice.

The drink:

We had a bottle of a house white, which was—despite my initial misgivings—actually extremely drinkable and enjoyable. The rest of the drinks menu looked thoughtful and well-chosen as well.

The quality of food at Kensington Quarter took me by surprise; you wouldn’t necessarily guess from the simple menu descriptions that they have such a an elegant, considered approach to their ingredients. They do not always hit their target, but I am glad that they aim for it, and when they do get it right it is excellent, certainly one of the best value meals you will get in the immediate area.

Kensington Quarter, 34-44 Barkston Gardens, London SW5; www.kensingtonquarter.com; 020 7370 9130

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