A good local restaurant is an invaluable addition to any neighbourhood. On those evenings when you can’t face cooking, but the idea of yet another pizza really doesn’t appeal, it’s a delight to have somewhere to go that you can guarantee that the cooking will be good, prices reasonable and service speedy enough that you’re not twiddling your thumbs and dredging up topics of polite conversation, but not so quick that you feel like one small cog on an assembly line, spat out the door before you’ve had a moment to think.
When H first moved to London, she lived in a house just off High Street Kensington, and used to walk past ffiona’s on Kensington Church Street every day. Noticing the bottles within, her thought always was that it looks like there had been a great party the night before, probably including dancing on the tables. We were therefore very interested in the opportunity for a visit, and to see what the food was like. It’s not a huge room – I didn’t count, but I would think that they can probably take about forty covers. It is quite dark, especially towards the back, away from the windows, but despite a low key design (I think it’s more evolved than designed), it’s a comfortable and relaxing environment – perfect for dining with friends, parties and for a more romantic meal.
First courses range from £5.50 to £9.95, and main courses between £10.50 and £22.95. There is an offer on Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays for two courses and a glass of wine for £21.95. We chose parsnip and green chilli fritters, and king prawns with ginger, chillies and garlic as our first courses. The prawns, in particular, stood out for the even handed spicing, with a good balance between ginger and chilli heat. To follow, we had chicken kiev, and fish and chips. The chicken was juicy and dripping with garlic butter, while a good thick piece of cod, rather than a fillet, meant that it wasn’t overcooked by the time the batter was crispy. Pudding are with a distinctly British – English, even – tone: sticky toffee pudding, crumbles, bread and butter pudding and the like. We chose for the crumble and the sticky toffee, finding both to be good examples of the type – not too heavy, but rich and satisfying.
As well as dinner, the restaurant offers brunch on weekends: in terms of the ratio of faffing to results, brunch is one meal that is ideal for eating out. Whipping up hollandaise for one is a bit too keen for me, but making a big batch for a roomful makes perfect sense. Similarly with pancakes; by the time they’re coming out of the frying pan in perfect form, you’re running out of batter and the oven is full to bursting with the not-quite good enough offerings.. We fancied giving it a go, so, we went back to Kensington Church Street on Sunday morning, and settled in with the Sunday papers. Had we gone on Saturday, we could have benefitted from the free cocktail with our food. We both went American – as befits brunch – H going for steak and eggs (one of the better steaks she’s had), while I had blueberry pancakes; light and fluffy.
What makes ffiona’s so special is ffiona herself, and her greeting and interaction with her customers, many of whom are regulars and have become friends. She takes the time to sit down with and chat with everyone (if you want her too) and makes you very welcome. It’s a hallmark of the good local restaurant, experience is as much about dining with ffiona as well as her excellent food. We’d both be more than happy to dine there alone, knowing we would be welcomed, looked after by an excellent hostess and not feel like a Billy No Mates.
It’s a prime example of a local restaurant: taking good quality ingredients and trusting in them and straightforward cooking to deliver what their customers want; good food, prepared with care. ffiona’s isn’t our local restaurant, but – especially on weekend mornings – I think we’ll be back. Rising rents, prices and decreasing margins are putting a huge squeeze on restaurants – so please support your great local restaurants and keep them in business and not replaced by the faceless chains.
Fuss Free Flavours was the guest of ffiona’s for dinner, and we paid for our brunch. Many thanks to ffiona for a lovely evening.
51 Kensington Church Street
London, W8 4BA
t: 0207 937 4152