The Kensington crowd must be tricky customers. The leafy, royal residence of the rich and richer isn’t short on eateries of all kinds, a few members’ clubs and of course high-end nightlife. Adding to the already fertile mix of options must be nerve-wracking for any restauranteur but Hyde Kensington doesn’t seem to pay this kind of hype any mind. The concept is unashamedly cooky, with quirky overtones, boisterous themes and larger than life cocktails.
Once you’ve descended into the subterranean venue a distinct club atmosphere comes over you. The kaleidoscopic disco lighting, long bar and dance music instantly transported us from a sunny London day on Kensington Gore to 4am, anywhere in the world. As the music veers from ’70′s MJ to Madonna we order our starters and take in the smorgasbord of decor details to absorb.
A club area with a dance floor and DJ booth is surrounded by Star Wars characters, illuminated in light boxes and adding to the already ambient purple and green lighting. Acclaimed mix media artist JJ Adams is behind the varied space that shifts from sci-fi to a 007 and casino-themed section complete with a mini mock roulette table. There’s also an element of old world England. Polished suits of armour are dotted around and there’s even a velvet throne at the entrance – this is under a neon pink sign, just to add to the contradictory effect.
Paintings range from ‘The Last Supper’ reincarnations featuring Amy Winehouse and Marilyn Monroe, to other Renaissance beauties remixed with Uma Thurman and Marlon Brando. Plush seats with buttoned backs and leather booths are the only expected items in this energetic, high-octane environment.
I’m a stickler for classicism so forgive me if it sounds like the above-mentioned decor assaulted my senses rather than soothed them. Call it age. There were few stones unturned when it came to theme selection and though well-executed, it does make one wonder about the food. What will it be like? Will it be equally divergent? Will I regret experimenting? Hyde Kensington’s website describes their offering as “nothing short of culinary magic.” And thankfully there are dishes that absolutely are.
The cocktails are mythological. Smoking globes, cups presented in gold moulded hands, mini teapots of gin and more will grace your table. Mixologist Andy Mil’s creations are certainly talking points but also very tasty – try the ‘Mad Hatter’ cocktail – Bombay Sapphire gin, Hyde Ginger Brew and fresh lemon juice.
The Plum miso-marinated Chilean sea bass and Chilean sea bass with black bean sauce are both amazing. They’re delivered in stylish arrangements along long plates, with all kinds of flourishes and drizzles and they’re absolute heaven. Picking up the individual beans tested all of my chopstick abilities but well worth the fumbling and the escapee beans. This is some of the best Pan-Asian food I’ve had in a very long time, thanks to Head Chef Adi Gunawan, previously of Gilgamesh.
The Sirloin Beef bulgogi with lotus leaf crisps and Japanese chive mash is as interesting and flavourful as it sounds. Everything we’re served is slightly unusual and incredibly more-ish. The crisps are shaped, crunchy and perforated and the mash has a fresh and slightly spicy zing that’s a great contrast to the meaty, comforting slices. We also enjoyed Grilled prawns and Mango salsa to start and shared sides of jasmine rice and seasonal Asian greens. There’s large sushi selections, dim sum and satays but I would go with the more special items because they truly are.
1A Kensington High St,
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