Alexander Larman follows Rowley Leigh’s legendary British cuisine to the new Parabola restaurant at The Design Museum in Kensington
Anyone who visited Kensington Place in the Nineties or Noughties, or indeed Le Café Anglais, is likely to smile and speak nostalgically about Rowley Leigh’s cooking. Leigh has forged one of the most interesting careers of any chef working today, combining culinary brilliance, literate menus and a wry sense of chuckling at life’s absurdities. Put simply, anything that he cooks will not only be worth eating, but is worthy of celebration.
Like his friends Simon Hopkinson and Jeremy Lee, he’s made British cuisine something to celebrate, not be ashamed of. It is therefore appropriate that he has taken over the restaurant at the new Design Museum, Parabola.
Lurking on the top floor, it offers spectacular views over the John Pawson-designed building, although Leigh has been known to note that, for the dinner service, it can be somewhat disconcerting to look out over the empty venue.
This certainly wasn’t the case on our visit; we turned up on the same evening as a glitzy and celebrity-packed party to launch the current Ferrari exhibition, meaning that it took an almost comically long time to get through the hordes of security and clipboard-wielding guestlist administrators.
It was well worth it. Leigh’s evening menu is concise, well priced (four courses for £45, or individually priced) and plays to all of his considerable strengths. Although there’s no parmesan custard and anchovy toast, or chicken and goat’s cheese mousse, you can’t go wrong with a robust duck salad to start with, followed by perfect ricotta tortellini.
A main course of rib of beef is substantial and hearty enough to defeat even the most committed of trenchermen, but serving it with endive is a very fine idea
A main course of rib of beef is substantial and hearty enough to defeat even the most committed of trenchermen, but serving it with endive is a very fine idea. Alas, we were fully replete and the idea of pudding was a step too far, but those who order more frugally will be delighted by such Leigh classics as a tarte tatin and chocolate and hazelnut roulade.
Leigh’s previous restaurants were notable for their excellent wine lists, and Parabola is no exception. A Gruner Veltliner to start was a very superior example of its kind, and a Rioja was big and flavourful enough to stand up to the considerable impact of the beef. There are also, for the deep-pocketed, some extremely rare and expensive wines on the menu.
Parabola, then, is another winner from a great chef. If it can come to terms with its awe-inspiring but faintly uncongenial setting, it will soon be one of London’s most sought-after places.
Parabola at The Design Museum, 224-238 Kensington High Street W8 6AG; parabola.london
Dinner for two around £120
Sampling one of England’s best chefs cooking in a fine setting
What to eat
Leigh’s pasta dishes are some of the best that you’ll try outside Italy
What to know
Out of hours, the restaurant is normally accessed by a lift at the building’s side