Having just returned from a magical fortnight whizzing through Florence, Lake Como and Siena, wolfing down homemade ravioli, tangy tomatoes and wickedly indulgent creamy mozzarella, I arrived at Town House with culinary expectations on a gargantuan scale at my Wednesday lunch appointment in buzzy South Kensington. The design team at Alexander Waterworth Interiors has gone to painstakingly meticulous lengths to create a comfortable yet chic den whilst retaining the grandeur of the period. The ambiance here is a kind of cross between a private club and your hip aunt’s dreamy London villa - this place has serious wow factor. Set inside The Kensington Hotel, with its elegant lounge and intricate plastered ceilings, it is here that vast chasms of natural light flood the dining room. Upon arrival, we’re swiftly trotted along to a carefully arranged table by the jolly restaurant manager, Vincenzo, and a welcome glass of chilled Cavendish Brut from Sussex vineyard, Ridgeview. Thumbs up so far.
A selection of breads – sourdough, soda and Guinness brown, every piece scrumptious but the latter particularly so (warm, smooth and nutty) – is presented in a rustic basket, freshly churned salty butter with its glossy sheen nestled beside it, inviting a hearty scoop. The British all-day dining concept is back with a vengeance, and popular London restaurants like Berners Tavern and Jean-Georges at The Connaught master it perfectly. There are similarities here. Our new best friend Vincenzo introduced the restaurant concept, and its enigmatic executive chef, Adi Mandokhot, explaining the focus on fresh, seasonal produce and, where possible, his desire to purchase from independent farmers, an accolade to be proud of in an age of perennial cost cutting. A one-page menu in the form of a large piece of card cleverly details each section - simple and digestible. The popularity of an English afternoon tea can be seen by glancing at the numerous diners tucking into precisely trimmed cucumber sandwiches and plump scones oozing fresh homemade jam.
First up, my companion’s grilled chicken salad, topped with creamy guacamole, sweet piquillo pepper, gem lettuce and coriander, generously presented in a cavernous bowl, was declared “insanely good” (her words). My seared tuna, lightly smeared with soy and ginger dressing, arrives – six fairly chunky cubes of deep pink fish, sealed with a delicate crispy coating. Brilliant. This is swiftly followed by a Josper-grilled, dry-aged beef fillet, fleshy and juicy, velvety in texture, accompanied by rich steamed spinach, extravagantly smooth in texture and fresh, and crunchy sweet potato fries (ordered separately).
A large portion of tiger prawns, each dipped and smothered in harissa aioli and zesty lime, arrives, shells on, stuffed upright in a sort of silver-plated chalice. Fresh and meaty, wolfed back in no time. Every dish is presented simply and without fuss, but beautifully. Chef Mandokhot’s ability to refrain from introducing faddy twists to traditional British and Mediterranean favourites is something I admire immensely.
To create a lip-smackingly yummy meal without overcomplicating the original recipe is jolly admirable. Nothing to prove here, thank you. Just as we’re about to call it a day, a whole Dover sole makes its way over to a fellow diner, wafting pillows of fresh herbs in its wake. Said diner and companion chomp away excitedly and without word. Finally, and with minimal space left but on Vincenzo’s insistence, cheeks rosy, a crisp white plate arrives, carefully positioned onto the table in between us. A pistachio crème brûlée, with its sweet and crunchy top layer and delightfully gooey interior, is devoured in moments. Not a speck left. Wonderful.
NINE is a private concierge club, providing tailored travel and lifestyle solutions to individuals and families globally.