Regular readers among you have probably noticed I am a Thomas Keller fan. I love his cooking, his OCD perfectionism, and his taste. Years ago, when he lured Mark Furstenberg away from the BreadLine, the DC bakery, I was sad that my lunches at the BreadLine would never be the same, but I also knew that Furstenberg was going to a better place (baker heaven?). And I liked knowing that Thomas Keller appreciated Mark Fursternberg as much as we BreadLine fans did.
Well, a few months ago, the Guardian did this small piece listing Thomas Keller’s favorite restaurants in London and NY. He said about Hereford Road: “[i]t’s entirely free of pretension, has a nice energy and very knowledgable servers.”
So I’ve been there twice in the past two months. And no lie, the restaurant is a simple, sleek space with “a nice energy and very knowledgable servers.” None of the mains cost more than £14, and the wine list is comprised of well-priced, tasty bottles, many of which are available by the carafe (cheers, by the way, to Arbutus and Wild Honey for getting that trend going).
The thing is, the food was a mixed bag both times I went. I’d say appetizers were generally more interesting and tasty than the mains, but you have to love offal to get excited about the menu. My crab toast, for example, was comprised of the creamy innards of crab, not the sweet white meaty bits you more normally get. I liked it at first, for its rich seafoodiness, but I kept wondering exactly which bits I was eating, and my imagination ruined the taste. I love liver, but can I love the intestines, heart and the who-knows-what of a crab?
Jon reported the fatty richness of his deep-fried calf’s brain was appealing, but much as I love deep-fried food, I couldn’t muster the same enthusiasm. I have my limits when it comes to offal, I guess.
Main courses were, both times I went, much less creative than the appetizers, and not in a “safe but tasty” way, but more in a “eh” way.
Lamb dishes both times I’ve visited were good, but nothing special, and one time, my friend’s pigeon was incredibly tough, so he left it pretty untouched on his plate. As sad as the pigeon tasted, however, I loved that our server noticed his uneaten pigeon and offered another main course or a dessert on the house. When we declined both options, she just took the charge off our bill (we didn’t even have to ask), which was an act of graciousness I’ve yet to see anywhere in the UK.
Sides of new potatoes and cabbage, by the way, are excellent, as you’d expect when you combine farm-fresh ingredients with thick, sweet butter. Simple desserts like our plum ice cream are unusual and taste like a lot of care went into them. But are potatoes, cabbage and ice cream good reasons for me to schlepp from Angel to Notting Hill? Not really.
So I’d guess that the people who leave Hereford Road the happiest are offal lovers. And you know, after reading Michael Ruhlman’s Soul of a Chef (which details Thomas Keller’s genius perfectionism), I understand now that Thomas Keller is an offal man. Which in turn explains his love for Hereford Road. Me, I guess I’m not as big an offal fan as I thought I was.
Most appetizers cost £7, and most mains were £13. With a few carafes of wine, both times, my tab came to about £35 a person. The restaurant is a cozy, buzzy spot where offal lovers leave happy, but otherwise, it’s a nice neighborhood place and not a destination.
Hereford Road, 3 Hereford Road, W2 4AB, 0207 727 1144; closest tube stations: Bayswater and Notting Hill Gate