The Shed, 122 Palace Gardens Terrace, London
Amol Rajan finds brotherly love at a new family-run restaurant in west London
Amol Rajan was appointed editor of The Independent in June 2013. He was previously Editor of Independent Voices, a comment, campaigns and community platform across print and digital. He was earlier Deputy Comment Editor, Sports News Correspondent and a news reporter. He writes a restaurant column for the Independent on Sunday, and has a column in the Evening Standard (Mondays), Independent and i (Fridays). He used to work on Channel 5's The Wright Stuff, and at the Foreign Office; he is also a trustee of Prospex, a charity for young people in Islington. He has written a book called Twirlymen: the Unlikely History of Cricket's Greatest Spin Bowlers.
Sunday 23 June 2013
Curiously, for the bohemian epicentre of the world's greatest city, Notting Hill has never been renowned for its restaurants. One notorious exception was The Ark, which under various guises gave west Londoners somewhere reputable to eat and be seen eating for nearly half a century. It used to be run by a couple called Sarah and Colin Harris but has now been taken over by the Gladwin brothers: Richard, Oliver and Greg, who manage, cook, and farm respectively.
Richard used to work at Brawn and Bunga Bunga; Oliver used to cook at the Oxo Tower, Launceston Place, Just St James and River Cottage; and Greg farms at Nutbourne in West Sussex, supplying a chunky bit of the menu through his labour there. They have built an ultra-rustic, slightly anarchical shed-cum-kindergarten, with split-level seats, barrels for some tables and a hugely inviting, playful atmosphere.
The only scary thing about it, in fact, is not the fault of the Gladwin brothers at all: I am here with the editor of this magazine; a man who has the power to sack me in an instant if I don't regularly summon the correct adjective to described the foodstuff before me. So what follows will have an extra effort at precision.
There are four mouthfuls at £1.50 each, of which the potted beef on crisp toast is the succulent best, along with a clever beetroot crisp with a chalky and pungent goat's-cheese-and-sweet-pear jam. The venison sausage roll is excellent but tiny. Nutbourne Cured Meats include a fennel-seed salami which isn't good enough for £6; the salami has too many fatty globules, and the fennel seed is bitter rather than full of pleasant, liquorice-like flavour.
Then come dishes from the "Slow Cooking" and "Fast Cooking" sections of the menu. From the former, there is a fantastic lamb chip – that's a chip made of steaming, stringy lamb rather than soft, fluffy potato – with parsley, lemon and harissa (£7.50); pigeon with mixed bitterleaf, Shed bacon, hazelnut and port dressing (£8) and mushroom ravioli with rocket (£8.50), both of which are excellent. The beef shin with chewy rosemary dumplings and black cabbage (£9) is exquisite, as the dumplings are so receptive to the hot salty juices emanating from the beef.
The fast stuff – seven minutes or so, as opposed to 15-20 for the above – is mostly terrific. The venison carpaccio and salad burnet with golden beetroot dressing is superb, though too pricey at £9. The lamb sweetbreads, with more salty, sizzling Shed bacon, Jerusalem artichoke and kale (£8.50) is irresistible. The crispy sprouting broccoli with a sweet dip is – again – a beautiful little dish but no way worth £9; while the Sussex steak, at the same price, is worth it because it comes with a lovely, strong, wild-garlic butter that tastes like England in spring.
Two other dishes stand out in this second, speedier batch. One is a rainbow trout with smoked new potatoes, watercress and horseradish (£8.50). Trout is a robust little beast and here stands up to the horseradish well, though I wish the latter had been stronger to make it a more even contest. But the watercress, crunchy and radiant green, holds it all together marvellously.
And best of all is the vegetarian option, a pan-fried goat's cheese which has browned to just the right degree, and comes with hazelnut, honey and thyme: a melt-in-your-mouth medley of herbal and dairy flavours.
You'll have got the impression by now that this a place for sharing things – and therefore, I hope, a good place to break bread with your boss. Or dessert, for that matter. There is a Shed Magnum vienetta parfait (£6), a modern take on an old family classic, and a panna-cotta-and-pear sponge cake. There are good white and red wines for under £20, too, and a cheeseboard with three different cheeses for £4 each.
The Shed is a great addition to the Notting Hill scene, and its atmosphere compensates for occasionally overpriced food. I thoroughly enjoyed our evening here, and given I've been granted the chance to write this, I suspect my editor did, too. What he makes of my adjectives is another matter, however; so if you never see me again, it's been a blast.
The Shed, 122 Palace Gardens Terrace, London W8, Tel: 020 7229 4024. £120 for two, including one bottle of wine
Three more scenes of sibling revelry
The Hart brothers' perfectly cooked tapas and characterful staff create a real clubby buzz in Fitzrovia.
33 Charlotte St, London W1, tel: 020 7813 8010
Galvin Bistro de Luxe
Superb bistro-style cuisine has won the Galvin brothers renown for their modern interpretation of a Parisian brasserie.
66 Baker St, London W1, tel: 020 7935 4007
Outstanding cooking courtesy of the Tanner brothers in a city otherwise barren of haute cuisine.
Prysten House, Finewell St, Plymouth, tel: 01752 252 001
Reviews extracted from 'Harden's London and UK Restaurant Guides 2013', www.hardens.com
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