269 Portobello Road
“We are all agreed that your theory is crazy,” stated Niels Bohr “but is it crazy enough?”
The great scientist may well have had the same to say about the Drawing Room. Located at the scrappy end of Portobello Road, within spitting distance of the Westway flyover and slotted in between a bakery and toy shop, I was expecting something unassuming and homely. I certainly wasn’t prepared for the exuberance that greeted me past the fringe curtain and low lighting on display from the street.
During the day the venue doubles as an exhibition space, so the owners know a thing or two about atmosphere. Walls are whitewashed (natch), the lighting is a mix of soft-hued sunken spots & baroque candelabras, while the seating is the sort of thing you only see in the Conran store catalogue. But perhaps this was not quite crazy enough, after all, my date and I arrived at 8pm on a Friday and had the place to ourselves. Not entirely sure whether this was the usual teething trouble of a newly opened eaterie or the effect of the crunch, we settled down with a couple of cocktails to take in the menu (a pisco sour: pretty good, and a strawberry daiquiri: pretty damned good).
The head chef must be taking notes from Gordon Ramsey’s keep-it-short-and-simple ethos because the emphasis, with perhaps six dishes to choose from for each course, certainly wasn’t on quantity. However if we’d had any doubts as to the quality we need not have worried. The crab chili ravioli had a charming subtleness to it while the smoked mackerel - a dish which, unlike revenge, should not be served cold - was superb with a potato and watercress salad.
Thankfully the place did began to fill up between courses. Couples and small groups occupied the tables while the bar acted as a magnet for a fluxing crowd of Notting Hill hipsters. Along with maybe the third wave of barflies came our main courses and like the starters they did not disappoint. The beef fillet was terrific, accompanied by an unashamedly large dollop of truffle mash but the real standout stop-the-press moment was when the salmon arrived. OK we’ve all had roasted salmon before. And we may well have had roasted salmon on a bed of lentils and white wine sauce. But white wine sauce as good as this? As creamy as this? Sauce so good I wanted to order a side dish of it? A word of advice to the chef: get that bottled and start selling it out the door on market days.
With the glow of that main course still with me and with half a bottle of rather delightful rioja reserva to be polished off, we rounded off the evening by sharing a very generous and equally delicious chocolate brownie a la mode. The Drawing Room seems a little out of place location-wise, but it delivers in spades and deserves to prosper both for its cuisine and its welcoming bar.
A meal for two with wine, water and service costs around £80.
Drawing Room: 269 Portobello Road, Notting Hill, London, W11 1LR. Tel: 020 7221 7696.
Reviewed by: Giles Wright