Raoul’s is unassumingly chic with its yellow awning shielding outdoor tables and chairs from the bluster of downcast days. It’s any wonder people have had a chance to experience alfresco dining this summer, with the memorable wet spells of June-August dispelling any belief that the sun actually shines here. As if to counter all the recent rain-drenched days, it turns out to be a hot autumn day when we arrive at Raoul’s for lunch, and the sun is positively scorching the alfresco diners.
Inside, Raoul’s Notting Hill café (there is another based in Maida Vale, complete with deli), the décor sums up pared down café chic. The dark lacquered tables and wooden lampshades cut a sober tone amongst the gold railings and tasteful lighting. The clientele, which includes the likes of Kate Moss, Sienna Miller and Jensen Button are a mix of locals, jacketed literary types and yummy mummies.
It doesn’t take an age to decide what to go for, as chicken noodle soup beckons comfortingly from the blackboard. (It might be sunny, but it takes more than one day of good weather to change our eating habits). We promptly order a bowl of comfort and another bowl of broccoli and stilton soup. Both are good, warming starters, but the chicken noodle soup wins with its wonderfully restorative flavour. When Geraldine Leventis opened the first Raoul’s café in Maida Vale back in 1985, a hardcore of Jewish regulars would request her chicken noodle soup on their visits to the café. They claimed it was the best they’d tasted, so I probably don’t need to evangelise any more, except to say that it is a great way to start your meal.
We then opted for a Caesar salad, and a lamb steak served up with mint mash. Salads at Raoul’s are a fresh affair and perfect for light lunchtime dining, but the lamb was beautifully prepared and partnered with some moreish mint and broad bean mash, it made for a great tasting, substantial lunch.
We had no room for dessert, quite satisfied by the soup and lamb steak, and finished with a cup of strong no-nonsense coffee. The only drawback with Raoul’s Notting Hill location is the temptation to while away the day people watching as you get stuck into some good food. With news of a deli opening up downstairs before long, there’ll be even more reason to linger a little longer at this chic little café.
Raoul’s Cafe & Bar Notting Hill: 105 - 107 Talbot Road, London, W11 2AT
Reviewed by: Helenka Bednar