I think Sunday lunch is probably the best meal of the week. It marks the winding down of the last seven days and is a happy pause before those Sunday night blues start to creep in.
As a kid I found it was the meal I could be most greedy at: it was perfectly acceptable to eat 3rd and 4th portions of roasted carbohydrates, meat and gravy (in competition with my 3 brothers), as well as doubling up on proper English pudding afterwards.
These days, Sunday is the one lunch time I really like to eat and drink decadently (whether by quantity or richness or both) and to do so over a long period of time. There always seems to be something pressing to move on to on weekdays and Saturdays; like work and stuff.
As I’m sure it is for many of you, my favourite way to spend that time is with friends or family, and ideally in someone’s home.
Restaurants and pubs are good too, though. I’ve written about a couple of pubs and this whole Sunday thing before. But I thought it’s worth mentioning that I’m going through a bit of a phase of something I touched on in that last piece: taking advantage of the prix fixe offers at some of the smarter places around. Not, like, the most smart – because the lunch should be still be relaxed, informal and ultimately enjoyable (it’s not all about the food) – but some good places that you’d pay more for in the evening or if you went a la carte.
The last two Sundays have been Western: Kitchen W8 in Kensington and Medlar on the Kings Road.
The prix fixe at Kitchen W8 is a fairly typical, but nonetheless good value, set price menu. By that I mean there are flashes of what the kitchen gets up to at full price, but there are clearly some money saving measures too. Which is fair enough when the cost of 3 courses (£25) is only a double espresso less than a normal service’s main course.
I’m pretty sure I had the pick of the starters: a raviolo of chicken with a very light, creamy (and initially frothy) sauce. I’m not usually a fan of chicken with pasta, but this was really super: one large crescent of thin fresh pasta with a meaty but not heavy filling, served on a bed of sweet caramelised onions. Yum.
On the flip side, beetroot with curd, figs and balsamic cream looked to me to be more of a money saving starter: too heavy on the slightly sickly quenelles of balsamic cream and too light on the dainty beetroot and more expensive and tasty curd and fig.
Mains were good, if unspectacular. I enjoyed chicken jambonette (boned and stuffed like a ballantine, but the stuffing is of the thigh, not the whole bird) with beans and a good smudge of creamy mash, though I also had to steal some of the (excellent) veg from the side dish to my brother’s pretty ace looking fore rib of beef. That beef came with a mahusive Yorkshire pudding and was served pink and meltingly tender. Like I said, not spectacular, but it was a Sunday and it was also pretty faultless. My Dad, who for some bizarre reason usually prefers his meat grey and over cooked rather than resplendent and pink, enjoyed this very much. As it was his birthday, this was important. Sea bass for the ladies was petite but also, apparently, very good.
Desserts followed the unspectacular but very competent theme: summer pavlova with a fruity sorbet; rich chocolate fondant; a tasty but not generous portion of Munster cheese. All decent and all served in a very pleasant environment – it’s light and open, smart but comfortable and with a set of staff who are all pretty clued up.
Kitchen W8 in 3 words
Confident, smart, comfy.
£25 for 3 courses, though half a bottle of wine each and coffees significantly increased that. A la carte is more along the £10, £20-25, £8 sort of line. Worth noting that there’s a no corkage BYO policy on Sunday evening for those of you that really want to start the next week badly.
kitchenW8.com – Abingdon Rd, Kensington, W8 6AH – 020 7937 0120
For an *hilarious* and informative opening paragraph or three on Medlar, click here to head to my last post.
Read it? Cool. Straight on to the food then.
Whereas Kitchen W8 seems to offer a package on Sunday that is a mere hint its usual offering, Medlar appears to simply be giving its Sunday lunch customers almost 25% off its normal menu (£30 for 3 courses, down from £38 for the same stuff). Which is very good of them. It must cost them a fair amount of money just to print the menus, given the lengthy descriptions of/ingredient lists for each of the dishes.
The place has had very positive reviews and on the evidence of what we ate, I’m not surprised. Starters, in particular, were inventive and generous. I tried the raviolo. Again.
This time the pasta (more yolk in this one) was filled with rather a lot of white crab meat, and served with brown shrimps and a tasty bisque. If anything, they could save themselves some cash and replace some of the crab with ricotta; the filling was pretty dense (and on balance I preferred the chicken at W8). Duck egg tart looked stunning (I refer you to London Eater’s pictures of Medlar here and here, though with the caveat that I suspect he would make a day old McMuffin look appetising).
Main courses were less impressive, but still more adventurous overall than at W8. In place of stuffed chicken thighs was an assiette of boned and stuffed rabbit. A healthy portioned and very pretty red mullet and squid dish trumped the sea bass. And though my pork chop was overdone, it was tasty and, like the beef the week before, hit the spot for a Sunday. Importantly the chop was enhanced by the unctuous slow cooked pork cheeks and perfectly crunchy crackling served with it.
The pork needn’t have been overdone as we’d been left hanging after some poor sod dropped our entire set of main courses on his way up from the kitchen, much to the chef’s displeasure and, I fear, the profit on our table that day. The delay meant little to us (like I said at the top, Sunday is a day for a long lunch) but the friendly and calm front of house went out of their way to keep us ticking over with a tour of their cheese board and plenty of their excellent homemade sourdough and focaccia.
The desserts didn’t quite taste as good as they looked – the raspberry macaron was perfect for the most feminine of the group, but a chocolate and almond torte didn’t float another’s boat. My apricot icecream was a little too icey and its accompanying baclava needed a stronger honey, I felt. I’m nit picking, though, as we still hoovered everything up, aided by one of the better coffees (Union Roasted) I’ve had for some time. House white (a Spanish Penedes), by the way, was excellent, even on a Jägerbomb hangover.
Medlar is very consciously (and modestly, I think) marketing itself as a ‘good local restaurant’. 30 quid is edging towards the slightly pricey end of a casual Sunday lunch and some people don’t want to eat quite as much as they’ll get here. But I rather liked it and will be back, even though it’s not my local.
Kitchen W8 is more self assured, more content to offer less to the Sunday customer. This makes sense as it’s around a year more established than Medlar and with a Michelin star to boot. It’s definitely a decent option, and again I’ll go back. But I’d also be tempted to spend the extra £5 on food at Medlar (and enjoy its slightly cheaper wine list too) and perhaps save for the a la carte at W8 on another occasion.
Medlar in 3 words
Need stickier trays.
£30 for 3 courses. Nicely priced wine list. Normal evenings £38 for 3.
medlarrestaurant.co.uk – 438 Kings Road, SW10 0LJ – 020 7349 1900