There are plenty of reasons to find yourself in Kensington.
Hyde Park, Kensington Palace, the Kyoto garden, The Royal Albert Hall and London’s famous museum quarter are all within walking distance of the Royal Borough.
But all of those activities will make you hungry.
So we’ve put together the best places to fuel up while you’re out and about.
The original branch of this all-American and now all-London diner (they have sites in Shoreditch, Soho and Carnaby Street).
Walk through the photo booth at the back of the ground level, subterranean boozer (note to self: revisit later) which is a portal to the buzzy, speakeasy-style diner complete with retro wallpaper, mismatched tiling and bare concrete walls – as if Austin Powers had decided to build a Batman-style underground lair.
The menu boasts the best of America with an extra layer of, well, the best of America: the fries are topped with crispy lamb and jalapeño; the flat iron steak comes topped with a roast bone marrow gremolata; and the chicken and waffles comes with a ‘shot’ of maple syrup.
Reinvigorate with a Pickleback (a shot of bourbon chased with a shot of pickle brine) and head back upstairs.
Details: 20 Kensington Church Street, W8 4EP
Caractère is owned by Emily Roux, the third generation of the illustrious Roux family famed for – well, just about any culinary accolade or respected restaurant out there.
Dark glossy tables, velvet seating and dimly-lit, art installation-style light fixtures make it feel very (dare we say it) third-generation-Le-Gavroche and (not to adhere to stereotypes), quite romantic.
The French/Italian-inspired menu is split into ‘character’ sections (and cooked by husband, co-owner and ex head chef of Le Gavroche – Diego Ferrari). Feeling ‘curious’? Try the crispy veal sweetbreads. Feeling ‘subtle’ – how about roasted John Dory? And what about ‘robust’? Pigeon, roasted on the crown, with confit leg – or try each Caractère trait with their £78 tasting menu.
Details: 209 Westbourne Park Road, W11 1EA
Chakra is one of those not so-secret-now-that-we’re-telling-you-about-it secrets.
You’ll find it tucked away on the corner of two house-lined back streets serving upmarket Indian cuisine. The interior has all the charm of an old-school curry house, but with a few mod cons: linen table cloths, period chairs and friendly service are met with hanging plants, a teal colour scheme and golden trim.
The menu reflects this, too: artistically presented dishes such as Calcutta fish curry made with sea bass; an Anglo-Indian railway curry of chicken, potatoes and egg; and Chakra’s take on a lamb rogan josh.
Details: 33C Holland Street, W8 4LX
On entering Maggie Jones, you’ll probably feel a little lost. You swore you were just off Kensington High Street, but now you’re in a rustic farmhouse on the Garonne River in the vineyards of the Bordeaux region.
It’s two-storey labyrinth of rooms that groan under the weight of cosy country style bric-a-brac: a harmony of mismatched heavy wooden furniture, wagon wheels, rocking horses, lavender-filled baskets and wax-covered wine bottles.
It’s no surprise that the food is equally charming and comforting. Onion soup; asparagus with hollandaise; sea bream with fennel, and saffron sauce; stuffed, roasted chicken; and calf’s liver with bacon and onion are all available from the no-frills menu.
Magnums of house wine are plonked on the table and you’re charged for what you drink. Parfait.
Details: 6 Old Court Place, Kensington Church Street, W8 4PL
Inspired by the Irani cafés of old Bombay, Dishoom is now part of the brickwork in London’s restaurant culture.
The Kensington iteration pays homage to the golden age of Indian jazz and 1940’s Bombay. Aptly stationed in the art deco Barkers Building on Kensington High Street, it looks like something out of Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Express: parquet flooring, muted wall colours and stunning art deco lighting fixtures all fuse together to make a space that’s very easy on the eye.
The sure-fire menu remains the same.
Two words – bacon naan.
Details: Barkers Building, 4 Derry Street, W8 5HR
Margaux is named after a wine region in Bordeaux and serves plenty of old world wine in a very new environment.
Like a hidden bistro on a Parisian side street, the place oozes modern French class. It’s a small space hidden behind bi-fold doors and boasting industrial chic features including a burnished copper bar, matte chrome venting and warehouse-style glass panelling.
Expect dishes that show off the best of modern France. Smoked duck tartare; grilled veal rump; and of course Margaux’s beef bourguignon all feature. A lengthy (spoiler), French-heavy (double spoiler) wine list is on hand to guide you through your meal.
Details: 152 Old Brompton Road, SW5 0BE
The Ivy Brasserie
The Ivy brand has grown into an institution.
The Kensington branch of the famous Covent Garden brasserie has all the class and style of the original: it wears the bottle green, dark wood and golden trim like a proud younger sibling, but also has some features of its own – patterned floor tiling, splashes of mustard yellow, and a large outdoor area give it its own personality.
The menu reads like, well, an offshoot-of-The-Ivy-in-Kensington: marinated yellowfin tuna; roast pumpkin tortellini; and crispy duck salad are amongst the starters, while turbot on the bone; miso black cod; and a ribeye steak are all offered up as mains.
And – don’t shout it – it’s not as expensive, and you’ll definitely be able to get a booking.
Details: 96 Kensington High Street, W8 4SG
Yashin Sushi was opened in 2010 by Yasuhiro Mineno – the former head chef of Ubon (part of the Nobu group).
The interior is as precise as the chefs’ approach to sushi, but somewhat more modern than traditional – dark parquet flooring and dark wooden bar stools act as a counterpoint to the white, panelled walls and the bottle green tiling that adorns the 12 seat counter top bar.
A neon sign that reads “Without Soy Sauce” says all that you need to know about the philosophy of the food here. The level of detail the chefs put into their kaiseki menu (the Japanese culinary art of preparing multiple small, intricate dishes) includes their refusal to serve soy sauce unless you ask for it, based on the fact that they have already brushed the fish with it and don’t want the delicate balance of flavours to be compromised. Unless you’re cool with that.
Try the one by one menu – considered the ultimate sushi experience – where they serve you one piece at a time to ensure everything is the right temperature.
Details: 1A Argyll Road, W8 7DB
Last Updated: 9th October 2019 | Main image: Maggie Jones
Looking for more inspiration? Check out the best restaurants in every London neighbourhood