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Core by Clare Smyth

  • Restaurants
  • Notting Hill
  • price 4 of 4
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

A restaurant from Clare Smyth, the first female chef to hold three Michelin stars in the UK.

She’s back. Clare Smyth. Also known as the first – and still only – female chef to run a three-Michelin-star restaurant in the UK. (Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, FYI.) And now, at last, she’s gone solo.

And what a debut. This is a not a teeny hatch in a plus-sized zone, but a gorgeous period building in Notting Hill. And though this is a high-ceilinged, elegant room, it’s vibrant, not pompous. There are no tablecloths. No carpets. Just circular rugs under the 13 tables, like small alien landing pads. But there’s luxury too: the chairs are so smooth I found myself furtively stroking them when no one was looking.

The food is special. It’s technical, of course, but playful too. One dish came with fermented-then-fried ‘crisps’ on top: Smyth’s take on salt-and-vinegar (her favourite flavour, apparently. Lady’s got good taste). Underneath? A large, waxy, Charlotte potato. I mean, there was trout roe and beurre blanc and all that sort of deliciousness, but there was no escaping the potato. This, in a restaurant reaching for the stars. ‘Clare’s from Northern Ireland’, explains the waiter cheerfully, ‘so she really wanted to include a potato’. I love the audacity.

Another dish was not of lamb with carrot, but the upside-down version: carrot with lamb. ‘Because we all need to eat more veg, right?’ says a new waiter with an almost-wink. A plump, shiny specimen, cooked soft and sweet like something you’d feed to a baby, it had morsels of unctuous, umami-ish shredded meat carefully arranged along its top edge. To one side, an innocent-looking cube of brioche. Surprise! There was more lamb inside. It was a bouncy, buttery, Trojan horse.

The supplier list reads like a foodie’s wet dream. Case in point: the butter is from Buttervikings, a couple of UK-based Swedes who also supply super-restaurant Noma. It’s tangy, crumbly, almost cheese-like. And you can only eat it in restaurants. So eat it. Eat all of it.

There’s drama, too: cloches are lifted to release wisps of smoke, vinegar is ‘spritzed’ at the table. A meaty, moreish scallop came in its full shell, the top half then instantly whisked away. This is flim-flammery for the sake of it, yet it manages to feel fun, not obnoxious.

There was only one serious blip. The very last dish, a bauble-like dessert which though structurally stunning – all doll-sized jelly cubes and meringue disks the size of five pence coins – was bland yet cloying, obliterating the subtle scent of the tweezered-on lemon verbena leaves.

Finally, a tip: go on a ‘dry’ day. If you lay off the booze, then the £75 set menu (three courses, fatted with freebies), is, for a place in this league, not (too) shocking. But go now, before the Michelin men find out about it.

Written by
Tania Ballantine


92 Kensington Park Road
Notting Hill
W11 2PN
Tube: Notting Hill Gate
Dinner for two with drinks and service: around £210.
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