Your first impression of the KPH might be that it looks like any other old-school west London pub – the kind of place you’d expect to find a group of Ladbroke Grove locals reminiscing about the good old days before Notting Hill was taken over by bankers. Too late, fellas! Instead you’ll find suits finishing up the working day on their laptops over pints and almost 20 wines by the glass.
You could take this either as a sign that even the northern end of Notting Hill has been gentrified beyond recognition, or as evidence that a recent refurb and a kitchen now overseen by chef Henry Harris have transformed the former Kensington Park Hotel into a drinking and dining destination for a new generation of pub-goer.
The ground-floor bar has been given a classic-with-a-twist new look. Red and navy leather bar stools sit around dark wood high tables while a chalkboard above the fireplace announces upcoming live music performances.
A narrow staircase leads to the first-floor dining room, where the decor pays homage to the pub’s former life with plush red-leather seating, another original fireplace and vintage-style light fixtures. Quirky framed photos and paintings add the right amount of character to the intimate space.
The menu showcases the Anglo-French cooking that will be familiar to anyone who ever ate at Racine, Harris’ much-missed restaurant on Brompton Road. Our meal began with macerated tomatoes and anchovies. The sweetness of the oil-doused tomatoes, the saltiness of the fleshy anchovies plus the subtle tanginess of capers was a simple and well-judged assembly of texture and flavour.
Our next course of octopus carpaccio arrived a little too quickly, but we had no complaints when it tasted this good. Paper-thin slices of subtly flavoured octopus lay underneath a bed of sweet gem lettuce, the flavours pulled together by the savouriness of a pistachio purée. To follow, melt-in the-mouth lamb rump with a smooth almond purée and sweet grelot onion had us planning a return trip for Sunday lunch.
Desserts were the only thing that failed to impress. Crème caramel was too sweet to finish, while a chocolate tart topped with Chantilly cream was let down by too-thick pastry, though the chocolate filling was spot on.
From the first dates and girly catch ups to the blokey birthday group who made up our fellow diners, this already looks like a new local favourite. With a varied four-course menu, fantastic service and a great location, KPH should be initialed in anyone’s Notting Hill address book.