Caractère

Silver Award
1 Review
££££
Modern European

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SquareMeal Review of Caractère

Silver Award

You don’t need an A level in French to work out that ‘caractère’ is the French word for ‘character’, though ‘famille’ might have been just as good a name for this first solo project from husband and wife Emily Roux and Diego Ferrari. Roux is the daughter of Michel Jnr and met Ferrari when he was head chef of her father’s restaurant, Le Gavroche. At Caractère, Roux is front of house, Ferrari in the kitchen.

The couple’s ambition was to open somewhere ‘casual and contemporary’. It is determinedly contemporary (the menu is divided into six character traits) but unless you spend all your time in Michelin-starred restaurants, not most people’s idea of casual, though it is certainly striking.

Velvety, dusky pink chairs are set at marble-topped tables in a brick-walled room, with herringbone on the floor, dramatic lighting on the ceiling and picture windows running down two sides. The tableware is notably thoughtful: elegant, slimline cutlery, a butter knife that stands up on its base and a miniature ceramic bread board for excellent butter are all covetable items to add to a Pinterest board for a foodie’s Christmas stocking.  

We didn’t find the character theme added anything to negotiating the menu beyond dividing it into meat, fish and vegetable sections, but cooking as good as this doesn’t need any gimmicks. Cacio e pepe has strips of celeriac in place of strands of pasta acting as a subtly flavoured foil to a full-throttle Pecorino sauce, a few drops of intensely concentrated balsamic vinegar, added at the table, cutting through the richness (there is much finishing of dishes at the table).

The same balance of savoury and sharp worked equally well in a beautiful slice of roast wild duck breast sharing a plate with fondant chervil root and blackberries, though you don’t need to order such big flavours: roast diver scallops with salsify purée, mustard and beurre blanc and grilled monkfish with parsley root, grapefruit and aniseed sauce were both appreciated for a gentle lunch. To finish, we preferred a magnificent warm chocolate cake with pecan praline and salted caramel sauce to a rather virtuous-tasting ‘millefeuille’ made out of sliced fig.

An exclusively French and Italian wine list reflects Roux and Ferrari’s family heritage, and while a focus on big names and big prices from Piedmont and Tuscany, Burgundy and Bordeaux reflects local wallets, there are enough interesting wines under £40 to make for rewarding drinking for anyone not on a banker’s salary.

With The Ledbury  almost next door, the recently closed Marianne down the road and Core by Clare Smyth a short walk away, Notting HiIl has a well-established appetite for sophisticated modern cooking served in a high-end setting. Judging by their assured opening weeks, Roux and Ferrari have passed their test of Caractere with flying colours.

Good to know about Caractère

Average Price
££££ - £50 - £79
Cuisines
Modern European
Ambience
Glamorous, Quiet conversation
People
Special occasions

Location for Caractère

209 Westbourne Park Road, London, W11 1EA

Website

Opening Times of Caractère

Mon-Sat 12N-2pm 6.15-9.45pm

Reviews of Caractère

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1 Review 
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David H

A pleasant lunch , though I think the press reviews gild the lily
03 December 2018   
I've seen a few reviews of this recent opening, and they have been good enough to persuade us to change our plans around and get here as soon as we could. So how good is it? Well my answer is quite good, not brilliant. Nowhere close to either The Ledbury (though its a while since we were there) or Core that are both close by. Good enough to have some expectations of a good lunch or dinner. Not good enough for the meal of a lifetime or a major celebration. Its about on a par with middling one-star restaurants such as Kitchen W8, for example. I've leaped right into a "Michelin" dialogue since the background of the owners is likely to lean that way. We looked at the menu and decided that the set lunch didn't offer a huge range of choice, had no two-course option and wasn't that much better value than the card. I started with a cacio e pepe where the pasta had been replaced by strips of celeriac. Again I'd been seduced by extremely positive comments in the press. Now here the cacio e pepe sauce was nicely flavoured, and beautifully emulsified- and that's the hard bit with a dish thats on few menus because the sauce is quite hard to get right. But the celeriac is not as interesting as a nicely cooked pasta. And its much harder to cut, so that eventually I resorted to cutting the whole dish up with a knife & fork , child-fashion. So whilst pleasant and well-cooked, this dish added nothing and took away quite a bit from the pasta equivalent, and I was left wondering why there was a need to invent this dish at all. My main was some small venison ravioli accompanied by amongst other things pumpkin and chestnuts in a juniper jus. It worked pretty well , everything in it played its part, and my only comment is that for a main course it might have been a little larger. My wife chose ox-cheeks and didn't say much beyond the fact that the meat was firmer than usual, though not chewy. She passed a forkful to me and I felt that it needed another hour in the oven to lose more of the gelatinous texture that this dish can display. She was much less equivocal about her apple dessert though, which she really enjoyed. In summary, none of these courses were poor- it was just that only one of the four was very good. Otherwise we enjoyed our bottle of Saumur Champigny and there was some decent values to be found on this list even if there was little or nothing under £30. Bread and amuses bouches were decent rather than spectacular, and service was pleasant and timely throughout. The restaurant itself was comfortable and presented nicely, though it is of course new so to be expected. It isn't a restaurant where you'd walk in and think "wow". By the time we left, it was quite busy. So I think Caractere is decent without being outstanding in pretty much all respects , and I wouldn't rate it as highly as I've seen in the press or even as strongly as Square Meal's own reviewer. Yet again, I wonder whether eating out Saturday lunchtime gets us the best food the restaurant can offer. Finally I'd suggest that prices here are not low and for most people a 3 course a la carte will cost £50 and £60 and for the food we ate that's not better than average value. Go back? Well if a place really hits home for us we're already planning our next visit before we left. Didn't happen this time.
Food & Drink
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Atmosphere
Value

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