Monday, 14 December 2009

The Abingdon Restaurant

54 Abingdon Road
London W8
020 7937 3339

It looks like its going to be a gastro pub from the outside but it really is a restaurant with a bar. You enter via the bar area and then almost sectioned off is the restaurant area with a long gallery area to start (where we sat) and railway carriage seating at the back. It’s a bit of an Aladdin’s cave because the gallery area is quite narrow but there’s a lot of the railway bench seating down the back where the room widens again behind the bar area. Expectations were high because this had proven the most difficult restaurant to get into in Kensington at a normal eating time and even on Monday evening early it was filling up rapidly.

The food was really very good; not cheap but excellent. They call it international and classical modern European which covers most of the options and isn’t an unfair description of what is offered. Main courses range in price from £12.95 for the simplest vegetarian pasta to £24. I had baked Sri Lankan marinated chicken breast with puy lentil and red bean dahl, mango chutney and coriander sauce. The chicken was meltingly tender, the chutney and dahl full of flavour and freshness. My partner had the tenderest venison I have ever had and deliciously rare. We drank a bottle of Kim Crawford 2007 Marlborough Pinot Noir which at £28.50 was quite heavily marked up (you can find it for £9.21 on wine searcher ). A very fruity new world wine which for me lacked subtlety. The pudding though, which we shared, was as good as the main courses. We couldn’t resist the sticky toffee pudding which was light and fluffy rather than heavy, gungy as it should be.

So we had no complaints about the food, nor any complaints about the service. The waiting staff couldn’t have been more attentive, charming without being in any way intrusive. My reservations are all to do with ambience and d├ęcor. The restaurant was brightly lit with spots. There was garish house/garage music playing when we arrived (we had an earlyish 8pm booking) , though this was later muted; but the smultz music which replaced it was no better, just quieter.

The design/furniture/layout somehow just wasn’t it. The wavy back bench with stripes in the gallery area was so elderly sloane ranger, the heavy banquettes in the railway seating area with their high backs prevented any enticing perspective to the whole restaurant and looked so old fashioned, dull and made poor use of the available space. The inlaid marketry on the varnished blonde wood tables with its striped candy pattern was ugly. It was somehow all so, big sigh, Kensington.

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