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The Caterer

Menuwatch – Kensington Place

03 February 2012 by
Menuwatch – Kensington Place

Kensington Place is a lesson in reinvention. It has been almost 25 years since it first opened its doors - two decades of which the roost was ruled by a founding father of modern British cuisine, Rowley Leigh.

KP, as it is often affectionately abbreviated to, has been on the D&D London portfolio since Leigh's departure five years ago and as the restaurant readies itself to celebrate a quarter of a century in business, it is welcoming guests with a revamped interior and a fresh new menu to match.

When head chef Dan Loftin, previously at D&D's Almeida, took over from Daniel Phippard in June last year, he quickly took his culinary cue from long-term Kensington Church Street neighbour the Fish Shop.

"Kensington Place has always had a focus on fish, but it has never been branded as a fish restaurant until now," he explains. "Or a fish brasserie, I should say." And that distinction is important. British designer and former creative director of the Conran Shop Polly Dickens oversaw the refurbishment.

Features such as a communal table and banquette seating bring a warmth and informality to Kensington Place that is clearly mirrored in the relaxed, but well-executed, dishes on offer.

It says a lot that the most popular dish on the menu - outselling the second favourite by nearly two to one - is the fish soup, rouille, croûtons and gruyère (£6.50). Loftin's dedication to perfection has clearly paid off. He says it took him most of August and September to get the recipe just right. Should he try to take it off the menu, one fears there might be mutiny.

But if comfort and joy is not what you fancy, Loftin's comprehensive menu has an abundance of options, including 20 starters, 20 mains and 10 desserts.

SEARED SWORDFISH
The kitchen brigade of seven (nine when there's a full headcount) certainly has its work cut out.

A starter of seared swordfish with a salad of pickled mooli, radish, frisée, coriander and red amaranth, served with a sesame, soy and mirin dressing (£8.50), is a light and fresh antidote to the soulful classics on offer.

Paired with a Godello, A Coroa (£37 a bottle) - which carries a flavour of stone fruits and melons, that marry well with the dressing but also has a fresh acidity that cuts through the fattiness of the fish - and you've got a perfect marriage of naughty and nice.

The main courses are divided between a series of classics, such as the KP fish pie (£10.50) and moules marinière with pommes frites (£12.50) and for the more carnivorous palate a selection of meat and game - braised suckling pig, wild mushrooms and potato purée (£15.50) or 230g Hereford dry aged rib eye, pommes frites and sauce béarnaise (£23).

To take full advantage of the Fish Shop next door, there is also a selection of market list fish, served either roasted, grilled or poached and on the bone where possible. These include roast fillet of halibut, herb gnocchi and brown shrimp velouté (£24).

Average spend per head is around £30 and care has been taken to appeal to all budgets.

Loftin says: "We have no real target market. While we certainly cater for the fish lovers of the world, we have enough meat to keep most carnivores happy.

"We hope to appeal to anyone who likes well cooked simple food," he concludes.

SAMPLE DISHES FROM THE MENU

Starters
Smoked Barbary duck, poached fig and hazelnut salad - £7.50

Classics Salt cod and leek fishcake, duck egg, chive sauce - £12.50
Ragstone, celeriac & onion pithivier - £11.50

Meat and game Braised suckling pig, potato purée, wild mushrooms - £15.50
Confit duck leg, spinach, garlic sausage & white bean cassoulet - £17.00

Desserts Pear tart tatin, crème fraÁ®che - £6.00
Vanilla crème brÁ»lée, almond financier - £4.75

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