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Raoul's Café & Bar

Richard Baker finds favour with this Notting Hill Café Bar

Dinner at Raoul’s in Talbot Road demonstrated how high quality cuisine has spread into parts of London not so far associated with eating out. Opened last Autumn as an offshoot of long-established Raoul’s in Maida Vale, the décor is a mixture of café styles that have existed since the seventies, with background music mercifully discreet. The manager, Sergey, was knowledgeable, and from an eclectic list of starters a generous portion of fried calamari and king prawns was accompanied by a wasabi mayonnaise infused with mustard, an unusual and appropriate combination of flavours. The shredded salt cod salad contained pequillo peppers, spring onions and slivers of cod that had been lightly salted by the chef and quite different from the Portuguese variety that we had anticipated. Other items among the starters included salads, fried lamb’s kidneys and a Greek mezze.

Among the main courses were beef and lamb steaks to suit most temperaments, a perfectly cooked fillet of sea bass with a generous amount of saffron sauce, and a rabbit fricassée. The meat was pink and had no appearance of being the wild variety (but was none the worse for that). It was enhanced by a large helping of artichokes and creamy sauce. Some steamed spinach - a bit pricey at £3.65 – tasted oddly bland but a large bowl of fried slivers of courgettes more than made up for it.

Not all the desserts are made by the chef, but of those that were, we chose a chocolate mousse described as ‘dark’ but with a cream content which had removed the immediacy of dark chocolate but was nonetheless well made. The bread and butter pudding was unusual and bore little resemblance to memories of childhood. Made with pannacotta it contained no egg and few sultanas, but was glazed with caramel and was remarkably light in texture. Also on offer were orthodox puddings such as lemon tart, poached pears, crème brulée and sorbet.

To say that the menu is Mediterranean-inspired is a little wide of the mark. No Italian antipasti or cheeses, Greek salad, even a tagine - the Mediterranean does stretch to North Africa - but there were pasta and risotto, a shish kebab, mozzarella salad and of course the rabbit, and Sergey explained that the menu was under constant review in order to arrive at a selection that would please most of its steadily-increasing clientele. Where it scored was in the absence of shortcuts so that taste was paramount, and in the generosity of its helpings. It is worth making the journey to W11 for these qualities alone. The service was excellent, prices normal and the wine list comprehensive.

Starters: £4 - £8; Mains £9 -£15; Puds £4-£5

Richard Baker 1st June, 2006

Raoul's Notting Hill - 105 Talbot Road, London W11
T: 020 7229 2400

Raoul's Maida Vale - 8 Clifton Road, London W9
T: 020 7289 2400

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