Just what sort of Place is this Kensington? (2): Matthew Symonds loathes it. The chairs, the service, everything

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Offhand, I can't think of any restaurant in London I dislike more than Kensington Place. Of course, one has been to worse restaurants in the sense that the food was really dreadful. But these rarely last for more than a few months so the chances of going twice are pretty slight. What one means about Kensington Place is that it is a ghastly successful restaurant and that its very success contributes to its ghastliness.

To be fair, I have managed to avoid going there for nearly four years (a certain firmness is required - if a friend suggests Kensington Place for lunch there is nothing for it other than a polite 'no thanks'). It may have changed. But somehow I very much doubt it.

So why do I loathe the place? Let's start with the cooking. It's not bad, but it has no soul. The dishes have that eclectic feel that typifies the drearier sort of New York brasserie. The basis is French, but there are cues from elsewhere, especially that species of 'San Francisco Italian' which has become the standby of every fashionable restaurant and brasserie in London. There always seemed to be salads with silly names and slices of fruit. Also the portions struck me as mean. I suppose it's fine for that miserable thing, the light lunch, but it fatally lacks seriousness.

The food is easily the best thing about Kensington Place. The fresh-faced and energetic girls and boys who take your order can describe the food, but don't seem to know anything about it. The chairs are actually designed to be uncomfortable, so that even if everything else were perfect it would be impossible to relax over a meal. Worst of all, the large ground floor room has no ability to absorb noise. If all you want to do is spot celebs that may not matter, but anyone wanting to talk and listen to friends is going to be disappointed, especially late in the evening when the noise level becomes intolerable.

What finally convinced me that KP was too popular for its own good was its cavalier approach to reservations. On two occasions I accompanied friends who had made bookings earlier in the evening only to be told, without apology, that we would have to wait anything between half an hour and an hour in a cramped, rowdy and unattractively lit bar. I don't know whether it was deliberate double-booking or just carelessness. My friends were furious; for me it was two lucky escapes in a row.

Kensington Place, 201 Kensington Church Street, London W8 (071-727 3184).

(Photograph omitted)