Monday, December 17, 2007


Kensington Church Street, London

Clarke's makes for an ideal last night in London. This cozy nook of elegant flavors, nestled in the streets of South Kensington just across from Kensington Place, surprises you with tastes and ingredients you never thought would have gone together or never would have known of. The chef is known for her no-substitution menu, but in the past year she has opened up to providing a few options for her admirers. Each dish is truly a unique creation, and the menu changes every night, at least every few days. The items are served in 3-4 courses, at an un-hustled pace. The servers are friendly, and borderline-professional. They just need a bit more confidence, but they really do a great job -- they're young.

I really appreciated the peace within this restaurant, the quietness and romantic, homey atmosphere. There are only a few tables in here, while there is also a small downstairs area with a few tables also. The lighting in here is so dim though, only lit by candlelight. The restaurant is purely clean and tidy, with few artwork on the walls, white table clothes, and bent-back woven chairs (with cushions of course). It's comfortable, and charming -- there are even fairy lights around the windows!

Olive Bread & Sauvignon Blanc
The olive bread was superb, just as fresh as the raisin bread. Served warm as well, this bread is soft and a bit moist, probably from the olive oil. Look at how thick this is! It is soft, but quite thick to tear through. There is a bit of sea salt in this, but not enough to make you need water. The olives are fresh, and beautiful Spanish black olives, I'm sure. I loved this bread.

The sauvignon went gloriously with everything.

Raisin Rosemary Bread
& Pugliese (to left)

This raisin rosemary bread was new to me, with the sweet hints of raisin balancing a traditional, but soft and thick French bread loaf. This was truly fresh, and served warm, and oh so soft! The rosemary really is what surprised me. I mean... raisin and rosemary..? Weeeiirrrd... but it was impeccable! Try it sometime.
I've always loved their pugliese. I've gotten it for a while at their bakery, fresh, soft, and pure ingredient bread flavors bursting in your mouth. I love the TASTE of bread, the flour, yeast, and salt.

Outer Hebridean "hot" Smoked Salmon Risotto with Prosecco
dill, celery and creme fraiche
Outstanding, this was a prize starter, certainly more-tasteful and exciting than the salad. The risotto is soft and had the most elegant touches of dill. Amazing! Dill is usually paired with Salmon, but this was mind-blowing. It was a small dish, but full of flavor, fresh herb flavors and salmon. The flavors were bold, but the cooked risotto in creme fraiche balances out its strength on your palette. Creme fraiche + strong dill = peace in your mouth and a memorable flavor you'll never want to forget, it's so divine. The prosecco was hidden somewhere. I didn't find it, but I only got one bite, since my mother was in love with this.

Salad of Buffalo Mozzarella with Surrey Pear
black olives, fennel, toasted fresh walnuts, and rocket leaves
"Pear, Greens, Shaved White Onion, Parsley, Mozzarella, tossed heavily in olive oil"
This salad really didn't have any flavor other than that of the pears. I didn't care for it. It was lacking flavor all around. When you can really taste the leaves you know something is wrong. I was a bit disappointed in this, and it was the only downside of the meal. My main and dessert were nice.

Roasted fillet of Cornish Sea Bass
with anchovy, spring onion, lemon butter, leaf broccoli and hand cut "chips"
"Broccolini & Spinach leaves with Tartar Sauce & Lemon"
This sea bass was fresh, tender, bountiful in size for the filet, and the lemon/white wine reduction and butter sauce on it livened up the otherwise-flavorless fish. The filet was cooked to perfection, holding its natural juices. The chips were delicious! They were huge, thick, fresh potato fries, probably tossed in truffle oil. The leave broccoli was a bit unusual, looking like shriveled kale and soaked to the bone in the bass marinade underneath the fish, but it was good. It was the leave though, not broccoli itself.

Breast of corn-fed Chicken roasted with black truffles
bay leaf, and cream sauce, baked Belgian endive, and potatoes in parchment

My mom liked my meal better, but her chicken was still really good apparently. Overall her meal experience deserved a star. I couldn't taste the black truffles, but the cream sauce on her plate was incredible. You know, I could taste the truffles in the cream sauce, and THAT was incredible with the tender chicken, but there were no official black truffles just sitting on her plate. The potatoes in parchment were essentially roasted potatoes with a few herbs, rosemary I believe, or sage. She had some broccoli leaves on her plate as well.

Dark Chocolate & Chestnut Meringue Vacherin
with Chestnuts in Syrup

Sheer sugar syrup is what the syrup is, with a few roasted, shed chestnuts served warm. This was so good. I loved the layer of chilled dark chocolate along the top, which melts as soon as he sets it on the table. The mint leaf made for a lovely touch as well. The meringue, vanilla meringue is hardened and found along the bottom and the top, amidst the mousse chocolate. It really isn't a big part of the dessert, but the mousse rocked. Look at that huge layer!

Cranberry and Clementine Trifle
with Vanilla Cream

A Classic English trifle, with raspberries, and ice cream on the side and dusted in powdered sugar. This was good. Quite fruity with the clementine. I liked it though. Trifle is a light white cake with layers in it of creme and such. The presentation of this was gorgeous though; the presentation for EVERYTHING was beautiful, really.

Dark Chocolate Truffles & Tea
I've always loved these truffles. Clarke's serves them in their shop and bakery, and they are filled with the most-smooth, glorious secret of dark chocolate ganache, rich and served at room temperature. The outer layer is spackled with dark cocoa powder, and the shell is made of semi-dark chocolate. When you pop one in your mouth, that's really all you need to satisify you for the whole of the evening. It really does recreate those feelings of love as the studies say. Makes you want to hop on a plane and fly there, eh? I'm not kidding...

I had a Chamomile tea with creme & sugar to accompany this surprise, compliments of the chef as far as the truffles go. The chamomile is the best pairing for a tea selection with this chocolate.

I couldn't have had a more-perfect last evening in London. I'll remember this forever. It was all beautiful and intimate, and right in my own backyard on Kensington Church Street. I would qualify this as a "fine" dining experience. The prices are up there, but not as bad as Gordon Ramsey, and everything is worth the money.

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1 comment:

London Lady said...

Clarke's is great, but I find the gem to be the Clarke's shop next door. Not fine dining, but fine shopping and take-away