Kensington High Street has a shiny new restaurant – well one replacing another at least. On the former site of Zaika, a restaurant which in its heyday had a great following – but upon my last visit to Zaika
it was all a bit confused, and actually that part of it hasn’t really changed. Housed in a former bank it really is a stunning room. With its shiny new paint job, it may detract from its original features but once the crowds come in you really see why it’s been decked out like this, it feels expensive and it feels like it should be housing celebs – all very Kensington.
Once we arrived, un-celeb like of us (on the bus) immediately outside it at least gave us the feeling of arriving by chauffeur. Stepping inside to this cool, neutral and calm restaurant, with French music humming away in the background, bread arrived in the form of a foccacia which was lacking in seasoning and moisture, but which was quickly rectified by the most amazing rosemary and potato loaf. It was a great piece of bread which if arrived warm at the table, would’ve been even better.
The one thing i really didn’t expect from One Kensington is how much of a fine dining restaurant they were really looking to become. It still had a casual air to it, but at the same time, being very proper. It’s good value here as well, three courses at lunch will set you back £24 – which isn’t bad for this neck of the woods. Description of starters were made to sound much more interesting than they actually were, arriving nothing like I’d have expected from the dishes. Crispy chicken, vegetable panache and mustard seeds looked more similar to a plate of salad and toast. The crispy chicken, which was in fact breaded chicken escalope was well cooked and the salad/vegetable mix came with a lovely sweet mustard seed dressing. It was all very pleasant – but this is hardly groundbreaking food. It even felt a bit like the idea of it was concocted from what could have been yesterday’s leftovers.
Mackerel, quinoa, crudites was far too large to be considered a starter. There was so much on the plate you’d easily mistake it for a main course – it just didn’t make sense. It food look bright and colourful, the mackerel was glistening in the reflection of the chrome lights probably from a limited release collection at Heal’s and it was all very nicely cooked – tasty, but i found it hard to get excited about.
Coming in to mains and things started to make a little more sense, although again portion sizes were ridiculously large. Tagliolini pasta was coated in ricotta, bread crumbs, a lot of pesto (which i love) and pesto oil. It was a very heavy dish, especially after the portion sizes we just had – i only managed to finish it all because it was such a sheer pleasure to eat. All the flavours were beautifully balanced and made for what was my most memorable part of the meal.
Yet another heavy dish, was oh so tender beef cheeks served with pommes purees which had been curled and moulded for presentation, and puffed rice – which looked more like an infestation of maggots. The dish was very well cooked and the beef cheeks were tender but it still wasn’t very refined or extraordinary. Whether it needs to be here I’m not entirely sure. If One Kensington were looking to be the local neighbourhood brasserie, then all of this food and portion sizes would work perfectly. The only problem is they seem to be marketing themselves as much more than that, and the food is yet to match. Perhaps its just the set lunch letting the restaurant down? I’m not sure.
We didn’t quite have the time for a seating of full desserts but the kitchen kindly supplied us with a few mouthfuls from what they did have to offer. And while we were satisfied by it all, it wasn’t the sort of showcase that would have us longing to come back for more. One Kensington
isn’t a bad restaurant by any means, its just for now a very confused one. If you want to just chat (aka getting drunk) with friends, eat tasty food and be incredibly full up by the end of it – then it couldn’t be more suited. But if fine dining and creativity is your thing then look elsewhere because apart from its sleek decor and polished service you could leave a little disheartened depending on your expectations or ‘word of mouth’, which is exactly how my experience started, and ended.