Goode & Wright, 271 Portobello Road, Notting Hill, London W11

 

Did I dream it all? The clothes pegs, the pink rabbit, the raw duck, the Magritte painting (Ceci n'est pas une pipe) and the Amelie connection? I woke at 2.15am, sweatily alarmed that I might have hallucinated the whole thing. But no, I'd been to dinner at Goode & Wright, where it all really happened. Mind you, I'd had my first shot of absinthe while I was there, so you can understand my concern.

Absinthe is, of course, the drink of decadence, the wildly alcoholic, wormwood-and-anise spirit beloved of Rimbaud and Verlaine, Wilde and Hemingway. It was banned in France in 1914, after being accused of ruining lives. "It makes a ferocious beast of man, a martyr of woman, and a degenerate of the infant," wrote one critic. "It disorganises and ruins the family and menaces the future of the country." So, naturally, I brought my older children along to try some with me.

They make a big fuss of preparing the stuff at Goode & Wright – 'they' being Jimmy Tardy, the charismatic Parisian waiter who presides over the restaurant like a cabaret turn (he even sings) and once worked at Les Deux Moulins in Montmartre, made famous by the film Amelie.

Jimmy brings a whole off-licence of paraphernalia to your table – four thin bottles of the spirit, plus cordials, schnapps, sugar, champagne – and an absinthe 'fountain', a samovar with four taps, which drips cranberry-flavoured water over a flaming sugar cube on a slotted spoon over a glass of the toxic syrup to make a classic 'Green Fairy'. I tried one. It was damnably strong and very like pernod, except for a fugitive aftertaste of grave-soil and charnel houses. Sophie's Fontaine Flower added elderflower and champagne, and tasted tart and serious. Max's Crazy Bellini (with added peach and champers) was softer, sweeter and delicious.

The cocktail-making theatricals brought other diners to our table to see how it worked. It almost eclipsed the fact that Goode & Wright is a restaurant. Located at the grim end of Portobello where it meets the Westway, it's a cute, mignon bistro, starkly designed with wood-panelled walls, dangling globe lights, monochrome diamond floor tiles, half-curtained windows (below which sits a fluffy pink lapin), a handful of Magritte paintings and lots of clothes-pegs. A gypsy theme? No, it's how they serve the bill, pegged to a business card.

The food, prepared by Finlay Logan, is remarkable. Mr Logan is a Scot of precision and flair. He's a whizz with oysters. A buttermilk-fried-then-grilled oyster served with spinach on a sourdough bun to resemble a 'slider' was a delightful miniature. My duck tartare with oysters was served with raw egg yolk to mix in – it was slimy and slithery in texture but tasted delicious cut with cornichons, capers, parsley and pickled chilli, the whole assembly offset by the crunch of sourdough toast. Duck foie gras poêlé, another touch of decadence, came anointed with truffle honey and served with a brioche – and a shot-glass of sauternes. "Zere needs something sweet to welcome zer foie gras," muttered Jimmy. (Pretentious, lui?)

Main courses brought a smoked haddock brandade – a familiar winter dish, but served here in a whiskey tumbler, with a poached egg lurking in the middle of the mash and some roundels of chorizo, surmounted by grated pecorino cheese. Such boldness. "It's superb," said Max, "but you don't want to find the egg halfway down, you want it all over the place at once – you know, like Juan Mata." (He's a Chelsea fan.)

A plate of grey mullet, pan-fried with butter and finished with a langoustine reduction, came accessorised with langoustine legs, a celeriac remoulade and mustard mayonnaise. The mullet was on the dry side, but the shellfish made a toothsome bonus. My pork belly was the most conventional dish of the night – a huge tranche of pork roasted to the consistency of a barn roof post-fire (the crackling was fantastic), it was fibrous, peasant comfort food on a bed of caramelised mash and 'gravy'. Did they mean jus? "Zis is a bistro," said Jimmy sulkily. "We do gravy."

Full to the brim (with a carafe of viognier and a bottle of beaujolais) we tried but failed to ignore the pudding menu. Dark chocolate mousse with salted caramel ice-cream was splendid, but topped by what seemed to be an unannounced granita. Max's Café Gourmand was a childhood treat – a giant vanilla marshmallow – drenched in serious Monmouth espresso, and was heaven. My crème brûlée (served in a grubby, backstairs tin bowl rather than a ramekin dish) came with a crème de praline on a palmier biscuit that it didn't really need. But it summed up the ethos of Goode & Wright, which is to give you more of everything than you expect – including charm, welcome, flavour and allegedly addictive psychoactive drugs. I enjoyed it all. There's (sorry about this) nothing bad & wrong about Goode & Wright.

Goode & Wright, 271 Portobello Road, Notting Hill, London W11 (020-7727 5552). Around £100 for two with wine (and absinthe)

Food ****
Ambience ***
Service ****

Tipping policy: "Service charge is 12.5 per cent discretionary. All tips and service charge go to the staff"

Side orders: Brilliant bistros

Bistro Bruno Loubet

Salmon and scallops quenelles with leek and dill fondue and langoustine sauce is a typically luxurious dish at Bruno Loubet's outlet at the Zetter Hotel.

St John's Square, 86/88 Clerkenwell Road, London EC1 (020-7324 4455)

Margot's Bistro

This friendly local makes the most of fresh seafood – starters include grilled Cornish mackerel fillets with caperberries and cucumber.

11 Duke Street, Padstow, Cornwall (01841 533441)

Artisan

Award-winning British bistro focusing on classic dishes: try the cassoulet with duck leg, belly pork, lamb shoulder, sausage, black pudding and white beans.

32-34 Sandygate Road, Sheffield (0114 266 6096)

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Guru Careers: International Project Coordinator / Account Coordinator

    Circa £26,500 DOE: Guru Careers: An International Project Coordinator / Accoun...

    Guru Careers: Plumber / Maintenance Operator

    £25k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Plumber / Mainten...

    Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

    £14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

    Recruitment Genius: Network Executive - Adrenalin Sports - OTE £21,000

    £19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking for an exciting...

    Day In a Page

    Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

    Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

    After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
    The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

    After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

    Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
    Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

    Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

    The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
    Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

    Tate Sensorium

    New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
    10 best sun creams for kids

    10 best sun creams for kids

    Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
    Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

    Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

    He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
    Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

    Remember Ashton Agar?

    The No 11 that nearly toppled England
    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks