135 Portland Road, London, W11 4LW, United Kingdom

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Julie’s has been a fixture of the Holland Park dining scene since 1969. It is named after its designer, Julie Hodgess, and back in the day it was a celebrity hangout, a haunt of the Rolling Stones and Diana, Princess of Wales, amongst others. It is set on a little terrace with outside seating, and has two levels. The restaurant can serve around 95 people at any one time, but is split up into several little booths, nooks and crannies, so it feels quite an intimate space. It has quite tightly spaced tables where you will find it hard to avoid the conversation of neighbouring tables unless it is drowned out by the slightly too loud music. For its fiftieth birthday the restaurant has a new chef in the form of Shay Cooper, formerly of The Goring and before that head chef at The Bingham. A dozen chefs work in the kitchen to handle the needs of this large restaurant.

The wine list had 43 full bottles and ranged in price from £30 to £370, with a median price of £48 and an average markup of 3.5 times retail, which would raise eyebrows even in Mayfair, never mind W11. Sample references were Berry Brothers White Burgundy 2017 at £39 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £12, Antinori Rosso Di Montalcino 2016 at £63 compared to its retail price of £22, and Château D’Arcole Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Biologic 2015 at £86 for a wine that will set you back £22 in the high street. For those with the means there was Bollinger Grand Annee 2007 at £220 compared to its retail price of £106, and Dom Perignon 2008 at £370 for a wine whose current market value is £160. Other than the champagnes the list felt to me rather dated, and the high prices did not add to the appeal.

There were no canapes, just some sourdough bread from an indeterminate supplier whose identity eluded our waiter. Hereford beef tartare was nicely presented with French beans, spiced shallots, nasturtium and onion mayonnaise. This had good quality beef, but for me was under-seasoned, lacking in peppery bite, although the flavour combinations on the plate worked well enough (13/20). It was better than chilled carrot soup with autumn vegetables, crème fraiche and fried cobnuts, which also tasted under-seasoned and where the vegetables flavours were indistinct. I wonder whether this might have worked better hot rather than cold (12/20).

Ricotta dumplings came with delica pumpkin, collard greens, chanterelles and sunflower seed pesto, decorated with micro leaves. The dumplings had reasonable texture and the pumpkin, a variety with high sugar content, was in fact not overly sweet. This was a pleasant dish but hard for me to get excited about (13/20). Cotswold white chicken was served on a bed of creamed spelt, pickled mushrooms, sherry and tarragon. This was the dish of the night, the chicken having crisp skin, accurately cooked meat and with the sourness of the vinegar from the pickling working well as a contrast to the creamed spelt (15/20).

Lemon curd was served with lemon sorbet and coconut and fennel crumble. This was very pleasant, the sorbet having smooth texture, the fennel flavour mercifully subdued (14/20). Muscovado sponge came with caramel mousse and natural yoghurt. The texture of the sponge was fine but overall the dish came across as rather bland in terms of flavour (13/20). Coffee was from Climpsons in London Fields, one of London’s better coffee suppliers. 

Longevity in a restaurant has its advantages, and despite its size, Julie’s was very busy even on a Tuesday evening. The clientele sitting near us reflected the prosperous local area, with holidays in the Maldives and the intricacies of film production being loudly debated by nearby tables. It was worryingly reminiscent of scenes from “Absolutely Fabulous”, in which Jennifer Saunders’ character Edina has a large townhouse in Holland Park. Service was competent, and drinks were topped up without any fuss. The bill came to £74 a head with no alcohol. If you shared one of the cheaper wines from the list then a typical cost per person might come to around £95. Overall the meal felt a little inconsistent, though with some nice dishes, but it is not a cheap night out. The room is quite an appealing space and hopefully the kitchen will settle down in time under the new regime.

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