I have long been a fan of classically trained Jesse Dunford-Wood’s cooking. He has a fondness for revamping English retro food, and his skill can be seen in the excellent soda bread that he makes and the superb smoked salmon that he produces in his own smoke house. He seems to be really in the zone at Parlour now, the cooking even better than I remember it when he was at Mall Tavern.
My meal tonight began with a salad described as “raw vegetable ravioli” due to its presentation. Thin discs of vegetables (beetroot, kohlrabi and swede) were placed on blobs of soft goat cheese and garnished with edible flowers and alfalfa sprouts. This was unusual and effective, the goat cheese providing the softness to balance the vegetable discs and richness of flavour, the sprouts adding a further texture. It is not easy to come up with an original and successful salad, but this one succeeded (15/20). Fish soup was also unusual, presented in a gravy boat to pour over a crisp that superficially resembled a prawn cracker but was made of tapioca balls that had been boiled and blended to a pulp, then dried and fried to form the light cracker this was topped with salmon roe and micro-leaves. The fish soup had plenty of flavour and was nicely seasoned, the cracker an unusual twist on the traditional croutons (14/20).
For main course, “haddock chip” was a clever take on the English favourite of fish and chips. Here the haddock was rolled into a cylinder and coated with potato drawn out into thin strands like a pasta, and then deep-fried. This was served with pickled egg, mushy peas and pickled cucumber. Such innovations are only useful if they taste good, and this one did – the potato carefully fried and going well with the good quality haddock, the pickled cucumber having just the right level of sourness (14/20). Beef Wellington was a simplified version of the classic recipe, with chicken stock in place of the mushroom duxelle, but the pastry made from scratch. The Lancashire beef fillet was cooked pink and had nice flavour, the pastry was excellent and was served on particularly nice sweet and sour red cabbage, the sugar and vinegar in which the cabbage was fried in careful balance (15/20).
After all this there was little room for dessert, but I sampled a slice of the chef’s signature arctic roll. Those of a certain age brought up in England will recall this as a grim supermarket concoction popular in the 1970s, but this is how it should have been but never was, with good quality sponge cake surrounding proper vanilla ice cream and raspberry sauce (14/20). Coffee was from Allpress Espresso Roastery in Shoreditch and was very good indeed, with a double espresso at just £1.50, a fraction of what is charged in central London. Service was, as ever, friendly and capable, and the bill, including corkage at a modest £12.50, was £40 a head. This has to be one of the best bargains in London given the genuinely high level of quality and inventiveness of the cooking. Kensal Rise is not the most glamorous of areas, but if you are looking for excellent cooking then I would encourage you to make the journey.