Pavilion, restaurant review: Perfect for power couples striking sexy business deals

96 Kensington High Street, London W8 (020-7221 2000)

It was the toast and piña colada that started alarm bells ringing in my head. The drinks list at Pavilion boasts three Nouvelle Cuisine cocktails with 'edible garnishes'. One is a 'Babycham' which is actually a cider-with-cider-brandy concoction that comes with a brandy snap containing apple jam. The one I tried was the Fresco Colada, a baleful hybrid of rum, coconut and strawberry plus 'vanilla and black olive gel on toast'.

You have to try something so bold and daring, don't you? So I tried it. It tasted mostly of coconut. I nibbled the olive gel on toast, took another slug of colada and – it was horrible. Of course it was horrible. Who in their right mind would drink a sweet cocktail with a mashed-up tapenade? Would you put marmalade on a salt'n'vinegar crisp? At these moments the hapless restaurant critic would like to summon the owners of the premises and say, "Guys, stop trying so hard. There are some combinations that just... don't... work."

Pavilion is a huge experiment in trying to make several things work at once. From the outside, it looks very cool, dark and pin-striped. Inside, you're led past a shop selling homemade bread, cheese and charcuterie, around the spectacular square bar with yellow leather stools, past the opening to what seems a hotel lobby. It's marble, marble, marble, wherever you look – there are some formica floorboards but they're on the ceiling. You discover that it's the entrance to a private members' club, six floors of on-the-knocker commercial endeavour, with rentable office 'suites and pods' (eh?), meeting rooms and everything the cast of The Apprentice would kill to get used to.

Is it a restaurant, though? Our table for four stood becalmed far from any other tables. Couples sat on bar stools, or at the Chef's Counter, where the gastro-fixated can inspect the cooks. We felt isolated, as if, bringing the kids, we'd missed the point, and failed to realise Pavilion is for power couples striking sexy business deals.

The head chef Adam Simmonds is a talented chap whose tenure at Danesfield House won a Michelin star. Given his lofty reputation, the Pavilion menu seemed unadventurous: steak, pork belly with black pudding, scallops, lamb cutlets, corn-fed chicken, roast cod, poached halibut. Excellent British fare, but how would Mr Simmonds transform it into food fit for private business members?

Scallop ceviche with a lemon confit and rival notes of vanilla and camomile was almost too subtle, given a teensy crunch with green almonds and irrelevantly garnished with gem lettuce. Fricassée of smoked and wild asparagus with shavings of morels was exquisite – I've never seen such tender young spears, nor such delicately smoked asparagus – until it was doused with over-salted Parmesan soup.

Salmon gravadlax and crab salad with avocado were bland, the gravadlax neither smokey nor salmony; it cried out for a lemon rather than the awkward presence of a cube of grapefruit. Tightly-cooked quail breasts were accessorised with roasted onions, herby faggots, lightly-poached quail egg and shallot purée – nice, but it resembled an assemblage of doll's-house groceries rather than a dish. All the starters hovered on that dubious cusp between subtle and boring.

Main-course lamb cutlets were pinkly delicious and surrounded by reductions: smoked aubergine purée (OK), anchovy salsa (pungent) and goat's curd (neutral). "I'd prefer more stuff and less purée," said my daughter Sophie, understandably. One liquefied ingredient is enough in any dish; three is overdoing it. Angie's poached halibut was not a success, served tepid and slimy with celeriac purée and cubes of apple. (Fish with apple? Is that a thing now?) Albert's steak arrived with a pickled onion straight from a jar, and a helping of whipped bone marrow; he liked the steak but 16-year-olds have an aversion to bone marrow, and so do I.

By the time we reached puddings (butter milk mousse, yogurt panna cotta with raspberry soup, apple mousse, strawberry parfait, chocolate parfait) I was sick of sauces and purées. Is this Mr Simmonds's speciality– up-market baby food? My tiramisu was, inevitably, deconstructed into a sculpture of glossy chocolate wafer, mascarpone, coffee caramel and Tia Maria. It tasted OK, but wasn't a patch on the Waitrose version. The cheese course featured six mouthfuls – could they leave them alone? No chance: one came with a slice of turnip, one with hazelnut butter, one with a slice of cucumber infused with Hendrick's gin...

As the business-centre staff began hoovering the carpet at around 10pm, we reflected that this expensive dinner had been full of smart flavour ideas insufficiently realised, and too many ingredients reduced to mush. I wish the owners well, but they might like to try giving the modern business clientele a bit more to get their teeth into.

Food **
Ambience **
Service ***

96 Kensington High Street, London W8 (020-7221 2000). About £130 for two, with cocktails and wine

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £30,000 Uncapped

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Day In a Page

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there