Catherine McCabe visits an old Notting Hill haunt, Beach Blanket Babylon to see if its new menu can surpass the strength of the cocktail list

Just over a year has passed since my last visit to Notting Hill’s old dependable, Beach Blanket Babylon. Known to the locals as BBB, there’s hardly a young W11 dweller who hasn’t celebrated a birthday here. It’s one of London’s more memorable venues, as you might expect from a renovated Georgian mansion, possessing a dark ‘rococo’ interior that wouldn’t be out of place in an Edgar Allan Poe fantasy. Where else could you eat your dinner in a hallowed out cave called ‘The Crypt?’ It’s even served as a film set – the more forgiving Woody Allen fans might remember its appearance in You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.


Swordfish with papaya and mango

It’s certainly a decadent place to dine, but a BBB visit tends to be more about what’s in the glasses, than what’s on the plates.  The bar staff here seem immeasurably proud of their cocktail menu, and for good reason. The Rhubarb Martini goes straight to my head and my heart – a bittersweet blend that’s more like a dessert than a drink. However, the launch of the spring/summer menu helped to tempt me away from the spirits. The food here is described as ‘modern European cuisine’ and it seems the objective is to leave no country on the subs bench, there’s a little bit of Spanish (see the baby chilli squid and Charcuterie plate), a little touch of French (Chateaubriand with béarnaise), a slice of Italy (spicy tagliolini) and a sating portion of Great Britannia (beer battered cod with – you guessed it – mushy peas). But don’t fear the Euro-medley – on this confusing list, there are a few gems to be discovered.

The swordfish with mango, papaya and courgette was beautifully cooked and bursting with flavour, and the sommelier’s recommendation to pair it with the Reisling (Weingut Familie Rauen, Mosel, 2011) is spot on, bringing the whole dish to life. My guest’s lamb was near perfect – juicy and tender, if a little heavy on the rosemary. The desserts too are true to the restaurant’s design – rich, heavy and memorable. The mixed mix berry and mascarpone martini is smoother than any cheesecake I’ve ever tasted, and I don’t regret a single calorie. BBB may always be seen as a boozy haunt, but for now, it seems the kitchen has finally caught up with the bar. Come for the Martinis, stay for the food.