One Kensington has so much going for it – top chef, great menu, wonderful location on Kensington High Street – it doesn’t need to try too hard, writes Mark Kebble
The media – ie, me – devote a fair bit of coverage on how the London property market continues to flourish, with every passing month seeing yet another rise in prices. We should dedicate as many words to the capital’s foodie scene, with my inbox filled on a weekly basis with details of new restaurant and bar openings, many with big names from the culinary world attached.
One Kensington is one prime example. There’s a lot of things that tick the right box here – the fabulous location overlooking Kensington Palace Gardens, the Executive Chef Massimiliano Blasone coming to London on the back of a hugely successful stint at Nikita Malibu, a wonderful design, and an eclectic menu with a real international feel – but on my visit with the wife, One Kensington was suffering from a bout of trying a little too hard.
Now, you may read this and think I am being a tad ungrateful. After all, the internet today is full of would-be critics bemoaning poor service – and, I have to say, our head waiter was terrific. But initially there were far too many staff attending to us – my wife was asked about putting her bag behind the scenes three times – and when we decided on our menu choices we opted against a ‘tasting menu’, feeling that we wanted to have the experience every other punter would have. Undeterred, we were served up an amuse bouche of foie gras – to my pescetarian and very anti-foie gras wife.
Having that swiftly replaced with soft eggs, which were excellent, things settled down and we could really start enjoying the One Kensington experience. Being difficult, I couldn’t decided between the gnocchi and lamb rump for the mains, so showing the element of service that did shine through, I was offered the former as a starter. I am glad I did get the chance to experience it and it worked well as an appetiser, the gnocchi small and light, but the ‘San Marzano’ sauce wonderful with the added touch of salty ricotta sprinkled over it. My wife’s poached salmon arrived in a fit of colour, with the fish, beetroot and cucumber coming together in an artistic masterpiece. The taste wasn’t bad either, the salmon a melt in the mouth experience that banished any lingering thoughts of the not-so-amuse bouche.
To that main of Scottish lamb rump and the tender offering was terrific, a lovely cut that was cooked to perfection. The accompanying caponata – an aubergine stew – was a little overpowering and difficult to finish, but didn’t detract from the centrepiece of the dish. My wife’s Mediterranean salt crust sea bass was served up with a vegetable ratatouille and was judged slightly inferior to the poached salmon, but still rated highly.
The dessert menu was exciting – the black forest and tarte au citron were particularly appealing – but after such heavy mains, we both decided on a lighter finish with the mix of ice creams and sorbets. After all, you can always have too much of a good thing.
1 Kensington High Street W8 5NP; 020 7795 6533; one-kensington.com
On the bright, early spring evening I visited, natural light flooded into One Kensington and gave ample opportunity to appreciate the surroundings. Last issue we featured the lighting brand KAIA, who are big advocates of celebrating the humble light bulb, and here the interior creators, B3 Designers, appear to be of the same ilk, with wonderful lighting design throughout.
It’s a modern touch, but One Kensington is housed in a building with an interesting past and that hasn’t been forgotten by B3 Designers. A key focal point is the striking long bar, perfect for cocktails and more casual dining. The elevated John Tann champagne table has impressive views of the park towards Kensington Palace and pays tribute to the 19th century safe maker, one of whose creations was uncovered during the refurbishment.
The Victorian building is Grade II-listed, in a late Gothic revival style, and was originally constructed in 1885. B3 Designers have put their own distinctive mark on the interiors, whilst making full use of original architectural features such as the high carved vaulted ceilings, double height windows and expansive wood panelling. The original technical structure and riveted metal details – reminiscent of other designs of the era such as the Eiffel Tower – are balanced by comfortable and vibrant turquoise leather upholstery to create a luxurious and elegant interior.