Café Med, Hollywood Road SW10

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Simon Binder opens a second Café Med in Chelsea

NB all prices are given in GB pounds Sterling

NB:This review dates from April 1997

Grafting what is undoubtedly a successful restaurant in one neighbourhood to a wholly different one is not always as simple as it may seem. Would Café Med, a favourite eating place for the Bohemian set that lurks down the Portobello Road, "take" in the Hooray Henry heartland of Hollywood Road, just off the Chelsea section of the Fulham Road? There's a cluster of restaurants nearby but none of them was exactly booming on a fine evening early in the week in April. Except for Café Med which was packed both at street level and downstairs in the basement dining room. It isn't hard to hazard a guess at the reason: sensible prices, simple no frill grills, a lively informal atmosphere and friendly, helpful staff.

There's an all-day bar at the front where the leisured classes can lounge around reading the daily paupers over a late breakfast. Passing the end of the bar, my eye was caught by an enormous bowl of slick black and green olives scattered with herbs and garlic. Shortly after we were seated, a goodly portion of them appeared at our table together with an earthenware dish into which was poured a generous dollop of olive oil infused with more herbs and spices. There was bread in abundance for dipping, an activity that never fails to get you into a party mood.

Starters (2.95 - 4.50) are simple but effective: a salad of marinated grilled red peppers was exactly that - uncorrupted by extraneous ingredients - I relished the luxury of unalloyed colour, flavour and lush texture. Another dish of Merguez sausages came with a simple salad of white beans and rocket - the beans assuaged the spiciness of the sausages and the rocket provided colour and crunch. We tried a Caesar salad (my American guest reckons it's one of those benchmark tests by which you can judge a place), romaine lettuce, shaved parmesan and dressing were pronounced excellent, once he'd got over his surprise at the rather odd presentation.

The main attraction of the menu is the selection of grills which come with vast wooden bowls of french fries. Everyone gets a generous offering. Even those who make a feeble attempt to decline fall upon them with relish. My pal chose an entrecote steak, medium grilled, which came quite rare, though he didn't seem to notice this fact until about the last mouthful! He said it was very tender and tasty and there was enough of it to satisfy his transatlantic appetite. I had the fish of the day which was monkfish - it was a little bit bland, and I began to wish that I'd had the magnificent looking rack of lamb that was delivered to the next table. Other grilled meats include duck, chicken, veal and home made chopped steak burgers that are vastly plump. Grills range in price from 7.95 to 10.95. For pud I had cheesecake, the proper solid cooked sort; I nearly awarded it full marks, except that I do like a few sultanas mixed in. The pal had the chocolate ice cream which was wickedly rich.

House wines by the glass (2.75 - 3.25) were very drinkable indeed and we enjoyed a bottle of 1995 Beaujolais Villages (16.75), which is a good compromise when one person is having steak and the other, fish. Wine prices range from 9.75 to 19.95.

The menu is virtually the same as that of the original Café Med, so I shall give the addresses of both.

Café Med (the original version): 184a Kensington Park Road W11. Tel: 020 7221 1150
Café Med (the latest version): 2 Hollywood Road, SW10 Tel: 020 7823 3355

Open seven days; average price for three courses, wine, coffee and service: Stg 28.00

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