By London standards, Parlour in Kensal Rise is a little tricky to get to. It’s a good ten minute walk from Kensal Green Tube station and a similar distance from Kensal Rise Overground, and hides itself halfway up an unpromising side street that you could easily miss. So why should you trek all the way over there, if you’re not local?
Well, because it’s brilliant, is why.
Parlour’s website has the tagline “Make it fun, make it memorable, make it Parlour!” First impressions of the restaurant may not seem to quite fulfill that ambitious mission statement – it’s perfectly lovely but a quite typically “trendy London hangout” in appearance – retro tiled walls, second-hand-looking furniture, candles in jam jars, water in milk bottles. However as we staggered away from the venue three hours later we could absolutely concur that the team at Parlour really deliver what they say on the tin.
We were there to enjoy the “Chef’s Table” special menu which promised to provide “a feast for the eyes, the belly and possibly the mind too.” With quite parental concern, and on more than one occasion, chef, owner and star of the show, Jesse Dunford Wood warned us to “pace ourselves”. We didn’t immediately see what he meant. However, it didn’t take long to realise.
We began with a smorgasbord of starters – popcorn chicken nuggets, chestnut hummus with rosemary bread, home-smoked salmon, salted crispy fried cod skins, a chicken liver paté which the chef said was “why his wife married him” (we can see her point), goat’s cheese parcelled in thin slices of beetroot, a pretty perfect egg and potato salad, and something called an “Attenborough’s Neolithic Egg” involving poached egg, salmon broth, seaweed and caviar.
The flavours tended to focus on the slightly sweet and vinegary cutting through light creamy textures with earthy notes from things like soda bread and potatoes. I guess it’s fashionably Scandinavian, but more importantly it’s a very tasty way to whet your appetite without dulling it before their generously sized main courses.
For mains we had two popular dishes. One was a massive chicken Kyiv on a hash brown, surrounded with crisp coleslaw. The other main was a beef pie with an actual slice of bone in the centre, hollowed out and stuffed with a marrow, breadcrumb and parsley mixture. Both were full of big, warming flavours – proper, hearty winter main courses.
And then came pudding.
We didn’t know what we were having until the chef came out with a smile on his face and Bluetooth headphones for us both, rolled out a sheet of baking foil the length of the table, and proceeded to go all Jackson Pollock/Willy Wonka on us, squeezing and dolloping and scattering an incredible artistic mash-up of sauces, ice creams, tiffins, jellies, a blow-torched homemade Waggon Wheel, artic rolls, crème caramel and who knows what else, while our headsets played appropriate music. Genuinely enthralling, plus it was all flipping tasty.
So, to sum up, Parlour is a place that manages to be both creative with its food AND friendly, approachable and fun. AND you leave with a full stomach. It’s not a budget venue, but for what you’re getting it’s pretty decent value. Service is friendly, drinks are good, and dessert could be something you remember for the rest of your life. “Make it fun, make it memorable, make it Parlour”? Yes please.
By Fran Lechler