'It’d be a good place for an illicit liaison...'

The Oak W12

Open Mon–Wed  5pm–11pm, Thu–Fri 5pm–1am, Sat 11am–1am, Sun 11am–10.30pm

Sounds like a pub doesn’t it? It isn’t though; it’s a restaurant. This grand old building is really too beautiful to be sat next to a roundabout. Slip inside in the evening however, to be transported to a seriously sexy hangout. It’d be a good place for an illicit liaison. There are blinds on the windows and the very cool selection of lamps are kept low. Velvet banquettes add to the seduction, as does the lazy, loungey music selection. It’s a massive place and there are lots of tables but the bar also looked appropriate for settling at, particularly if you wanted to chip away at their glorious selection of wines. Out back there is more of a bar type area with sofas. Should it be legal, all they need to complete the feel is hookah pipes and opium. It’s that kind of place.

The crowd was a bit thin when we got there, consisting of two female friends catching up and a bankers wife feeding the kids. By the time we left though, there was a serious buzz. Groups of friends starting the weekend (we were there on a Thursday), couples trying to reignite the flame and best of all, a cougar listening to her much younger male companion with an intensity that bordered on psychotic. It looked like she was intent on having him for dessert.

The food is mediterranean. Lardo di colonnata (£4.50) on the ‘Ciccheti’ (Venetian tapas) part of the menu engaged the curiosity. Turns out it is actually lard (or more properly, fatback) cured with herbs. Essentially it looks the fatty bit of ham, but almost translucent. It tasted like salty fat on toast: so much for curiosity. From then on things got very good. Squid stuffed with bellota sobrasada (a kind of spreadable chorizo) (£9) is not only tempting on paper but amazing on the tongue.

This Oak is the sister of the one on Westbourne Park Road and the pizza there is unsurpassable so we had to try one.  A wood fired oven sits anonymously near the entrance, humble but confident. Sure enough the ‘Gusto’ pizza (£13.50) turned up thin, crispy, not too heavy with cheese, peppers perfectly sweet and with a great ingredient: n’duja, a spiced Calabrian sausage that packs serious fire. Pizza par excellence you might say. Just because we could, we also had pheasant stuffed with toulouse sausage (£16.50). It was a little dry but was saved by the accompanying cassis poached pear, which was an inspired pairing.

Apple and thyme cake (£5.50) was warm and light and came with a gooey caramel sauce that made me go a bit gooey with happiness inside. The olive oil in the dark chocolate mousse (£5.50) was only discernible in the texture but was still eroticly delicious. If you were in there attempting seduction, your lover would have have been ordering the taxi back to yours after eating that. Stylish decor, wonderful atmosphere and pretty great food.

The Oak W12, 243 Goldhawk Road, London, W12; www.theoakw12.com; 020 8741 7700

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