I take umbrage with No.11 Pimlico Road being 'more home than highstreet’. Not ‘til ‘home’ is a smallholding farming posh kids in chinos will this ring true. The postcode is what it is – a playground for the red-trousered – and that’s fine. It’s all too easy to jump on the bandwagon of needless, reductive toff bashing, but this place has plenty going for it.
Firstly, the space looks mighty impressive. The magnificent staircase has rightly been retained from the venue’s previous incarnation as the Ebury, and it still carries every inch of the ’Gone with the Wind’ charm it always had. Secondly, No.11 offers relatively good value (whether you’re dining or drinking) in a location where bills normally unleash a world of pain. Given this glimmer of value, the esteemed reputation of its forefather and its proximity to the culinary wasteland that is London Victoria, it’s quite the shining star.
We nipped in after work for a swift bev and a feed. There were flat whites and a daily juice for teetotallers (hooray) plus non-alcoholic beer (again, hooray!) but sadly it was the tinny-tasting and omnipresent Beck’s Blue. In terms of the hard stuff, there are plenty of Brit-themed cocktails and affordable wines by the glass, but beware the casual glass of Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc that’ll set you back £9 a pop. I was tickled to see an interloper from London’s East End make an appearance on the list in the form of Beavertown brews. (Are Pearly Kings and Queens next for an invitation to Chelsea)?
And so to food. A trio of crostini was clearly bred from good stock (much like the clientele) but toasted to the point of spikiness, and didn’t make for elegant eating. At risk of sounding like my mother, where were the side plates? A sharing platter’s fine if you’re tackling one-bite morsels; less so if you’re left to balance your portion on a napkin (or worse still, your shirt. My friend’s choice of accessories for the rest of the evening were an upmarket handbag and a bosomful of guacamole).
A few puzzling, cheffy affectations detracted from an otherwise okay meal. Concealing a decent remoulade beneath a hot, crumbed schnitzel was my main bugbear as it created a soggy underbelly. (Really good chips though, so the chef was breaking even at this point).
A more significant misdemeanour was the salad that arrived with anchovies, despite reassurance all trace would be removed. They’d infiltrated the dressing ninja-style and weren’t visible having melted into obscurity, but – by heck – did my friend know about them. Realisation dawned with the first mouthful, and she swiftly turned green around the gills. She’s not allergic, or intolerant for that matter; she just can’t stand the blighters (like many people) and that heinous oiliness that coats your mouth with fishy unrest for the rest of the meal. She returned the plate and ordered a new, naked salad but was completely devoid of appetite by this point. (Disappointing then to find that only the first dish was removed from the bill, particularly given the goodwill gestures commonly extended in opening weeks).
Service couldn’t have been more chipper and likeable, although ‘Anchovy Gate’ put a dampener on things and it was a mission to get our mitts on the bill. I suppose the problem with being ‘not quite bar, not quite restaurant’ is that you become a Jack of All Trades but a master of none. This place stands up as a wine bar but the cooking’s no more than alright, and not a match for the seasoned fine diners I’d imagine loiter in the vicinity.
Lasting impressions of No.11 are that it’s a worthwhile crowd pleaser. It won’t break the bank, and it’s a fine spot to meet groups fresh from Victoria coach/train station (particularly given the acres of space for both bums on seats and noise absorption). But if it’s a pitstop during a Sloaney shopping trip you’re after, you’ll probably eat nicer things at the Daylesford Organic café within eyeshot. I'm pretty sure you won't overhear nearly as much outrageous chatter (trust me, there were gems) and there'll be fewer midday cocktails consumed, but it's proof that there's space in Chelsea for everyone.