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11 Abingdon Road, London W

When I heard that Rebecca Mascarenhas, (who owns Sonny's in Barnes and also Nottingham, as well as The Phoenix in Putney) had opened a new 'neighbourhood' restaurant off Kensington High Street, my interest was immediately awakened. Rebecca really understands what is required of a good contemporary neighbourhood restaurant - so much so that her establishments quickly become destination restaurants, but without all the fuss and hype.

11 Abingdon Road looks inviting from the street with glasses shining and cutlery glinting, set off by plain white napery. The relatively plain walls are not overloaded, but the modern art work has been chosen with discrimination. There's an air of discreet sophistication, and we particularly noticed that, although pleasantly buzzy,  the ambience wasn't so noisy that you had to join in the shouting. This is probably because the restaurant is divided into four smaller dining rooms, an arrangement I very much like.

The menu is concise, but changes according to market and seasonal availability - there were seven dishes in each of the three categories. If you can sneak your order in before 7pm, you can have two courses from the set menu for only £12.50. The chef is David Stafford, who did time at the River Café, (which pioneered the modern Italian approach to regional, artisan cooking, removing us from the tyranny of those '70s Trattorie  with their terrible trolleys). There is thus a rich but not overwhelming Italianate  thread running through his menu.

Choosing starters from amongst Speck with marinated artichokes and Mozzarella, or Spinach and ricotta gnocchi, or a classic risotto was hard. My guest tried the brandade of cod which was good: it came with a contrastingly flavoured  bruschetta with tapenade. I had the brawn terrine, which as you must know is made from a pig's head and possibly other extremities. It was really excellent, good solid chunks of meat, held together with a delicately flavoured jelly, and absolutely no traces of gristle - care had been taken in the making. Good bread was served with this, and we enjoyed a tangy glass of Sauvignon Blanc, one up from the house wine which starts off at £12.75. 

Amongst the main courses there was ravioli, scallops, monkfish, duck breast on polenta and roast lamb rump, leaving, for me, veal shin, wondrously tender and sticky, with a perfect creamy, al dente saffron risotto, made by someone who really knows what they're doing. My guest, who prefers his duck well cooked, had the confit duck from the set menu, which was crispy skinned and the meat fell off the bone. There are side orders available, but the generous bed of savoy cabbage and mushrooms made this unnecessary for all but the heartiest of appetites. With this we had a most enjoyable wine, Chateau Lascaux 2003, delightfully fruity and perfect with red meat, at a very reasonable £19 a bottle.

For pud  my guest tucked into a rich, dark, baked chocolate mousse. It was delicious, but I keep moaning pedantically about the lack of real mousse texture in many so-called mousses these days. I had a pleasantly light lemon and almond polenta cake, with apple compote and a scoop of probably home made vanilla ice cream. 

The service ran like clockwork under Ian Powrie's polished direction - but then our server was Austrian, for whom I have always had great regard in that field.

11 Abingdon Road becomes our latest Dine Online Highly Recommended Restaurant.

Clifford Mould February 2006

11 Abingdon Road, Kensington, London W8 6AH 
T: 020 7937 0120  E:
Open for Lunch Sunday-Friday noon - 3pm, Saturdays 11am - 2pm
Dinner daily from 6.30 - 11pm (last orders)

Starters around £6.50, Mains £12.50 - £18.50, Puds around £5.50
House wines £12.75 glass of Champagne £7.50

UK Restaurant Reviews – The Best Of The Dine Online Restaurant Reviews 2001 - 2010

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