Move beyond the simple menu and you’ll find sophistication and flair at Adam Simmonds’ Pavilion, says Lady Barbara Judge…
One of the nicest dining surprises I had in the last month was being taken by a communications entrepreneur with a speciality in digital media to a restaurant on Kensington High Street called Pavilion. It opened recently as part of a new office and club complex, and has lovely light, modern decor. As you walk in there is a retail shop for bread, cheese and meat on the left-hand side, and a large gleaming square bar in the centre for eating and drinking.
We chose a table at the side to be a bit more private and quiet, and to be able to concentrate properly on the food. The decor, however nice, was reminiscent of an upmarket busy brasserie, but happily the cuisine turned out to be a lot more serious.
Although there was a charge for the bread basket – a practice that I really do not appreciate – the relatively reasonable prices for the rest of the meal made up for it somewhat.
Sophistication and Flair
The starters were delicious. We had confit of mackerel with oyster mayonnaise and horseradish, which was elegantly presented, and a delightful way to prepare a ubiquitous fish. The gravlax crab salad and pomelo was similarly successful. It also comes with avocado, but I asked them to leave it off as the texture of this popular vegetable isn’t to my taste. Both of these dishes surprised us with their sophistication and flair – not brasserie-like at all.
While Pavilion is, at its heart, a steak restaurant, we avoided it because, to me, a steak, even a great one, is not a test of the chef’s cooking. In addition, there are so many new steak restaurants in London now that the novelty has long since worn off.
Instead, we chose poached halibut with hay-baked celeriac and pickled onion with Granny Smith apple and truffle beurre blanc. This was a wonderfully sophisticated preparation of an excellent fish with lots of interesting accompanying flavours. Truly a real star!
Colourful Culinary Delight
My friend had the lamb with smoked aubergine purée, goats’ curd and anchovy salsa verde. The lamb was perfectly cooked – pink and moist – and the aubergine purée was a winner of a vegetable – different and delicious. The description of the dish on the menu hadn’t really given us any clues about the colourful culinary delight that would in fact be served. Actually, this new style of menu – simple and widely spaced – often leaves a diner mystified and guessing about the preparation, so that only when the plate appears does the distinction really become apparent.
In any case, now we were ready for dessert, which is for me, as all my friends know, the most important part of any meal, and if it is not up to the standard of the other courses, tends to leave me rather disappointed. There were no worries here, however. Although it was somewhat hard to tell from the sparse menu, the apple mousse, with butterscotch, compressed apple and pine nut purée, was as inventive as it was delicious, and I liked it even better than the bitter chocolate marquise,
with aerated chocolate (I really couldn’t figure out what this was) and mint ice cream. The names of these desserts were ‘Apple’ and ‘Chocolate’, with the ingredients printed underneath and, if we hadn’t tried them, their delicious distinctiveness would have been lost on the diner.
In all, this was a very interesting and satisfying dinner, with food that was obviously cooked by a chef who had worked in haute cuisine restaurants before, and was giving his customers an experience way above the prices and the decor. These days, it isn’t often possible to find ambience and superb food in the same venue, and I applaud Head Chef Adam Simmonds on his accomplished preparation and presentation. I will certainly return to taste the rest of the complicated dishes behind the sparse descriptions on the menu.
In the case of Pavilion, it’s the chef’s own description of the food that tells the whole story: he cooks ‘modern food with intensity of flavours that work perfectly together without being over-complicated’. This kind of restaurant is what today’s eating is all about.
kensingtonpavilion.com, 0207 221 2000
Lady Barbara Judge is currently the chairman of the Pension Protection Fund in the UK, and has held many posts across the corporate and charitable sector, including commissioner of the US Securities and Exchange Commission, and chairman of the UK Atomic Energy Authority. Lady Barbara has always had an abiding love for food, and her frequent international business travels have enabled her to indulge this passion in many top restaurants across the globe. Lady Barbara Judge pays all of her own expenses.