Bringing a gothic vibe to trendy Notting Hillers, Paradise by Way of Kensal Green sees a welcome return to the stove for Tim Payne. Emma White reports
Paradise by Way of Kensal Green, in west London, is the latest venture from Steven Ball and Riz Shaikh, the team behind other London gastropubs, the Old Queens Head in Islington, Queen Boadicea in Clerkenwell and the Westbury in Kilburn. The refurbished pub was built in 1892 and takes its name from the final line of GK Chesterton's poem, The Rolling English Road, which refers to the nearby Victorian Kensal Green cemetery.
It's brave to name a gastropub Paradise, but fortunately the interior, food and service do not disappoint. Located off the Harrow Road, the corner site seats 60 and is divided into a front pub section, a dining room, split-level outside areas and two first-floor private event spaces.
The spacious, ornate dining room has wooden floors, leather sofas, portraits on the walls, miniature statues and soft lighting, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Attention to detail is apparent throughout, and every nook and cranny is filled with vases, elaborate mirrors or other artifacts.
Tim Payne is head chef, overseeing a six-strong brigade. He was executive chef for Marco Pierre White's restaurants for seven years before a stint with Planet Hollywood founder Robert Earl and, most recently, as consultant chef for Oliver Peyton's restaurants. He also appeared in the latest series of Hell's Kitchen.
"I have known Steven and Riz for years and thought it would be a nice change to join Paradise," says Payne. He describes the style of food as British with some European influences. "We tried to make the menu as English as possible, as it is easier for people to understand," he says. "Our main approach is to select seasonal ingredients, and we are in constant touch with our suppliers to find out what is new."
Payne tries to introduce two new dishes to the menu each week. "This week we have added veal chop with veal kidney," he says.
Heading up the starter menu is a rich-tasting pumpkin soup with Parmesan and toasted walnuts (£4.95). "It is important to use French pumpkins, as they have more flavour," he says. "Save the English pumpkins for Hallowe'en." He describes another starter, the seared sea scallops with vinaigrette of bacon and crispy seaweed (£8.75), as a "funky" combination. "The bacon and crispy seaweed work really well together, and we selected the baby scallops from the South Coast".
But it is the salad of baby beets, Swaledale goats' cheese and wild watercress with a honey and sherry dressing (£6.50) that has proved most popular.
The traditional Herdwick lamb, potato galette, slow-roast tomato and tapenade (£13.75) has been the best-selling main course, but Payne is more interested in talking about the beef Wellington with green beans and creamed potato (£39). "It's a dish that is not often done well," he says. "The beef needs to sit and rest for a good 15 minutes before serving. It sells well, and it's a good, traditional British dish for two to share." The roast skate wing, clams, parsley and capers with buttered spinach (£12.95) is a favourite among the kitchen staff, and Payne comments: "It's a really nice fish to eat when it is cooked well, but it doesn't take much to mess it up."
The dessert list springs no surprises but fits in well with the rest of the menu. Classics include knickerbocker glory (£5.95), crème brÁ»lée (£5.50) and a Bramley apple, quince and Scottish raspberry crumble with vanilla custard (£5.95).
Sticky toffee pudding with caramel sauce (£5.50) has been a winner with customers, and Payne says the seasonal apple crumble has also been a success. "In a small kitchen we don't want to play around with the dessert menu and prefer to do classic desserts well."
His approach appears to be working. Since opening in September, the restaurant turns over a healthy 650 covers a week. "Paradise is always going to offer an evolving menu," he says.
What's on the menu
- Oyster cocktail, £7.25
- Mackerel marinated with saffron vegetables and tapenade croÁ»tons, £5.75
- Potted oxtail with salad of watercress, capers and shallots, £6.50
- Pan-fried fillet of wild sea bass, buttered salsify and red wine spiced sauce, £14.95
- Whole grilled Dorset blue lobster, sauce vierge and chips, £29
- Best end of Herdwick lamb, potato galette, slow-roast tomato and tapenade, £13.75
- Lemon tart, £5
- Chocolate marquise, sauce melba, £5.75
- Yorkshire rhubarb fool, £4.95
Paradise by Way of Kensal Green, 19 Kilburn Lane, London W10 4AE. Tel: 0871 332 2016