Paradise is rarely a word associated with Kensal Green, but this gastropub does its best to distract from the surrounding area with some exotic décor, including a seven foot statue of an angel (I have never looked at such statues quite the same way after the Dr Who episode “Blink”). There is a private dining room with access to a roof terrace. Paradise has a small chain of sister pubs such as the Westbury in Kilburn and the Old Queen’s Head on the Essex Road.
These days Kensal Green is no longer “immune from any form of gentrification” as was once noted; the Dobermans no longer appear to go around in pairs and indeed the clientele tonight was seemed to be formed entirely from young, attractive upwardly mobile types who would not have looked out of place in Chelsea.
The pub itself is split into a bar at the front (angel included), plus a room to one side, and the dining room at the back. The room has chandeliers, wooden floor and candles on each table. There are no directed spot lights on the tables, so lighting is a quite murky (hence the poor photo quality).
Executive Chef Tim Payne trained with Marco Pierre White for seven years, and worked his way up to executive chef for Marco, so is used to a pressurised environment. He was the original chef here but has now been promoted to executive chef of the family of pubs: head chef at Paradise was at the time of writing was Andrew Swann, who used to cook at l’Escargot. The menu has an appealing set of modern British dishes, including one or two that seem to hark back to Marco days (that is far from a criticism, by the way).
The wine list is far more serious than one might expect in a pub, and has detailed notes on each wine, with prices that are very fair at the upper end of the list. Drouhin Oregon Pinot Noir Williamete 2007 was priced at £40 yet this would cost you £28 to buy retail. We drank Shaw and Smith 3M Chardonnay 2008 for £39 compared to a retail price of around £19. As you move up in price the mark-up levels decline further: Ridge Monte Bello 1995 was £130 for a wine that will set you back around £90 retail. Henschke Hill of Grace 2004 was a serious bargain at £250 compared to a shop price of around £332. Bread was bought in (from Rhodes bakery) but was quite pleasant and served warm (13/20).
Fried foie gras and smoked eel (£11) was served on a bed of sautéed potato and garnished with an apple crisp. The foie gras had quite smooth texture and the eel was good, the apple providing a little acidic balance; perhaps some green salad would not have gone amiss in terms of dish balance, but this was a very competent plate of food (13/20).
Tian of Dorset crab with avocado (£8.50) was served with some toast on one side. The crab tasted fresh, the avocado had nice flavour and texture, and seasoning was accurate, the dish light and refreshing (14/20).
Chicken, mushroom and tarragon pie (£14) was simply served, with a generous amount of well cooked chicken, a capably-made pastry topping and mushrooms nicely flavoured with a little tarragon, the pie contents accurately seasoned (comfortably 14/20).
Spring greens (£3) were carefully cooked but unfortunately lukewarm on arrival (12/20) but chips were triple cooked (£3) and good – they could have been a touch crisper, so perhaps an adjustment to the temperature of the final frying would make them even better (still 14/20).
Smoked haddock (£13.50) from Severn & Wye was served with a poached hen’s egg on a base of champ with grain mustard butter. The haddock was excellent, having plenty of flavour and being very carefully timed, the egg and mustard a classic combination with it. Moreover the champ had smooth mash flavoured nicely with spring onion (15/20).
Chocolate marquise (£6.50) with blood orange segments had a rather grainy texture, and the thin slices of blood orange were a little limp and lacking in taste, not providing enough acidic balance to the chocolate (12/20). Much better was rhubarb crumble (£6.25), the crumble light, the in-season rhubarb tasting excellent, and the custard (crème Anglaise) on the side genuinely classy (15/20). Coffee did not seem to be of very good quality (11/20).
Service was excellent, our waiter particularly impressive (friendly and competent), with dishes arriving at a brisk pace. At one point my wife dropped her napkin, and a fresh one appeared instantly and without fuss; many Michelin starred restaurants would struggle to be as slick.
Overall I found this a very enjoyable venue indeed. This has nice atmosphere, a genuinely interesting wine list, and capably cooked food with service far better than it would be reasonable to expect from a pub. What’s not to like?
The revamped Marcus is on good form: http://t.co/AJxSqYrwGT