Charlotte’s W5 in a nutshell
Charlotte’s W5 was not intended as a formal restaurant. There’s no pressure to dine here, with plenty of room in this 90-capacity space for group drinks or to settle down for the day with a laptop, or even a pram, in tow. But with a menu this good, it would be shame to miss eating here.
Owner Alex Wrethman is an Ealing local and is also responsible for reviving Charlotte’s Place and launching Charlotte’s Bistro in Chiswick. All three ventures respect their ingredients and have a knack for reimagining flavour combinations, but W5’s menu structure differs, with the majority of the dishes available in three sizes– taster, small and large. Visitors are encouraged to experiment with wine too, with every wine on the extensive drinks list available by glass and half bottle.
European flavours and classic British pairings are at the forefront– think truffle arancini and ham hock with piccalilli, apple and pig’s ear. Ingredients like Ealing honey fudge, which is melted into the crème Anglaise accompanying a wobbly bread and butter pudding, nod to the use of local suppliers.
What’s the room like
The space is converted from a disused Victorian stable block, the original sand-coloured brickwork still on show. The large space is open, bright and buzzy, but there are tables in secluded nooks for those after a bit of privacy.
A glossy marble bar divides the conservatory from the main space, the shelves behind it stocked with indie spirits and jars of W5’s own concoctions, such as the nettle and ginger cordial used in two of the Workshop cocktails. The large booths at one end of the stable block can be booked for meetings or private dining, but on our visit they were occupied by a group sharing drinks and nibbles. Inquisitive diners should bag one of two high tables at the other end, dubbed the ‘chef tables’ for their position overlooking the open kitchen.
Menu must-orders and misfires at Charlotte’s W5
Burrata with sage and squash was dreamy. Luxurious pillows of creamy, soft burrata were drizzled with sage brown butter, caramelized pine nuts and squash two ways. A taster plate of this is not enough, and we’d return for this dish alone.
Happily there are plenty more to return for. The rabbit ragu with silky homemade linguine was a hit, the sauce full of big, ripe flavours. The dish arrived topped with dinky rabbit cutlets which were sweet, succulent, and just blushing in the middle.
The pork belly with carrot and anise was a little tough and would have benefited from a jus, rather than the purées it arrived with, and lamb breast had the telltale gamey-ness of well-sourced meat, but needed punchier seasoning. An inventive basil curd and a delicate fried boulangere helped compensate.
Taster puddings are the perfect size for a sugar hit at the end of the meal, though nobody’s judging should you order a selection. Just make sure one of them is the caramelized hazelnut tart– impeccable pastry, filled with frangipane and hazelnuts, served with chopped praline and impossibly smooth white chocolate ice cream, which actually tasted of white chocolate.
The drinks list makes interesting reading, with clear support for independent producers. Intriguing spirits such as Dà Mhìle Seaweed (a Welsh seaside gin) and Tarquin’s Cornish Pastis, made with cliff-top gorse flowers, sit alongside wild sour cherry eau de vie, sourced from a family estate outside Toulouse, a natural companion for one of those hazelnut tarts.
Care is taken with the cocktails, and many of the cordials, jams and infusions are produced behind the small door marked Bartender’s Workshop. We enjoyed a Gin and Tea Party, combining gin with sweet vanilla sugar, fresh green tea and tart rhubarb bitters.
Pricing is guilt-free, with the £3-4 taster dishes costing around half that of a small plate in London proper. A huge draw is W5’s generosity with space. The mission statement encourages you to stay for hours, or even the whole day, and the power points hidden under tables give sincerity to this declaration.
This level of hospitality is a real treat in a city where many restaurant bookings are accompanied by a curt request that the table is vacated within an hour and 45 minutes, so being permitted to relax over glasses of wine and lovingly designed dishes, without being rushed, is a true indulgence.
Restaurant address: The Old Stable Block, Dickens Yard, Longfield Ave, Ealing W5
Words by Sarah Hogg