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Kitchen W8 review

Kitchen W8 review

by Tom Wildman 19 January 2016

Kitchen W8’s set menu is one of London’s best restaurant deals, proving that Michelin-starred food doesn’t have to be out of reach. Tom made his way to Kensington to sample the culinary delights of Mark Kempson and his team.

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For a lot of people a visit to a Michelin-starred restaurant seems like an unobtainable fantasy, not dissimilar to gazing at beautiful houses through an estate agent’s window. However, it was only when I first started researching London’s food scene for my job that I realized there is in fact great value to be had at many of the capital’s Michelin-starred restaurants. As the fine dining scene continues to grow, so too has the number of top restaurants offering excellent value set menus. If you are happy to go for lunch or eat at a specific time in the evening, Michelin-starred food doesn’t have to be prohibitive.

When it comes to high-end value, it doesn’t get much better than the £28, three-course set menu offered by Kitchen W8. I jumped on a tube after work and met a friend for an early dinner at this hidden Kensington gem. Set up by restaurateur Rebecca Mascarenhas and Phil Howard (of two-Michelin-starred restaurant The Square in Mayfair), W8 Kitchen opened its doors in 2009, earning its star just two years later. Since then the restaurant has earned a reputation as one of London’s best neighbourhood restaurants, with some even predicting a second star for head chef Mark Kempson and his team.

Our meal started off very well with a delicious tapioca crisp and pumpkin purée amuse-bouche, followed by walnut bread. More seasoned restaurant goers would perhaps view this as a standard part of any high-end meal, but for me it is always a pleasant surprise, especially considering the rising number of restaurants that charge for bread baskets (not the case at W8, I’m pleased to say). The walnut bread was the best I had ever tasted; crispy on the outside and soft in the middle, it had a subtle, sweet hint of walnut that made it seriously addictive.

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Bread bowl
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Tapioca crisp and pumpkin purée

Our set menu provided us with two options for each course. To start I chose the Ragu of fallow deer with hand-rolled garganelli, Iberico lardo, smoked roots and sage, while my friend opted for the Salad of winter roots with chestnut, apple and Roscoff onion. Both dishes were immaculately presented and tasted just as good. My ragu was a perfectly crafted plate of food and the highlight of my evening’s menu. Expertly seasoned, rich and incredibly moreish – just thinking about it now makes my stomach rumble. The hand-rolled garganelli displayed the considerable skill of the kitchen team and was matched with crunchy Iberico lardo. My friend’s root vegetable salad was also excellent, showcasing the season’s best root vegetables with a vibrant, creamy dressing.

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Ragu of fallow deer with hand-rolled garganelli, Iberico lardo, smoked roots and sage
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Salad of winter roots with chestnut, apple and Roscoff onion

Our main courses came very promptly after our starter, thanks to W8’s very attentive front of house staff who were faultless throughout the evening. Although very tempted by the Caramelised featherblade of beef with creamed potato, I went for the Fillet of gilthead sea bream with smoked eel chowder. The dish arrived with a bit of fine-dining theatre, as the waitress presented the plate and poured over the the eel chowder. Although not quite living up to the heady highs of our starters, we really enjoyed our main courses. The sea bream was perfectly cooked – crispy golden skin and succulent, flaky flesh. I managed to grab a small taste of my friend’s beef before it vanished; it was incredibly tender and came with a luxurious mash that was probably as much butter as it was potato (and rightly so!).

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Fillet of gilthead sea bream with smoked eel chowder
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Caramelised featherblade of beef with creamed potato and stuffed onion

I didn’t need a dessert but had one anyway. I couldn’t resist the Warm chocolate pudding with clementine and vanilla, and at just £3 extra it felt rude not to. Sticking my spoon into the pudding revealed a liquid chocolate center that oozed like molten lava into my clementine ice cream. It was close to perfection, with the clementine providing the perfect amount of sharpness to cut through the rich chocolate.

Overall, we had a fantastic evening at Kitchen W8.The food was refined, modern European cooking at its best and well deserving of a Michelin star. For the standard of meal we had, the set menu provides fantastic value for money and is highly recommended. But now that I’m well acquainted with the incredible food of Mark Kempson and his team, I think I’ll opt for the tasting menu on my return . . .

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