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Archive for January, 2010

By Way of Kensal Green to give its full G K Chesterton moniker, but had we in fact stumbled into John Milton’s equally seminal prose?

I have known, drunk and supped at this Kensal institution for a long time and through various incarnations. Not as far back as the coaching house days (mores the pity) but certainly twelve or so of its trendier years. I think I speak with some authority when I say a sensational venue- that’s forgotten to brush its hair this evening.

Publocation as always has forged on regardless of hell, high water or overtly winter conditions- less a rolling road than a sliding one-to kick off the first event of the year. We were looking for a bang and got a very tame pop. This venue has always been a keeper with its stunning architecture and space and has rarely failed to impress. OK its 7.30ish on a school night, not the time to be rating what is a fantastic eatery and/or weekend hot spot (open till 2am), but like most good things in life you can tell a lot by how they perform at the worst of times rather than the best.

So to the bar. We spy a couple of stools at opposing ends and merge them in anticipation of the first cooling ale. Publocation try to mix it up when possible so tonight its two pints from the famous village of Hoegaarden, just because. Any one of said villagers after extolling its coriander and orange peel delight and musing over the secondary fermentation- would insist on a 3-5 degree chill in the famous Hexagonal glass. We received nether of the last two-not even a Belgian moniker just to make it feel more like home and have to say I deserve much better in a four quid beverage.  Grumbling ensues but we are in good spirits and try to justify this lapse, but the lukewarm bottles of Peroni that follow destroy that notion.  Heaven knows what temperatures await on a busy night. The bar staff number three at various times but seem preoccupied with other tasks rather than overt friendliness.

A long traipse to the men’s upstairs reveals a stylie but again standard-lacking convenience with broken tiles and exposed  pipework suggesting a Jason Statham style kicking had ensued earlier. Even if this instance was recent, surely a reassuring sign apologizing for the condition? Again rough around the edges- whats going on? Our customer service experience has disappointed to say the least but Paradise has so much to offer.

The drinks menu bar-wise offers a reasonable selection of bottled beers and ciders, an Italian/Chilean favouring wine list, all the classic cocktails and some decent champagne. The fonts are standard silver and nondescript which is a personal bugbear of mine. I want to see the brand of what I’m buying without squinting in the half-light only to go with the first familiar one out of frustration. Problem is that this “stylistic”, sleeker modus operandi is so dated and naff these days it looks just like the boozer it was once distancing itself from.

The bar food menu (more on that later) offers a tasty looking selection of entrée size offerings including bruschetta, devilled whitebait and Poole harbor rock oysters- plenty to whet the palate. Moving into the modern European enriched restaurant, which I have enjoyed many times before, the range is even better. Grilled swordfish, venison Wellington, and goats cheese pie to fill you up or start with a braised ox tail and macaroni, duck tartar or foie gras to name a selection. The roasts, including the mouth-watering three birds feast, are famous in these parts with good reason. The wine range through to the restaurant  builds quite spectacularly with an uncontrolled variety and vigor. The “extravagant and opulent” reds section could easily open the dustiest of wallets, but if you’re not feeling saucy there is everything in between, from every varietal and every country. I say again- spectacular. More’s the pity we couldn’t dine tonight as previous visits have seen a fantastic bustling vibe with great service and an indescribably warm feeling.

The decor outside serves the stunning exterior well, with a variegated range of wooden tables and chairs that aren’t too eclectic to change the saloon bar vibe. Candles position themselves on every table and provide an eerie backdrop to what is a dark pub in the evenings.  The false wooden bookcase is naff but the clean, rustic look serves it well and somehow warms the dark recesses of the huge high ceilings. A similar feel extends into the restaurant area. Whats even better since the 2007 refurb and launch is that the pub is really used to its potential upstairs and down. It’s like wandering through a grand old family home only its a pub which is something I’ve always longed for (since Bar Abaco in Palma blew my mind) The toilets upstairs are annoying (has to be said) but once you’ve stopped tutting there is a separate bar/stage room for functions and parties as well as the opportunity to spill out on to the roof terrace on a golden summers eve. The courtyard area below serves the same purpose in summer, and a full Paradise on such a night is indeed a treat.

I also learn Comedy Wednesdays are to return and along with Swing Thursday (no not that kind of swing), and many other variety shows, raves and eclectic music to come, the Paradise is clearly making use of its copious space.

Postscript– I came back again. Yes my tardiness over the last 12 days has forced me to abandon family life and get this review out before its relevance wanes,and hey, it just got more relevant. It’s a Monday so things could be worse, but on the contrary, service is friendly, smile filled and prompt. The only delays are due to vigorous cleaning which is always good on the standards front and certainly how a quieter night might be filled by quality staff. The two pints of Kronenburg are cold and crisp- bravo! I also get to try the bar food but my appetite allows only chicken skewers and hand cut chips- both delicious. . As I sign off the updated review in a neat little alcove on the right, I feel Paradise has once again been found and honour restored.

Just keep that brush in the handbag and I’ll bring my five stars.

Where: 19 Kilburn Lane, Kensal Green, London, W10 4 AE
When: Wednesday 6th January 2009, 7.30pm (oh and Monday 18th about 8pm)
Stars:
UnPublicised:
Get a table and comfy chair in the alcove to the right as you enter. In summer get up on the roof with a litre of Posh Punch. Either way get yourself booked into the restaurant and as soon as you’re tiddly, treat yourself to something gamey and an expensive bottle of red. If its vim and vigor you need then get there late any Friday or Saturday and get amongst it.
Tel: 020 8969 0098
Website: http://www.theparadise.co.uk
Menus: A La Carte, brunch, Sunday and week day. See website
Interest: The Regent 5 seconds away- another 4.5 star rated pub. Why leave the lane?

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 HD2 098

 

There are many times when we go out for a drink that every bar is full. Every table taken, every stool sat on and everyone is loud and happy (except the inevitable couple outside ‘having a barney’, but that’s a given). This environment is what we think of as ‘the pub’; bustle, laughter, loud voices and queuing at the bar. It’s a generic shared memory we all have and it’s what most of us picture when some one says ‘we’re going out for a drink tonight’.

There are also times when we go out for a drink that this is not the case. There are mid-week evenings in January when it’s minus three with an angry wind and solid, lumpy, kneecap-threatening ice underfoot. These evenings are not bustling and loud, the hardy souls who muster up the wherewithall to leave the house and get amongst it (ahem) are few and far between and the pubs and bars take on an entirely different perspective.

If you’re thinking I’m that I’m suggesting the quieter nights are not up to much, nothing could be farther from the truth. Not everyone will agree I’m sure but we think occasionally having a pub to yourselves is a great thing. It’s all about the company really and for as much as we rigorously judge every minute spent in bars, it’s done retrospectively, the actual reason any of this exists is just to get us out to more bars more often. The better the company the less it matters. That said if the place is, for want of a better word, shite, without the atmosphere to carry it through, you can come away cursing a blood oath through gritted teeth never to darken it’s festering door again.

Which rather neatly brings us to The Abingdon.

The scene is as mentioned above, Kensington is the set of 28 Days Later, it’s brass monkeys and the boys, offensively sober at this point, are wobbling down an icy High Street Ken like Bambi in stilettos. The evening is an official Publocator’s birthday, much like the Queen we have two, the actual day and the corresponding Publocation night out. You might say then everyone sometimes has two if you count the parties but the official Publocation birthday night is on top of that. Like I said: more bars more often. Tonight the Abingdon is number two of five.

Attractive pub The Abingdon, it’s all white and sits at the corner of two Georgian terraces (I always say ‘Georgian’, I have no idea really), there’s usually a couple of little bistro tables outside but not tonight, not sure why. The main market is dinner and wine and in a rather Kensington way the website calls the place a ‘restaurant and bar’ but calling it something else doesn’t change what it is. It’s a pub with a makeover. But, whatever label we give it, it’s got a great bar for sitting at and, lo and behold, stools are available.

I was starving having spent a futile day trying to spend money in Westfield with nothing more than a bowl of (rather tasty) Vietnamese soup to keep me going so I went straight for the menu. It turned out to be the wine list so, as wine is their thing, I shouted up a bottle of Kim Crawford Pinot Noir and promptly forgot about my belly. The wine was great, something we can’t really give the pub all the credit for, however the glasses were sparkling and the chap doing the pouring was quick and attentive. Given the punter/staff ratio was about 2:1 I should think so too.

I’d forgotten about my belly but it certainly hadn’t forgotten about me so when it protested again we decided to make the most; Fois Gras and chicken liver parfait with not enough brioche was delicious, the duck pancakes were expensive (£14 for 2) but excellent and the skinny chips hot and crisp. There were other things which escape my memory but certainly nothing weak enough to detract from the overall experience. I had a great steak frites here before now and I’m happy to say the standards don’t seem to have dropped.

In the depths of winter, sitting on bar stools in a toasty pub with full bellies and well-made drinks in hand is a very pleasant experience indeed, the weather brings out the blitz spirit, the banter is in full swing and with the venue running smoothly it creates a very particular type of evening, memorable for all the right reasons, that just doesn’t happen all that often. The Kim Crawford soon bottomed out and the weather, clearly having stirred my Scottish ancestry, drew me toward the Whisky.  If you ever catch me out and about and you want to send a drink over (alright, no need to laugh) go for Whisky and soda, it’s my favourite mixer and more importantly there’s little chance of it being ruined by poor drinksmanship. A handful of said Whiskys in an all-too-short space of time and we were making for the door, nothing to do with the pub, we just had other places to get to.

Stepping out I had become strangely oblivious to the cold which may have had something to do with the festivities, particularly seeing as though I went down like a sack of spuds about three feet from the door (I was like that fat bird on the ‘injured at work?’ ad who belts her knee on the wet floor, it makes me wince every time I think about it. I’m now pointlessly holding my knee and typing with one hand). Unfazed and suffering in silence (ahem) I soldiered on with a steely determination, slightly saddened by the knowledge that it would probably be quite some time before that particular kind of pub visit happened again.

The Abingdon is a very well-kept place, the food is good to great, the wine well chosen and the environment well worth the visit, even if you’re the only ones in there.

Particularly if you’re the only ones in there.

 

Bobby

 

4 Stars

Where: The Abingdon, 54 Abingdon Road, London W8

When: 8.30pm Wed 6th Jan, 2010

Unpublicised: Sit at the bar or reserve a booth. Eat food. Drink wine.

Closes: Lunch 12.30pm – 2.30pm (Mon – Fri) 12.30pm – 3.00pm (Sat & Sun)
             Dinner 6.30pm – 10.30pm (Mon) 6.30pm – 11.00pm (Tues – Sat) 7.00pm – 10.00pm (Sunday)

Tel: 020 7937 3339

Website: http://www.theabingdonrestaurant.com/ 

Menus: On the website

Interest: It’s owned by two blokes and a woman. Well that’s what it looks like from the photos on the website.

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