Pavilion, Kensington: restaurant review
Read our unique review of Pavilion in London, from the viewpoint of both a professional reviewer, Rebecca Seal, and a regular punter.
***This restaurant is now the Ivy Brasserie Kensington
Does an average diner reach the same conclusions about restaurants as a food pro, who may get special treatment if recognised?* Rebecca Seal and reader Tim Alexander compare notes on Pavilion
Rebecca Seal is a journalist, editor, TV presenter, author and the resident drinks expert on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch. Her book, The Islands of Greece is out now.
Tim Alexander, a dispute resolution manager from South Woodford, eats out once or twice a week. His best recent dining experience was at Harvey Nichols’ Restaurant in Knightsbridge.
Pavilion is a restaurant, open to the public, within a private member’s club. It’s a showcase for Adam Simmonds, who has won Michelin stars for Ynyshir Hall and Danesfield House. On the ground floor is Pavilion’s grand champagne bar and 60-seater restaurant, with counters overlooking the open kitchen. Breakfast, brunch and bar food are served, as well as an à la carte menu of refined, modern British dishes and top-drawer steaks.
Service was friendly and fast, despite our waiter being a barman drafted in to help at the last minute. There was no problem ordering tap water, and drinks arrived swiftly, although £7.50 seemed steep for a booze-free cranberry mojito. *No one recognised me.
We were immediately seated at a pleasant table at the front of the restaurant. I asked for tap water, which was served from a carafe with plenty of ice. It was an early Monday evening and the restaurant was very quiet; however, we felt rushed at times by a rather impersonal waiter. We found the service abrupt overall, though dessert was served by a friendly waitress who showed genuine interest in what we had ordered.
Chef Adam Simmonds has cooked at Michelin-starred restaurants and appears on Great British Menu, so I had high hopes for some exciting food. Gravadlax with crab, pomelo and avocado was simple, tasted great and was prettily presented, but a rabbit terrine was underpowered and garnished with unforkably tiny pieces of pickled carrot and raw green beans. For vegetarians, there is only one starter, a rather boring-sounding tomato consommé, and one main, a predictable butternut squash risotto.
We asked for a medium-rare sirloin steak, which we got, but with barely any caramelisation on the surface of the meat it lacked flavour. The steaks come with overwhelmingly strong, beer-pickled onions – whipped bone marrow sauce was a far better idea. Lamb with goat’s curd, salsa verde and aubergine purée was delicious; the lamb was perfectly pink all the way through but, like its accompaniments, was soft and felt like nursery food. Strawberry parfait and pea sorbet was what I had expected from the rest of this meal – inventive, clever and fun.
I started with wonderful pork belly, served with the best black pudding I’ve ever tasted, langoustines and, oddly, pieces of smoked pineapple. It was beautifully presented but very small, and expensive. My partner had mackerel with oyster mayonnaise and horseradish. Again, this was small, but delicious and reasonably priced. We both had bream for our main courses.
The fish was satisfyingly meaty, and was paired with confit red pepper, cocoa beans, a very small slice of Iberico ham and three small rings of squid, which melted in the mouth. Dessert was stunning: I had peach melba, which was simple but gorgeous; my partner had a lovely chocolate trio of bitter marquise, mint-aerated chocolate and refreshing mint ice cream.
The Bottom Line
Pavilion has the potential to be an excellent restaurant, but there were too many odd notes, like the caterpillar-nibbled pot plant on our table. Restaurant designers seem to love open kitchens, but this one sits fully in the dining room, with a huge bank of extractors that hum away beneath the background music. It’s big, busy and buzzing, and although I won’t be rushing back, it’s sure to do well in Kensington.
FOOD 6/10; ATMOSPHERE 7/10; SERVICE 7/10; REBECCA'S TOTAL: 20/30
The restaurant is very modern, but lacks atmosphere and feels a little clinical. An open kitchen means you can watch the chefs at work, and entering the restaurant is like going into a florist – there is an abundance of flower arrangements and plants. The food is marvellous, but the restaurant is let down by indifferent service.
FOOD 9/10; ATMOSPHERE 6/10; SERVICE 6/10; TIM'S TOTAL: 21/30
Pavilion Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) rating:
The Pavilion’s sourcing is generally sustainable. The pork and beef are free-range British meat, the mackerel sustainably sourced and the gravadlax cured locally. The chocolate trio uses Fairtrade, and the peaches are organic. However, Pavilion is not separating or recycling food waste, nor taking steps to reduce energy and water use, and is yet to implement plans to support the local community.
Written October 2014