Innovative, modern Iberian cooking in Notting Hill, with Portuguese chef Luis Baena serving up more hits than misses.
The Portuguese have a passion for salt cod. At this cool, air-conditioned bar and restaurant in Nottihg Hill, you can have it served in a delicate starter-sized portion, perfectly rinsed (a labour-intensive process), fried with egg and straw potatoes then rendered into a fibrous paste; quite unilke the more rustic versions in most other restaurants. But the chef here, Luis Baena, likes to experiment and push boundaries. Some of the dishes are Iberian rather than Portuguese; the intense flavour of Spanish pata negra ham paired with succulent bone marrow, served in the bone. The best foil for these was the basket of excellent sourdoughs and Vollkornbrot from Bread Bread, Bridget Hugo’s award-winning bakery in Brixton.
The starters were a tremendous kick-off, too high a standard to keep up for long. Portuguese food is not one of the great cuisines of the world, but this hasn’t stopped executive chef Luis Baena from doing his best to modernise this menu with good ingredients, small plates and innovative combinations. Squid rings were fried until crisp with a tender bite; the intense tomato sauce was also good, but together in a small bowl with chunks of beetroot, the combination was too busy. The tendency towards fuss reached its peak with a dessert which had more disparate elements pulling in different directions than the Portuguese economy: in this case, deep-fried greengage, quartered strawberries, ice cream and sail-like biscuits – stuck into cinnamon cakes. But stick to the simpler dishes and you’ll be fine.