As The Notting Gill Chippy pop-up returns to Kensington Place restaurant, The Resident meets Head Chef Ian Waghorn to see how that firm British favourite – fish and chips – is getting a modern makeover
Words: Alexander Larman
Everyone who’s ever been to Notting Hill knows Kensington Place, arguably the most famous restaurant in the area. Run for many years by the legendary Rowley Leigh, it combines a fantastic location with superb food and a constant sense of innovation; this is not somewhere that rests on its reputation.
This is why the latest pop-up offering, The Notting Gill Chippy, is so exciting. The concise menu, put together by new Head Chef Ian Waghorn, features serving fresh seafood straight from The Fish Shop, the on-site fishmongers sourced from the famous Billingsgate Market.
Dishes such as soft shell crab burger with avocado and crispy monkfish cheeks with aioli are certainly a good deal more ambitious than the usual fish and chip shop fare, and this is in no small part down to Waghorn, who has hit the ground running in no uncertain terms.
After he began his career as a kitchen porter before, as he puts it, ‘quickly falling in love with the energy of the kitchen’, he learnt his trade under the legendary chefs John Campbell and Mark Kempson.
‘They’re massive influences on my career and style,’ he says, ‘and I also worked in Malaysia for a bit as well, which was an important experience.’ He also cites the Bluebird Head Chef Liam Smith-Laing as an important influence. ‘He really influenced my style of cooking, as he has a very light, punchy style of cuisine.’
He’s enjoying the new Notting Gill Chippy, and describes the pop-up as ‘really fun… it’s particularly good to work with the Fish Shop, and knowing that the fish is fresh makes it all the better.
‘My average day usually consists of me sitting down first thing in the morning to have a coffee with Marcus, the fish buyer, to discuss what’s in season and what’s been caught that day, and so I plan the menu around availability and the time of year.’
He describes the monkfish cheeks as a particular favourite (‘I love them!’), but is also evangelical about the crab burger, which he modestly calls ‘pretty tasty’. Satisfied customers might be rather more flattering about them, but the proof, as they say, is in the eating.
Kensington Place is fast approaching its 30th anniversary, which is something of a record in restaurant terms, but if Waghorn is feeling any pressure, he’s dealing with it with admirable sangfroid.
‘I’m trying to keep traditions going here by keeping a menu that has a market list every day, along with some of the classic KP dishes. My own intention is to reflect contemporary tastes by bringing in a light style of food with seasonal changes to ingredients as necessary. My aim at the moment is to concentrate on the anniversary, and make it a big success.’
My intention is to reflect contemporary tastes by bringing in a light style of food with seasonal changes to ingredients as necessary
Outside of work, he spends time with his food-loving family (‘Whether we’re eating, cooking or relaxing, it seems as if there’s always something to eat on the go’) and goes climbing to unwind. If he’s not manning the stoves at Kensington Place, you’ll probably spot him at one of the top-notch places locally, such as Bluebird or Kitchen W8, or preparing for a lavish feast at home – as he puts it, ‘there’s nothing better than getting the family round for a big roast with all the trimmings’.
The great unknown of the restaurant industry – Brexit – comes up, but Waghorn is more optimistic than many about it. ‘I think it will be tough short term, but long term I hope that it may be great for British agriculture, so it could be a good thing.’
And for a desert island meal? Waghorn, unsurprisingly, picks something involving fish. ‘I’d go for confit Cornish cod, glazed pumpkin, kale, chilli and lime, as the flavour combination works really well.’ And, best of all, it’s on the Kensington Place menu, which means that you don’t have to be stranded in the middle of nowhere to enjoy it. Which is certainly a relief.
The Notting Gill Chippy pop-up runs until May and is open Tuesday–Saturday for lunch and dinner at 201-209 Kensington Church Street W8 7LX; 020 7727 3184; kensingtonplace-restaurant.co.uk