I have long been a fan of the cooking at The Mall Tavern, and so was intrigued when Jesse Dunford Wood decided to move and take over what was The Regent pub in Kensal Rise. It is situated down what at night looks like the kind of dark alley where even the local Dobermans go around in pairs. In reality it is just a few yards from the popular Paradise pub, though I suspect there is little in the way of passing trade down this particular side street. The Parlour is quite large, with a bar and a couple of dining areas; there is even a secluded chef’s table next to the kitchen. The dining room has wooden floor, vintage chairs and fairly well-spaced tables. Jesse trained at Gidleigh Park and has worked at Marque in Sydney, Charlie Trotters in Chicago and Le Gavroche and Kensington Place in London, so knows his way around a kitchen. His previous position was as head chef at the Mall Tavern.
Starters ranged in price from £5.50 to £7, main courses £13 to £19.75, sides £3 - £4, desserts £3.50 - £8. There was a short list of just 18 wines, from £16.50 to £79.50, but with a median price of just £24. Examples were Alto Bajo Chardonnay at £19 for a wine you can find in the high street for £6, Chateau Lugagnac Superieur at £30 for a wine that is about a tenner in a shop, with Laurent Perrier NV champagne at £55 compared to a retail price of about £38. The menu has the retro dishes that Jesse has made his trademark such as Chicken Kyiv (this is the way Kiev is spelled these days) and Arctic Roll.
Beetroot salad (£6.50) had both golden and red beets, radishes and leaves with a raisin dressing. The salad was prettily presented, the leaves fresh, the dressing working nicely (14/20). Smoked salmon (£9.50) was served with soda bread that was made from scratch, the salmon smoked on the premises. I have long been a fan of the version that this chef produces, and he has not lost his touch. I used to think the London cure from Forman (served in many top London restaurants), or even their smoked wild salmon, was the best until I tried this. The Parlour version simply has superbly deep flavour and lovely texture. The soda bread was also excellent and went well with the fish. It is difficult to mark something like this, but 16/20 seems mean. I have not eaten better smoked salmon than this.
Fish cakes (£14) with rainbow chard were pleasant, the breadcrumb coating evenly fried, the fish having pleasant flavour, the chard fresh, served with a spicy Tabasco mayonnaise. However because the fishcakes were quite small, the result was a lot of coating relative to fish (13/20).
Cow pie (£14.50) was served with buttered green cabbage. This was another deceptively simple dish. The suet pastry was extremely good, better than other versions I have tried at places that specialise in it, such as Guinea Grill. The beef brisket was very tender, cooked with onions, mushrooms, ale and plenty of thyme, with bone marrow in the middle with a persillade stuffing. Seasoning was spot on, the overall effect excellent, up there with the superb pies at The Royal Oak (16/20). The cabbage itself was crisp enough but could have been seasoned a little more. Chips (£4) were fine though could have been a little crisper on the outside (13/20). The cow pie is very large and could easily be shared between two, but it is so addictively lovely that it is tempting to just keep eating. A prince amongst pies.
Quince and honeycomb cheesecake (£6) was very good, the honeycomb from a local hive in Cricklewood. London honey, I am informed by a beekeeper friend, is well regarded due to the considerable variety of flowers that grow in and around the capital, though I am guessing Kew may trump Cricklewood in that regard. Certainly this honey had good flavour, the quince providing the necessary balance to that sweetness (14/20). Apple and blackberry crumble soufflé (£8) was exactly as described, having risen nicely and being cooked evenly through, with plenty of fruit flavour (14/20).
Service from our waiter was friendly and capable. The bill came to £48 a head with a corkage charge and an extra glass of wine, which seems to me an absolute bargain for the quality of food that we ate. Jesse is a talented chef, and I will be very happy to return. The meal averaged a strong 14/20 in standard, and was extremely enjoyable. It is superb and inventive pub cooking.