Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Parlour, Kensal

Cow Pie Perfection at the Parlour, Kensal

Parlant de la Parlour Kensal…  Remember that scene in Sex and the City where Carrie moves to Paris and Petrovsky is always working, so she pigs out on cake in a pretty little patisserie with a dog sitting watching her on the next table?!  Well I’m quite aware that we were in Kensal as opposed to the French capital, but this is exactly what Parlour Kensal reminded me of as we walked in…  A collection of kitsch mis-matched tables (my favourite being the marble slab that we sat at), in a very cool, chic setting.  

There’s a bar to the left and doors at the back which lead to the heated beer garden outside.  And then through a doorway past the bar, is the kitchen and another seating area which looks a little more ‘restaurant-y’ for dinner; but because we were there to soak up the atmosphere, we decided to stay put in the bar area at our marble slabbed table.

Craig our waiter is the one of the most knowledgeable waiters we’ve ever had the pleasure to be served by!  There’s nothing worse than going somewhere new and wanting to find out exactly what the dishes are, only to be told that the waitress just started or that they haven’t actually tried anything on the menu…  (imagine working with food every day and not eating it?!!  Actually, I really can’t imagine that at all...) 

Because Craig knew his stuff, we kinda took advantage of him a little bit.  For a start, we left the wine choice up to him, but he did us proud with a ……………….. which was really rather delightful.  Then we asked him to run through, well, most things on the menu.  Again he obliged, unphased!   The nice thing about the Parlour menu is that it’s quite seasonal and changes often.  The team here like to offer their residential clientele something a little different instead of having the same old stuff on the list every time they visit.  Craig explained that most of the menu is made up of supermarket staples, but with an inspirational twist created by the chef.  The raw vegetable ravioli with goats’ cheese being the perfect example.

While we awaited the arrival of this interesting creation, out came the bread.  No ordinary bread.  Warm, just out of the oven bread with perfectly soft butter.  Apparently it’s an Irish soda bread with a touch of treacle which gives it a lovely but not too overpowering sweet taste.  Gorgeous.  In fact I tried so hard to cut it into as many pieces as possible to make it go further, that I accidentally cut my finger – ouch!  The wine helped numb the pain…

The raw veg ravioli starter comes in 2 sizes at £7.00 and £13.50.  I assumed we’d been given the large (after asking for the small), but it turns out you get 5 neat little parcels on the smaller plate – very adequate sized portions ( so if you’re going to order the same, you probably won’t need the large!)  Each ravioli is a lovely big lump of goats’ cheese, which is served with a very thinly sliced piece of kohlrabi or beetroot, on the top and the bottom.  A bit like a non-bread sandwich!  The plate comes decorated with cress, fresh parmesan and flower petals along with apricot, cranberries and hazelnuts in the middle.  What a taste sensation – sweet and bitter at the same time, along with the creaminess of the goats’ cheese and the crunchy consistency of the veg.  Absolutely divine.

I’ll admit at this point I was starting to feel vaguely full!  Not a nice feeling when you’ve been forewarned that the mains are huge and furthermore totally delicious!  I told myself I wouldn’t be beaten.  Turns out, I was.  Extra large man sized portions were being cooked up in the kitchen at this very moment…

We were told (by Craig, our favourite waiter, of course…), that the chef’s two main specialities were the chicken kyiv and the cow pie.  At the mention of Desperate Dan, I was sold on the steak and ale ‘cow pie’ (I’m a sucker for a beard…) and Sylwi is a secret kiev fan, so she decided to go for that.

Until I moved down South, a Gregg’s mince and onion was probably the best pie I’d ever tasted, and over the years, I have sampled a few more.  But this, is definitely the best to date.  Presentation wise, these are two dishes which typically wouldn’t look too pretty - these however, looked great.

The cow pie comes served in a pie dish, topped with an overflowing perfectly baked crust and a bone marrow in the centre filled with marrow and breadcrumb stuffing.  The bone acts as a chimney during baking to ensure it’s perfectly cooked throughout – clever or what?!  Then when you cut into the pie, you get huge meaty chunks of delicious fall-apart-in-your-mouth-steak and a slightly sweet ale gravy hiding the odd shallot.  Pie perfection, served with cabbage.  And chips!  (No idea why we ordered these or where we thought we might be able to fit them in, but they did taste great too!)

Sylwi’s kyiv was literally the size of a hand ball!  Sooooo much chicken in a twice fried coating, balanced on a crispy oversized hash brown, along with a special coleslaw style salad.  Again, a really simple idea, yet a really delicious dish.

Be warned…. YOU WILL NOT FINISH EITHER OF THESE DISHES!!!   And we recommend you leave room for dessert.  So, step away from the cow pie about half way through.  That is an order.

There was no way we were going to be able to manage anything else.  We couldn’t even finish the wine and if you know the two of us, you’ll realise that we really must’ve have been on the verge of bursting.  While we contemplated how to roll ourselves home, we chatted through the various desserts with Craig (for the purpose of the review of course!).    There’s a toasted marshmallow wagon wheel on there, which is actually toasted at your table.  Then there’s the strawberry soufflé – new to the menu as of this week, which comes served with a shortbread.  And what about the posh and plentiful platter of puddings?!  Basically a bit of everything on the menu…

I was devastated not to have been able to sample any of these delights, but was cheered up by the sight of two paper bags containing 8 salted caramel chocolate rolos each – a goodie bag to take home!  Aces!  Round and truffle sized, dusted with icing, the rolo tastes like treacle and is encased in a dark chocolate shell.  I actually got up in the night to eat one and ended up eating the lot!  I couldn’t eat until 4pm the next day…. That’ll teach me.

‘Romantic simplicity’ is how my friend Sylwi described Parlour.  I thought that was a rather nice description so I’ve mentioned it here.  Great for a date, great to meet friends, great to bring your dog (there was 2 in when we visited), this is the perfect place to come and grab a hearty meal with an inventive menu and a fabulous wine list.  Not forgetting Craig.  He was awesome.

Check out their fabulous website and you’ll see just how cool and quirky they are, here:


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