Kitchen W8

11-13 Abingdon Rd

London W8 6AH


The Food:

Scorched Cornish mackerel, smoked eel, Golden beets, sweet mustard and oyster leaf

Risotto of yellow chanterelles, roast delica pumpkin, winter leeks and Périgord truffle

Valrhona chocolate aero cake with vanilla and citrus cream

The Wines:

2005 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Rosé 95
2005 M. Chapoutier Ermitage Le Méal Blanc NR
2007 Domaine du Colombier  Hermitage Blanc 91
2011 Domaine du Colombier Hermitage Blanc NR
1997 E. Guigal Côte-Rôtie La Turque 92
2001 E. Guigal Côte-Rôtie La Mouline 95
2006 Saint-Cosme Côte-Rôtie 89
2010 Domaine Garon Côte-Rôtie Les Rochins 93
2010 E. Guigal Côte-Rôtie Château d’Ampuis 92
2015 Domaine Jean-Paul, Corinne & Loïc Jamet Côte-Rôte     97
2004 A. Clape Cornas 95
2011 Thierry Allemand Cornas Chaillot 91
2014 Thierry Allemand Cornas Chaillot 95

I do not drink enough Rhône. For my sins, I have only ventured to the region a couple of times and leave it to others more knowledgeable to point me in the right direction. Certainly, I have always preferred the Northern to the Southern Rhône, those Châteauneufs invariably are too alcoholic for my palate. Give me a Côte-Rôtie or Hermitage. Give me Cornas, and I’m happy. So when a Northern Rhône supper was suggested to ward away those January blues, I was eager to join, particularly as the venue was one of chef Philip Howard’s restaurants, Kitchen W8. Co-owned with Rebecca Mascarenhas, it opened back in 2009 and won awards two years later under chef Mark Kempson. It had been several years since I had been, and with positive recollections, I wanted to see how this local Kensington restaurant is doing. The menu is straightforward, based on classic European cooking, with three or four options comprising their three-course menu.

Scorched Cornish mackerel, smoked eel, Golden beets, sweet mustard and oyster leaf

I opted for the scorched Cornish mackerel for a starter, flanked by smoked eel, Golden beets, sweet mustard and oyster leaf. This mackerel was perfectly cooked with a crispy skin that flirted with being overdone, yet the meat was moist and fleshy, so delicious and so good for one’s health. The smoked eel lent this starter another dimension, and the beets offered texture. It was an accomplished dish to begin our dinner.

Risotto of yellow chanterelles, roast delica pumpkin, winter leeks and Périgord truffle

The risotto of yellow chanterelles and roast delica pumpkin with winter leeks and Périgord truffle was the star of the show. I cannot think of a more autumnal dish, even though it was winter. The fungi were moist and flavorsome, the pumpkin imparting sweetness and leeks that all-important bitterness. It was a simple dish, perfectly executed. My only quibble is that I could have done with 50% more. Since I had been well-behaved on the calorie count, I treated myself to a Valrhona chocolate aero cake with vanilla and citrus cream. Decadent and luxurious, the chocolate cake had just the right texture, and the vanilla and citrus cream balanced the dish out.

Valrhona chocolate aero cake with vanilla and citrus cream

One bum note to finish. When it came to dividing up the bill between eight guests, our host was informed that this would not be possible and that he had to pay the full amount. There is no reason why a bill cannot be split, especially for an identical amount per person. I wondered whether this is a standard policy or if it was because we were a large party. Obviously, there is no going Dutch permitted at Kitchen W8. It is a policy that ought to change as it left a sour note.

We started with a pre-prandial 2005 Rosé Comtes de Champagne from Taittinger. This was ridiculously fine. Quite deep and almost Burgundian on the nose, it is vibrant and beautifully defined, with red cherries, bergamot and crushed stones in the background. Likewise, the palate has more weight and depth than other Rosés, with dark cherries and hints of white chocolate and nutmeg, lovely tension and grip on the finish. It represents everything I adore about Rosé Champagne, and it is drinking perfectly at present.

The Rhônes commence with three whites that are not a particularly good advertisement since only one is palatable. The 2005 Ermitage Le Méal from M. Chapoutier is slightly oxidized on the nose and caramelized on the palate. It’s a damp squib of an opening, thankfully redeemed by a lovely 2007 Hermitage Blanc from Domaine du Colombier. This has a lightly burnished silver hue. The palate offers scents of peppermint and melted candle wax, with light pistachio aromas surfacing with aeration. The palate is fresh with a keen thread of acidity, though for the first hour, it is a little dour and lacks energy on the finish. Returning after a couple of hours, it finally delivers complexity with a resinous texture, wild peaches, dried honey, camomile and stem ginger notes. It is not a wine I would mature for much longer in my cellar, but it is drinking perfectly now and based on this bottle, do not be afraid to decant. Sadly, the 2011 Hermitage Blanc from the same producer is clearly not representative, musty and out of sorts. 

We were then treated to three flights from Côte-Rôtie and Cornas, two of my favorite appellations in the Northern Rhône. The 1997 Côte-Rôtie La Turque from Etienne Guigal offers high-toned, quite precocious blue fruit, iris flower, hints of graphite and cracked black pepper. It is still fairly youthful, likewise the palate is pure and decadent, lavished in new oak that seems to be proportionate to the fruit, graphite and flint lending welcome tension on the finish. Impressive, but this needs another five to seven years in the cellar. The 2001 Côte-Rôtie La Mouline from Guigal is splendid and reaffirms my preference for this single vineyard over Landonne and Turque. Powerful and sensual on the nose, the multi-layered black fruit is laced with crushed rock, pressed violet, potpourri and autumn bonfire. The palate is beautifully balanced with more weight than the La Turque, seamlessly integrated oak, melted tannins with irresistible garrigue notes lending complexity on the finish. This is going to be a gorgeous La Mouline, but it needs another decade in bottle.

The 2006 Côte-Rôtie from Saint-Cosme is muted on the nose, pretty tertiary with a welcome tincture of black olive. The palate is well balanced, a little chewy and quite Burgundy-like in style, though there is more black pepper and fennel than you would find on a wine from that region. Maybe this lacked the sparkle of other Côte-Rôties poured on the same evening, nevertheless, it is a commendable performance and it should offer another 10 to 12 years of drinking pleasure. The 2010 Côte-Rôtie Les Rochins from Domaine Garon was the most unfamiliar producer within the line-up, but it shows well. This is (again) exuberant and high-toned on the nose with some volatility, aniseed-laced black cherries and lilac flowers. The palate is well balanced with a touch of tobacco and white pepper intermixed with clove and bay leaf. I felt that this would benefit from more time, and it is certainly a producer that I will keep a look out for in the future. The 2010 Côte-Rôtie Château d’Ampuis is very high-toned on the nose with a little more VA than I would like, aniseed and liquorice infusing the mixture of blue and black fruit. Yet the palate shows much better balance and composure, finely-knit tannins, broad-shouldered with black truffle and kirsch on the dense and impactful finish. Again, this obviously requires more time in the cellar, but there is a lot of potential as long as the aromatics can muster more composure. I speculate that there is bottle variation here? The 2015 Côte-Rôte from Domaine Jamet is utterly sublime. It has a beguilingly complex bouquet with the most pronounced garrigue-like scents, touches of Italian delicatessen and clove, all delivered with wonderful precision, black olive compote emerging with time. The palate is beautifully-defined with superb tension, very cohesive and crystalline, unerringly pure and silky so that the finish completely disguises its backbone. Brilliant.

The Jamet was threatening to escape with the wine of the night accolade, yet the three representations from Cornas all deserve applause. The 2004 Cornas from Clape might have cowed as it preceded two wines from the master, Thierry Allemand. But this bottle was perhaps the surprise package of the evening. Vibrant on the nose, it had the exuberance of a puppy that escaped from the back garden door. Menthol, black cherries, wild fennel and sage, the scents display exquisite delineation. The palate is medium-bodied with disarming balance, black cherries commingling with Christmas cake and fig, harmonious to the finish. Superb. Two from Thierry Allemand completed the line-up. The 2011 Cornas Chaillot has a surprisingly earthy nose, singed leather, almost Médocian in style, intense and very well defined but less outgoing than I anticipated. The palate displays lovely marine-influenced black fruit, structured but not heavy, though I am seeking a little more length on the finish. The 2014 Cornas Chaillot surpasses the 2011. This has much more intensity and complexity, black fruit laced with star anis, cardamom and meat juices, all very cohesive and utterly alluring. The palate is medium-bodied with fine-boned tannins, harmonious and quite saline, unfolding on the finish endowed with greater concentration and grip than the 2011, a dash of white pepper lingering long on the finish. It needs more time in bottle, but this has a lot of potential.

Overall, it was a splendid evening, and we were all indebted to our host for assembling the bottles. The Rhône wines had mostly delivered, though you could argue that nearly all of them require more time in bottle. Just the whites were disappointing. Kitchen W8 is well worth seeking out. I enjoyed the local, relaxed ambiance, perhaps things moving at a slightly slower pace here than elsewhere in the city. Prices are more reasonable than many, especially for lunch and early evening, and the quality of cooking is very assured and unpretentious. Of course, check in advance if you plan to split the bill.

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