I’m not going to continue with the god-awful terrain analogy. So where I might have mentioned oases, I will say that there are some exceptions – mainly in related to buzz rather than quality or dynamism. Around Portobello, spots like the Electric, E&O and the Italians of Kensington Park Road are packed out, extremely lively but equally are part of the furniture. Crazy Homies, El Camino, Santo and Taqueria feed the area’s many Yanks, giving the area a rare edge on others for Mexican. And of course there is The Ledbury.
A little north of there, even less is going on. Shambolic for somewhere so central and extortionate to live. Sacro Cuore’s pizzeria is tasty but let down by apathetic service. The Dock Kitchen has shades of brilliance (and not just Tom Dixon’s metallic numbers) but isn’t quite there on the food. Too preoccupied with concept and identity to relax and confidently secure its future. People are confused – it is open? Is it a pop-up? Foraged menu only? Is there a bar? Shame as the space is fantastic.
But the pubs of North West London are decent, and this blurb is about The Parlour and The Chamberlayne. The former has been many things, known to most as that other pub behind that suburban fleshpot The Paradise, the Infernos of NW. However it’s been taken over by the Mall Tavern team, and is looking rather slick.
The starkness of the tiling is given warmth with a sea of mismatching, reclaimed wood tables, red booths and mixed up seating, and next door an attractive teal dining room sports plenty of clubby amber booth seating and original panelling. Inspiration seems to be Schiller’s Liquor Bar meets Riding House Café. But it retains a pub feel, no least due to the many interesting drops on tap – for example Anchor Steam’s Liberty Ale. Seeing their regular beer on tap is a special enough, so this is quite unique.
Breakfast has been lauded here and it delivers. They’re trying the frying pan as a plate thing but seemingly bottling it due to lack of space for the handle (some tables are a little small). The beans in the jar are a great touch, although homemade might have been more exciting than Heinz given the effort in other areas. Hash browns are not seen enough on brunch menus and the sourdough and spreads bar for £1 (included in main breakfasts though) is cheaper than chips. Amazing bacon too. Solid coffee from South London’s Volcano and excellent service. And on weekends the kitchen is open until 1am which is a rare thing in W1, let alone out here in the sticks.
From breakfast to dinner, and for carnivores it has to be The Chamberlayne. Owned by The Salusbury team, they have gone for steaks and other meats (with some bistro touches) rather than the Italian you’d expect. Steaks here are dry aged and from a various sources, Scottish or English with the odd USDA guest.
My T-bone was immense; quality meat, masterfully charred yet pink, well rested and absolutely nothing to improve upon. As respectable as you’d have anywhere, and at £36-ish inclusive of chips and a sprightly salad, extremely good value. An added bonus was receiving both rosemary & red wine jus and a decent béarnaise as standard – no fleecing on the sauces here. Chips were double cooked and amazing dipped in the rich jus.
We ate in the pub area on a Saturday night. It was rammed and so not much to say in the way of service, but to be expected. One teeny gripe was that we ordered all food, drinks and desserts (crumble was gigantic but mealy, loose and unfinished) all from the bar as per the pub norm, but at the very end we asked a passing barman for our bill as it was so busy. It had the 12.5% service added, which I think would not have happened had we got up and paid our pub tab. Not the worst thing, but a little cheeky – our fault for being lazy I guess and a lesson learned.
Clientele are those that can’t afford Notting Hill – either willing exiles looking for space and value, or reluctant snobs and penniless second sons. Think older dads working in TV and advertising: turned-up selvedge, tan brogues and the now-encouraged salt & pepper hair, having their monthly night away from Olivia and Rufus on the Guinness and nosebag.