The Pavilion in Kensington High Street is a member’s club aimed at corporate types, but its all-day restaurant is open to the public. The restaurant is supervised by Adam Simmonds, who gained a Michelin star at Danesfield House. He worked at The Ritz, The Halkin and The Lanesborough before joining Marco Pierre White at Les Saveurs in London, then moving to Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, He gained his first Michelin star at Ynyshir Hall in Wales in 2006 before establishing Adam Simmonds at Danesfield House prior to his latest venture here.
The entrance area is filled with plants (I think the club actually has its own florist), leading into the main dining room. This has a large central bar and open kitchen, seating perhaps 60 diners at any one time. It is smart, with marble walls, subdued lighting, and plenty of glamorous, smartly dressed customers. There is a somewhat incongruous deli counter with a cheese display along one side of the room. Given that this is not really visible from the entrance, it is hard to imagine what this is really doing here – if you want some ham and cheese you would surely go to a proper shop? I give this a few months before the owners realise their mistake and replace it with more seating.
The menu is appealing, with plenty of sensible flavour combinations. All but one starter was a cold dish, presumably to reduce the stress on the kitchen, which also has to deal with the private dining of the club. Starters were £7.95 to £13.50, main courses £11.95 to £25 and desserts £6.95 to £8.95. There is a whole menu page devoted to steak, including a diagram of a cow showing the various cuts of meat. Side dishes were a steep £4.95 each, and even bread was charged for at £3.50, though at least it was made in the kitchen from scratch. The white bread had a nice crust, the brown was fine, though the caraway seed bread was a bit dried out (13/20).
The wine list had just over 100 choices, ranging in price from £19.50 to £255 with a median price of £40. Examples were Azienda Agricola Blason Pinot Grigio 2010 at £25.50 for a wine that you can find in the high street for £12, Domaine du Colombier Chablis 2012 at £40 for a wine that retails at £12, and Patrice et Michel Rion Vielles Vignes 2008 at £85 for a wine that will set you back £33 in a shop. The average mark-up was around three times retail price, which these days in London feels relatively fair.
Salmon and crab had a layer of gravadlax on top of which was a crab salad with pomelo (an Asian citrus fruit) and avocado. This worked well, the crab tasting fresh and the acidity of the pomelo cutting through the richness of the salmon (14/20). Mackerel confit came with oyster mayonnaise and a little horseradish snow. The mackerel was reasonable and the oyster flavour came through, but for me the dish needed a sharper kick of horseradish (13/20).
Venison was cooked pink and served with cauliflower puree, venison sausage and a dusting of Guanaja chocolate. This was a very good dish, the sausage having plenty of flavour and the slight bitterness of the chocolate powder combining well with the richness of the meat; the reduction of the cooking juices was excellent (14/20). Halibut was poached and came with hay-baked celeriac, pickled onion, Granny Smith apple, truffle and beurre blanc. The fish was cooked carefully, the apple providing some freshness, the beurre blanc not too sharp (13/20).
Peach melba had a poached yellow peach, raspberries and vanilla ice cream; the ice cream could have had a deeper vanilla flavour, though the raspberries were reasonable, the peach having decent texture (12/20). A deconstructed tiramisu could have done with more sponge, and in particular more coffee flavour, which is surely the main point of the dish (12/20). Coffee was from a company called Origin, and was excellent, rich and avoiding any bitterness.
Service was mixed; we had an excellent Hungarian waitress who was very switched on, but when other waiters were involved it was a “who ordered what?” level of experience, suggesting a distinct lack of staff training. The bill came to £103 a head admittedly with a good bottle of wine, but if you shared a modest bottle of wine between two then a typical bill would still end up at around £85 a head, which is quite a lot. The savoury dishes in particular showed that there is some talent in the kitchen, and the busy dining room tonight suggested that the denizens of Kensington are not put off by the prices.